Self-Defense Classes for Teens, Pre-Teens & Young Adults

Parent Q&A

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  • Self-defense class for 10-12 year olds

    (1 reply)

    I am looking for recent recommendations of organizations that teach private self-defense classes oriented toward situational awareness, use of voice, and other use of tactics to escape harm specifically for middle schoolers.

    Specifically, if anyone has information to share about IMPACT Bay Area or Model Mugging, I would much appreciate it.


    I took a weekend IMPACT workshop about 10 years ago. It was helpful, extremely supportive and the instructors were right on the money. There is NOTHING like being prepared. The group consisted of all ages (I was 55 at the time). They meet you where you are. They work with what you're comfortable with...but push you to the point that should you come under assault, you are much better prepared. I hardily recommend them.

  • My 20 year old will be spending 6 months in South America next year for a semester abroad program. She has good common sense but I would like her to take a self-defense class over winter break or early next summer before she goes. BPN archives don't have any recommendations past 2011.  Also, if anyone has any general advice about keeping safe while a student in another country (besides the obvious common sense things) I would be interested to hear. Thanks. 

    I recommend looking into Impact Bay Area ( My daughter took their 10-hour teen class 3 years ago and I was impressed by the thoroughness of instruction as well as by how they delivered age-appropriate information. In fact, I should register her for a refresher course!

    I highly recommend Impact Bay Area (  You may need to email them about upcoming classes that are not private programs.  My daughter took their class for young adults and called it life changing.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Self Defense Class for teen headed to college

May 2012

Can you please recommend a self-defense class my daughter can take this summer before leaving for college. She took one 4-5 years ago that was good then but it seems important for her to become self-aware more now as she leaves home. anon

Impact Bay Area. Grew from Bay Area Model Mugging, incomparable origin story, ethos, and trainings. Simply the best.

Assertiveness Training for Middle School Girls

Feb 2012

My daughter is almost 12. She's a very sensitive girl who struggles daily at school with mean kids. I don't want her to be the victim, so I'm looking for classes that will empower her and offer assertiveness training/resilience training in the East Bay. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

I'm not sure if this is the type of program you're looking for, but check out Basically a self-defense course, it also has programs that teach assertiveness. My daughter loved the self-defense so much, she took the advanced course and now sometimes is a TA for the classes (and she's only 18). Feel free to contact me if you want more info. wb

Self Defense course for 12 yo boy

Feb 2009

Does anyone know of a self defense class that might work for my 12 year old son? He has been assaulted/mugged walking to school and I was looking for something that would teach him both awareness to his surrounding and some skills to defend himself so he can feel safer. He has tried martial arts in the past and didn't enjoy them so. Thanks. Sue Kidpower does seminars and has online resources. They will come to a school or an afterschool program if contracted to. They have permission/release forms that need to filed by participants' parents and they do charge for their services. It was very useful for my child. Was recommended by other parents. hope this helps

May I suggest that you take your son to an aikido studio and have him try it for six months? Aikido is not offensive (like karate) but defensive. It is gentle, philosophical yet very powerful. Policewomen in Japan have mandatory aikido training (or so I've been told). Go visit some aikido studios near your home. I had to negotiate with my children to get them to do aikido but it was good training for them physically and psychologically. Anon.

Look into Studio Naga at, where the Indonesian art of Poekoelan is taught. My son and I have gone there for a few years, and it is great. The youngest students are toddlers, and some of the black belts are teenagers. You should even consider training together with your son. Self defense is taught from day one. Check out the website. -mas

Self defense class for myself and teen daughter

April 2008

I cannot seem to find a seminar type program teaching self defense to women. I prefer something more into physical defense and perhaps one day. I have checked out IMPACT but its too costly and I have been told not realistic. I am in Oakland thx

Check out Studio Naga @ 5850 San Pablo Avenue in Oakland. They offer great self defense classes and already have mother/daughter structured classes. You can do this as part of a group or tailor it for you two and some friends. 510.652.NAGA(6242) or Enjoy! cv

I can't say enough good things about Kidpower/Teenpower/Fullpower USA. They teach personal safety to people of all ages and abilities in a positive, non-fear-based way. My kids and I have attended several levels of their workshops starting in preschool and as recently as last weekend for my teen daughter. They have classes that are from 3 hours to all weekend, depending on the ages involved. Some classes are for families and some are for specific age groups. They never turn away anyone for lack of funds, so contact them if you cannot pay the full fee and they will gladly make arrangements. They teach groups of random folks as well as going out to your school, church, playgroup, whatever group you may want to arrange. Please look into it at Kidpower Family

