A New Kind of Self-Defense

Why Empowerment Self Defense?

Empowerment self-defense (ESD) training can expand people’s options, yet it is often framed as a solely physical, and limiting, response to violence. I would argue that self-defense does not always require a physical response to violence. Self-Defense also encompasses knowing how to respond to unwanted situations, whether it’s verbal, or just being in the mere presence of an individual (non-verbal) that makes a person uncomfortable.

Empowerment Self Defense education includes comprehensive skills, strategies and tactics which individuals can learn and practice for the prevention of interpersonal violence. ESD includes awareness, body language, social, verbal and physical skills which provide participants with choices for avoiding, de-escalating and responding to potential harm from known and unknown person(s). ESD is integrative learning which is embodied and skills-based. It provides participants with opportunities to learn, observe and practice physical, social and cognitive skills through the use of role plays, discussion and simulation exercise(s). ESD aims to increase accurate assessment of dangerous and uncomfortable situations by using variations of possible responses.

An empowerment approach to self-defense (in this “ME TOO" movement) can contribute to anti-violence in multiple ways; providing pathways to increase personal safety; resulting in the potential for becoming a powerful and effective social change agent; providing an informed and embodied understanding of violence; and offering comprehensive options to recognize, prevent, and interrupt violence.

Physical Self Defense courses are not for everyone. But they are viable options to learn personal safety strategies for those that are so inclined. Our self-defense workshop takes a holistic approach to self-protection, emphasizing awareness and assertiveness skills as well as physical and verbal strategies to counter violence. The goal is to leave participants better equipped to deal with everything from harassment, sexual harassment to potentially violent situations.

ESD courses are offered to the entire U-M Community at no cost.

For additional information or to schedule a workshop, please contact:

Candace Dorsey

Empowerment Self Defense Program, Manager

University of Michigan-Division of Public Safety & Security

[email protected]



-Contributed by Candace Dorsey