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7 Best Self-Defense Classes For Women 2024

Updated: Feb 1

a woman learning self defense martial arts

When we talk about personal empowerment, safety isn't a "nice-to-have" - it's straight-up non-negotiable.

But look, let's be real: in you've ever been attacked, you know that in the strength department, women draw the short straw. But by studying a martial art, technique can become our secret weapon to even the playing field.

Here are the best self-defense classes for women that can actually give you an edge if you're in trouble.

7 Best Self-Defense Classes For Women (That Actually Work)

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1. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

Originating from Japan and then evolving in Brazil, BJJ focuses on ground combat, allowing a smaller person to use their body weight to defend against a larger adversary using leverage.

This is far more effective than trying to use your upper body strength against someone twice your size as your legs are far more powerful than your arms or fists.

Why it's great for women: Wondering if a woman can beat a man in jiu jitsu? You have a good chance with the ability to shift hip movements to create leverage. BJJ is less about brute force and more about techniques - you can make use of your stronger legs and crush parts of the attacker's body with your hips and lower body, making it ideal for women who may be physically smaller.

Equipment You Need:

Something they don't usually mention in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes for women is the indispensable role of bike shorts. Trust me, your gi will betray you and head for your ankles faster than a sprinter at the starting block! So, unless you're planning to moonlight as a breakdancer, bike shorts are your best ally. They ensure that the only thing hitting the mat is your opponent, not your dignity.

2. Krav Maga

It's safe to say Krav Maga is one of the best self defense classes for women. Created for the Israeli military, Krav Maga is a hybrid martial art designed for real-life scenarios. It combines techniques from boxing, wrestling, Aikido, and Judo.

Why it's great for women: Krav maga is designed to go for the opponent's most vulnerable body parts like their throat, groin and eyes.

Classes also integrate defense techniques from a range of martial arts - a typical scene in a Krav Maga class might be a woman learning to unarm a knife-wielding attacker. You'll learn how to strike and perform clinch fighting and ground combat. The curriculum also teaches you a mindset that will prepare you for dangerous situations such as evasive techniques, situational awareness and de-escalation strategies.

Equipment You Need:

In Krav Maga, expect the unexpected – like an elbow accidentally (we hope) landing where it shouldn't. That's why a good mouthguard is not just a recommendation; it's your new best friend.

a man and woman learning self-defense

3. Muay Thai

Hailing from Thailand, Muay Thai, or "The Art of Eight Limbs," uses strikes involving your fists, elbows, knees and shins.

Someone trained in Muay Thai can strike using eight different contact points, unlike boxing which relies mainly on fists, or other martial arts that use only fists and feet.

Your forearms serve to deflect opponents' blows while your shins act as protective shields.

Why it's great for women: Muay Thai is one of the best martial arts for self defense you can train in. These eight contact methods in Muay Thai are designed to mimic wartime weapons: punches act like swords, elbows resemble hammers, kicks function as spears and knees are like daggers.

Equipment You Need:

shin guards

With shin guards, it's like wrapping your legs in a 'no-bruise' zone. Sure, you might feel like a medieval knight gearing up for battle, but trust me, the first time you check a kick with these bad boys, you'll be thanking the Muay Thai gods.

4. Judo

Judo, a Japanese martial art that emphasizes throws and takedowns. Its principle is to use an opponent's strength against them. In terms of the sport, size plays a lesser role in Judo, making it effective for women to manage larger opponents.

Why it's great for women: Judo is beneficial for self-defense as it equips you with powerful techniques like throws, holds, strangles and armlocks, all of which can be used in actual confrontations.

Equipment You Need:

marital arts tape

Finger tape is a highly recommended piece of equipment for Judo practitioners. In Judo, fingers are often subjected to strain and stress due to gripping the gi of the opponent. This repeated action can lead to finger injuries or joint pain, making finger tape a crucial item for protection and support.

5. Wing Chun

Wing Chun is a Chinese martial art that focuses on close-range combat using quick punches and tight defense techniques. Unlike many traditional martial arts that recommend direct blocks, Wing Chun emphasizes deflecting an opponent's force. This approach allows someone with less strength to effectively counter a more powerful adversary when trained adequately.

Why it's great for women: Since Wing Chun is tailored for extreme close-quarters combat, this makes it particularly useful for situations where you might face multiple assailants in confined settings.

Equipment You Need:


Wing Chun, a traditional Chinese martial art known for its close-range combat techniques, practitioners often use special gloves during training and sparring. These gloves are designed to provide protection while allowing for the intricate hand techniques characteristic of Wing Chun.

6. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

MMA stands out due to its diverse range of techniques ranging from long-range striking to up-close combat skills like clinching, grappling, wrestling and submissions. MMA prepares you for a broad spectrum of real-life scenarios, arguably making it one of the most comprehensive martial arts for practical defense.

Why it's great for women: MMA offers a unique edge by teaching you diverse combat techniques and tactics so you can adjust to various real-world situations. Beyond self-defense, MMA's foundational training also enhances physical strength and agility for a healthier mind and body.

Equipment You Need:


In MMA, one piece of equipment stands out for its importance: headgear. When you're in the ring, those strikes can come fast and hard, and it's not just about having a strong offense. Defense matters, and that's where headgear comes in. It's not just about cushioning blows; it's about keeping your head in the game – literally.

7. Boxing

Boxing is excellent for self-defense and street fights as boxers are trained to gauge and maintain optimal distances during confrontations.

Boxing helps you deliver quick punches and it places a strong emphasis on defensive maneuvers, particularly against incoming punches.

Why it's great for women: You'll learn to land and receive punches and get a full body workout improving your strength, speed and endurance

Equipment You Need:


Before you commit to a boxing gym or class, this musical boxing machine adjusts speeds and difficulty so that you can practice striking and punching. Each movement and rhythm is precisely engineered to sculpt your body and boost your mental focus.

So, have you settled on your marital arts of choice?

One last pro tip: Attackers don't want to fight you, they want an easy target. By striding confidently and staying alert, with your head held high and shoulders squared, you significantly diminish the chances of being singled out.

Your best chance of defense is situational awareness - or if you are cornered, running as fast as you possibly can, kicking, screaming, yelling. And bever let someone take you to "Point B" under threat of a weapon. Then you'll be in serious danger as they have even more control once they can move you to a different location.

If you have some techniques down you're belt, you stand a better chance at evading harm. Let me know in the comments below if you've ever tried a self-defense class or a martial arts lesson!

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