I finally signed up for a 4 hour self defense seminar class Im taking it on the 27th. After watching a few others in order to choose, this one looks the most interesting to me. The instructor, Lori Wallerstein, is tiny and the things taught were so simple and obviously effective as I saw them with my own eyes as she had this 300 lbs guy really going after her to show the real effects. She also discusses how attackers interview their potential victims and tells her own extensive experience with violence and what worked and what has not. I also liked the FBI studies and lots of stats she talked about. I am really looking forward to my daughter and I taking the full class on the 27th. I believe it is offered every Sunday at Next Level Fitness on Grand. Telephone is 415-990-9230. I don't think there is a website. Ill report back once I go through the whole thing. My daughter is 15---would love her to have some company her own age there. Jen

Self-defense/martial arts for 13yo girl

Nov 2007

I am looking for 2 programs for a 13 year old girl in Berkeley: 1. A basic, confidence-building self-defense course covering ''street smarts'', handling an attacker, etc. 2. Girl-friendly martial arts training, wu shu preferred but others considered.
a Berkeley mom

For a basic ''street smarts'' self-defence course for girls, you cannot beat Impact Bay Area's ''Model Mugging'' training. See their videos and other material at Although they were orignally set up for women, they have courses specifically for teen girls, and their techniques and approach are the best thing ever. Our daughter Sasha took this training at around the same age as your daughter. She learned a healthy, confidence-building, and effective response to street violence that has served her well ever since. I honestly can't recommend it highly enough! Michael

I found a news article about 17 years old female student in Palo Alto who was kidnapped and raped. So I believe this is really important for teenagers to learn self defense skills. My daughter has been taking martial art classes for 8 years. She started when she was nine, and she went to 4 different dojos because we moved, and one of the dojo had a problem. We can give you our thoughts about good martial art dojos considering your child is female and 13 years old.

I believe there are two very important factors to select dojos. Is the heard instructor a business man or a Martial artist? And does he/she weigh body, mind, and intelligence equally or focus on body?

If an instructor is a business man, he will contact you immediately through BPN or other methods. I often saw advertising posts right after someone put questions about martial art. Also the lesson fee will not be reasonable. You can exclude such dojos by visiting several times before you pay. Before you select a dojo, you should stay for whole lessons to observe the instructors\x92 personality as well as students who are taking lessons.

If an instructor focuses on body, female students will not have good lessons at his dojo. Such instructors often show his philosophy that bigger and stronger body is superior, and smaller ones or female can not learn martial art well. They pay more attentions to bigger students while good dojos and real martial artists do not discriminate students because of their size or gender. Although it is not martial art any more if mind and intelligence are ignored, I met many such instructors at tournaments.

In addition, you should ask whether the instructors teach sparring since you are considering martial art as self defense. If they teach, ask about which level of students can take sparring lessons. Some business martial art classes teach sparring to beginners. It is dangerous for advanced students who are sparring with them, because beginners don\x92t know how to spar. It will take many lessons before students can learn sparring.

You should also ask how many years it will take to obtain a black belt. At a business martial art dojo, you can get it in one or 2 years while it usually takes 4 to 5 years. When you daughter starts taking martial art lessons now, she will be able to protect herself late in her high school years. She should take a lesson at least twice or three times per week.

My daughter liked Kojosho Karate dojo in UC Village, and the instructors are real martial artists. They teach beautiful kata (forms) including animal katas. The grand master who is a crane master comes once a year and teach beginners to advanced students. When my daughter was taking lessons there, they didn\x92t teach sparring, but she learned basics really well. She was often asked where she started her Karate.

Unfortunately, she had to move to a different dojo because we moved. The second dojo was not a business type, but she had to spar with beginners. Also the head instructor/priest often mentioned that bigger body is better for Karate, and small ones can not learn well. He started his dojo at his church even before he obtained his black belt, while martial artists need 4th degree of black belt before starting a dojo. I believe it will take so many years of martial art lessons before anyone can obtains skills and personality to teach others. Therefore, you need to know about the head instructor and other instructors before you select a dojo for your daughter.

