Empowerment & Self Defence

A comprehensive trauma-informed method of learning emotional, mental & physical skills for personal safety

 What is ESD?

about-esd mental


Awareness Exercises
Perpetrator Psychology
Evade & Escape tactics
Myth Busting

about-esd emotional


Finding your voice
Believing in yourself
Boundary Setting

about-esd physical


Simple & effective
Easy to Apply
Works on any body type
Powerful strikes
Real-life scenarios

What Makes ESD Unique?

  • Trauma-informed & student centred
  • Designed by women… specifically for women
  • Builds emotional resilience
  • Targets gender-based violence: the types of violence most commonly encountered
  • Principle based: skills for everyday life as well as threatening situations
  • Based on proven research & statistics
  • Combines emotional, mental & physical skills
  • Simple & effective physical techniques rather than complicated martial arts techniques

"The empowerment & embodied confidence that comes through connecting with your fighting spirit & learning physical self defence often makes your verbal skills more effective, decreasing the chances of ever having to use those physical skills." - L. Evans

What & How we Teach

What we teach


ESD is about having options.  We want to empower our participants with a set of mental, emotional & physical skills that will allow them to deal with any challenging experience they may encounter, anywhere along the stress & violence spectrums. It’s about teaching principles that can be applied not only to defend yourself in a physical altercation but in everyday situations too.  Being able to say no when a friend asks a favour or deal with anxiety of an upcoming exam right through to experiencing a verbal or physical attack. The more strategies you have…the more options you have.


Our aim is to provide you with information that you only need to hear once, and once you have that information it shapes the way you deal with volatile situations. Common sense is not always common practice so we teach you what you need to stay safe without negatively impacting on your life.

Since over 80% of sexual assault is perpetrated by someone known to the target, our training focuses on respectful relationship principles such as effective communication, consent, assertiveness, boundary-setting, de-escalation & risk assessment. Along with these soft skills we also teach physical self defence strategies that are easy to learn and effective with any body type, against any perpetrator. The empowerment that comes through connecting with your own fighting spirit often makes your soft skills more effective, decreasing the chances of ever having to use those physical skills.

How we teach

Our training is trauma-informed and there is never victim blaming. Regardless of the situation the perpetrator is always at fault. We endeavour to create an emotionally supportive environment where you are in control of everything you choose to do. We also understand that human interactions on every level are complex and we believe that anything outside of your understanding is outside of your control. So as part of our teaching we take a psychological approach to understanding not only the motivations of perpetrators but also the more subtle interactions that happen in social, home and work settings.

We are also aware that everyone learns differently and learning is most effective when  fun, interactive embodied. For this reason we use multi-modal learning methods including information sharing, discussions, games and personal reflection, along with a range of kinaesthetic activities to help you embody the principles you are learning. The interactive, social & supportive nature of ESD classes is an important component of the learning environment.

“When a man says ‘no’ it’s the end of a discussion.

When a woman says ‘no’ it’s the beginning of a


– Gavin De Becker, ‘The Gift of Fear’

Why ESD?

Simply put…because it works! It’s been proven to reduce rates of sexual violence.


According to Jocelyn Hollander, Professor of Sociology at the University of Oregon and author of the most recent systematic review of the field,  “Women’s self-defence training is the only sexual violence prevention strategy with solid evidence of effectiveness at reducing rates of victimisation”. You can read her research below.


ESD helps prevent, interrupt and resist violence. It is a short term, medium term and long term approach all in one!


At Empowered Today, we believe the best way to reduce violence against women is to address the issue from all fronts with everything we’ve got!


The types of primary prevention most governments and policy makers are currently focusing on are, without a doubt, necessary…

but are not, on their own, the answer. The majority of National policies and funding are addressing the issue through one of the root causes (gender inequalities and attitudes) as well as supporting those already experiencing/having experienced violence…which is definitely needed. The problem with using only this approach is that systemic change is very slow and in the meantime more and more women & girls are experiencing violence and sexual assault.


It’s true…it should not be the responsibility of (potential) victims to stop the violence by learning to protect themselves but unfortunately this is not a perfect world….yet. Until it is, there will be people that, for many varied reasons, inflict violence on others. We don’t believe it is empowering for women when the only option they are given is to sit around and wait for other people’s behaviour to change, or wait for long-term systemic change, in order to end the violence…in fact, quite the opposite.  Our approach is to provide them with skills that help them feel safe and Empowered Today.

Research to support ESD

“RESEARCH ON SELF-DEFENCE” – Jocelyn A. Hollander, Ph.D., University of Oregon

Q: Does self-defence prevent violence? 