Although it is not Karate, there is an excellent Kendo (Japanese Fencing) dojo in Berkeley and Oakland where a grand master teaches from beginners to advanced students. There is no lesson fee, but there is a dojo fee because of the rent. They don\x92t teach self defense skills, although they spar every lesson. Some members went to a world tournament last year, and UC male team won against Japan, became second. There was a high school student from Berkeley dojo who became second at US Youth Championship. Each lesson is really hard. My daughter said each lesson is harder than 5 hours of belt testing at a Karate dojo where she had been or 300 hundreds pushups, but this is the ideal dojo for her. We trust all the instructors there. Any ways, you should visit many dojos to see where you can find instructors whom you and you daughter can trust. mom of a teanage girl

Self-defense class for 18-year-old going off to college

June 2007

Any recommendations for a self defense class for an 18 year old girl who is going off to college in the fall? Skittish Mom

I highly recommend Studio Naga in Oakland. They are a martial arts studio that also teaches self defense. Female instructors teach awareness and give non-verbal and verbal tools in addition to the obvious physical tools. What I like is that there are males involved in the self- defense trainings to simulate situations to practice all skills. It feels ''real'' and when it does tap into something personal, the support is respectful and compassionate.

Studio Naga 5850 San Pablo Avenue Oakland 94608 510.652.6242

I second the recommendation for Studio Naga as a fantastic place for self defense classes for teens! (and younger kids as well!) I have seen 1st hand the grumpy teenage girls, hanging back and giving attitude at the beginning and by the end, they are transformed! Yelling and empowered with their body language shifted to say, ''don't mess with me!'' Great stuff! K

Teenpower or Kidpower for 14-year-old son

March 2007

I'd like to get people's experience with the Teenpower, Kidpower, and/or Fullpower programs. I am looking to determine if it's a suitable program for my almost 14 year old son (and possibly me). Also, it looks like parents organise the class (assemble a group and find a place). How difficult is that to do? Any info would be helpful. Thanks.

I attended an information meeting, and it seemed like a rather cultish way of teaching kids (and everyone else in the universe) street smarts. They have a system of vocabulary for the skills they teach that they seem very attached to, and also a strong belief in their system for teaching street skills over all others. In addition, they seemed very focused on getting the people at the meeting to fundraise/donate large amounts of money to their organization. Also, like a cult or Amway-type organization, they work through social networks. I would investigate it a little more before signing up. anon

I didn't see the original post, but I wanted to mention one problem I had with kidpower. Lots of people love it and I think there's a lot that's positive about it. I may be the only person in the world with this issue, but I felt that my daughter was too young to be introduced to the idea that she could be totally taken away by a bad stranger - even though we all know this happens in the world. I told them how I felt about this right at the beginning of a 2-day workshop, actually at a shorter evening thing for parents the night before. I asked them when they introduced this concept, and they said day 2. I said, ''So if she does day 1 and I keep her out of day 2, she won't hear about this?'' They said yes. I had no problem paying for two days and only doing one. At end of day 1 when I picked her up, she had already heard about strangers coming to take you away in their car. Aside from whether anyone shares my opinion, I felt they thought I was crazy, spoke condescendingly, and basically lied. That's my experience. Anon

I cannot speak about Kidpower, but can tell you my experience with Impact Bay Area women's self defense, previously known as Bay Area Model Mugging. This organization offers classes and can also be hired if you have a group interested in sponsoring classes. I feel that it is important for teens to learn some street smarts and rudimentary self defense, which is what the 2-Saturday course taught. Therefore I worked with a teen organization to sponsor classes. The response was positive from both parents and the girls who attended. My oldest daughter was extremely reluctant to take the class, and it was hard to convince her to go. After the first session, she thought it very useful and gladly went the second weekend. She urged me to send our younger daughter.

Therefore, about a year ago I signed my younger daughter up for classes that Impact organized. Arriving the first Saturday at their designated spot, we and other parents waited for some time outside. It turned out that the instructor didn't have the key to get in. Why there was no instructor out front or notice given--even a hastily done sign on the front door--I can only believe was due to poor organization. The class the next weekend was good. The instructor was there on time and I believe my daughter learned some skills. We did not attend the make-up second class as we had a scheduling conflict.

I did not feel at any time that these people were pushing fundraising or were in any way cult-like. One hopes their organizational skills have improved.

I was interested in working with Berkeley High School to sponsor Impact classes. I was told by the administration that because the classes are fee based that it would not be possible to offer them at BHS. d

I have great respect and admiration for kidpower/teenpower/fullpower. Crestmont School (parent co- op, grades K-5) in Richmond had them give their classes to their students when my kids attended Crestmont a number of years ago. First they gave a presentation at the parents\x92 membership meeting so the parents would know what it was all about and so we could learn some of the same ideas and techniques as they would be teaching our children.

I thought their ideas and techniques were \x93right-on the mark,\x94 and they presented the material in a way that emphasized a child\x92s/teen\x92s/person\x92s power and strength, rather than making them afraid.

In approximately 2001 when I was involved in starting Manzanita Middle School (a public charter school in Richmond) we asked Kidpower/Teenpower about doing a class with our students (many of whom live in less than safe areas). They agreed to do the class for free (I believe through a grant they had obtained) as the school had essentially no extra money, and the class was very well received. I thought this was very kind of them and feel confident that it increased the safety of our students.

I had my own son take a teenpower class before he started attending Berkeley High School. He wasn\x92t hot on taking any class of this type, but liked it well enough and I believe it gave him more confidence in himself. Parents were invited to join the group for a short demonstration at the end of the class, and I found the tips and techniques presented highly valuable. Things about how to keep from getting into a dangerous situation in the first place, and specific ways to fight back and get away when needed. The participants were able to practice several specific moves on a heavily padded teenpower leader.

Also, the few times I have made a modest donation to the organization I have received a handwritten note or a personal e-mail thanking me. I highly recommend this organization and suggest you peruse their website at You might especially like to read their endorsements and success stories under \x93about us.\x94 Mary

Classes for teen girl

May 2002

Does anyone have experience with sending their preteen/teen kid to BAMM? BAMM is a an organization that teaches street smarts and self-defense. It is fairly expensive and I would like some testimonials before having my girl attend. Thank you. Trisha

I have no experience with BAMM, but my daughters took workshops with Kidpower and we were very happy with them. I was so inspired by what they learned that I also did a workshop. You can contact them through Jil

I am responding to the BAMM request for testimonials. My daughter and her best friend just finished the BAMM SF series 2 months ago. It was terrific and well worth it. They feel that they can set limits, avoid dangerous situations and have some powerful self defense rules should they ever need it. Both girls are 12 and it also introduced the concept of dating and how to manage the physical expectations of relationships. Karen

I would gladly give a testimonial for BAMM for anyone of any age. I took it myself a number of years ago, and found it astoundingly powerful, physically and emotionally. I have a number of psychotherapy clients who I have referred to it who have benefited from it greatly. The instructors are well-trained to deal with both physical and emotional issues (which do come up for older teens and adults) A psychology student of mine wrote her thesis about BAMM, and I got to know the director through her thesis project, and was very impressed with her.

I have two daughters (now 15 and 19). They took the kids' course when they were 7 and 11, and then each took the teen course when they were each about 14. The older one took it right after a friend of her's was attacked, and she and her friends who took it with her found it especially empowering and healing for them at a difficult time. Both girls still refer to it to reassure me--Remember, Mom, I took BAMM--I know how to say 'NO!'

It is expensive, but I think it's worth the money, especially for high school girls. (And boys--I think they offer courses for boys, too.) You can go to one of the graduations for the regular courses (I'm not sure about the teen courses) to get a sense of what they're like--just call the office. Mary Ann

Rape Prevention Classes for Teens

April 2000

My 14 year old daughter just took a self-defense class which I thought was very good. It was given by BAMM ( Bay Area Model Mugging) It was three, 3 hour classes. The cost was $120 with ten girls in the class. We contacted them and arranged the class with girls we knew, so we could arrange the time and dates to our schedules. They may also have classes that are already scheduled that you can attend. The girls actually get to experience trying the techniques taught in full force on a very padded man. Lynn

There are two well-known programs, one is Kidpower & Teenpower, with an office in Berkeley. They have a sliding scale. The other organization, BAMM, Bay Area Model Muggers, is the oldest organization in the country teaching padded assailant self-defense. They teach teen girls in a three-part class. Although they don't often have classes in Berkeley or Oakland, they can be hired to teach a class if you have 10 or more girls. This can be organized through school or religious associations. The director is Cori Courture 650 366-4006. D. (12/00)