A: This is really two questions:

First, can women’s resistance stop sexual assault? The answer is a resounding “Yes“. There is a large and nearly unanimous body of research that demonstrates that women frequently resist violence, and that their resistance is often successful. This research, of course, includes many women without self‐defence training.

Second, does self-defence training decrease women’s risk of assault?  Again, “Yes“. Three major studies over the past few years, including a large, randomised control trial, found that women who complete an ESD class are at least 50-60% less likely to be raped over the following year than similar women who did not learn self-defence (see Hollander 2014, Senn et al. 2015, Sarnquist et al. 2014, and Sinclair et al. 2013). In other words, women who learn self-defence are both more likely to avoid rape if they are attacked, and much less likely to be attacked in the first place.


Q: Does fighting back increase a woman’s risk of injury?

No. In short, women resist because they are being injured, rather than being injured because they resist, resistance does not increase the risk of injury.

“There is no indication of increased physical injury in women who chose to confront their assailant” – (Ullman, S. E. (1998) – Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 13, 179-192.)


Q: Shouldn’t we be putting all our resources into prevention strategies focused on perpetrators?

No. Violence against women is a complex social problem. Ultimately, large-scale social changes will be needed before violence against women can be stopped. However, this kind of social change is slow – and so far, our efforts have not been very successful. If we focus only on perpetrator-focused, “primary” prevention strategies, we are condemning millions of women to suffering rape and sexual assault. While we wait for these efforts to work, ESD training can provide an immediate, and effective, antidote for sexual violence.

There has been … research on the effectiveness of prevention strategies focused on potential perpetrators. Most strategies that have been rigorously evaluated have been found to be ineffective at preventing violence. (See Graham, Embry et al 2019).


Preventing sexual violence will require a comprehensive range of efforts. Some efforts should be long-term (e.g., cultural climate assessment and change), others should be medium-term (e.g., bystander intervention training), and some should be short-term (e.g., self-defence training). We do not have to choose only one approach; a complex social problem requires that we address it on multiple fronts and in multiple ways.


Q: Is self-defence victim blaming?


No! Empowerment-based self-defence classes explicitly attribute responsibility for assault to perpetrators, not victims. Just because a woman is capable of defending herself does not mean that she is responsible for doing so.

Although self-defence training is frequently lumped in with other kinds of risk reduction advice (e.g., staying out of public spaces, traveling with a buddy, wearing modest clothing, or avoiding alcohol), it differs in important ways. Staying home, relying on others for protection, and limiting one’s clothing or alcohol consumption all constrain women’s lives. Self-defence training, in contrast, expands women’s range of action, empowering them to make their own choices about where they go and what they do.

Some people have worried that women who learn self-defence may blame themselves if they are later unable to prevent an attack. However, research has found that women with self-defence training who experience a subsequent assault blame themselves no more – or even less – than women without self-defence training. Moreover, women who are raped but physically resist are actually less likely than other women to blame themselves for their assault.


Q: What else should I know about self protection training?


Learning self-defence empowers women in ways that go far beyond preventing assault. Empowerment self-defence training decreases women’s fear and anxiety and increases their confidence, their sense of self-efficacy, and their self‐esteem. Learning self-defence helps women feel stronger and more confident in their bodies. Women report more comfortable interactions with strangers, acquaintances, and intimates, both in situations that seem dangerous and those that do not. Empowerment self-defence training can also be healing to survivors of sexual violence.




Graham, Embry et al. 2019. “Evaluations of Prevention Programs for Sexual, Dating, and Intimate Partner Violence for Boys and Men: A Systematic Review” 

Hollander, Jocelyn A. 2014. “Does Self-Defense Training Prevent Sexual Violence Against Women?” Violence Against Women 20(3):252–269

Sarnquist, Clea et al. 2014. “Rape Prevention Through Empowerment of Adolescent Girls.” Pediatrics peds.2013–3414.

Senn, Charlene Y., Misha Eliasziw, Paula C. Barata, Wilfreda E. Thurston, Ian R. Newby-Clark, H. Lorraine Radtke, and Karen L. Hobden. 2015. “Efficacy of a Sexual Assault Resistance Program for University Women.” New England Journal of Medicine 372 (24): 2326–35.

Sinclair, Jake et al. 2013. “A Self-Defense Program Reduces the Incidence of Sexual Assault in Kenyan Adolescent Girls.” Journal of Adolescent Health 53(3):374–380.

Ullman, S. E. (1998). “Does offender violence escalate when women fight back?” – Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 13, 179-192

Sign up for our Newsletter: