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Oct 13, 2023 | April Xu and Nancy Chen

Self-Defense Classes in NYC and Basic Self-Defense Moves to Learn

This article gives you information about self-defense classes provided by organizations in New York.

Hate incidents and hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) individuals have spiked during the pandemic. Based on Documented’s research on news consumption habits among Chinese immigrants in NYC last summer, Public safety is the most consumed news topic. It is also the most urgent issue the Chinese community believes should be covered by the media. In our survey, many readers wanted to know about self-defense laws and resources. This article gives you information about self-defense classes provided by organizations in New York.

As a newsroom that serves immigrant communities, Documented has written a comprehensive guide for Chinese New Yorkers. This article is part of the guide.

Also Read: What Counts as Self-Defense in New York?

Free Self-Defense Classes in New York City

Self-defense classes are offered by a number of New York City organizations, including several Chinese organizations.

Academy of Medical & Public Health Services 6-Week Self-Defense Course

AMPHS, in partnership with Pop Gym, is offering a 6-week self-defense course to teach participants how to respond safely in the event of a physical or verbal attack on themselves or a bystander. The course is open to adults over the age of 18 and is designed to cover basic strikes and blocks, knee and elbow strikes, defense against grabs and holds.

Classes are held every Saturday from August 5 to September 9, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Location: Leif Ericson Park, 9th Ave. and 66th St. Entrance. For more information, please visit this website.

FIT HIT Free NYC Women’s Self-Defense Seminars

Offered by FIT HIT, instructor Viktoria will cover current important trends and changes in Manhattan’s sexual assault data; how, when, and where to strike; escape dangerous positions taken directly from recent sexual assault cases in NYC; increase awareness and “street smarts”; and learning the basics of Krav Maga. This course is beginner friendly. You can register here.

Location: FIT HIT Chelsea, 122 W. 27th St., New York, NY 10001

Center for Anti-Violence Education Empowerment Self-Defense

Participants of this online course will learn tools applicable to a range of interpersonal situations, from physical skills to verbal, emotional and social skills such as assertiveness, de-escalation, situational awareness and self-care practices for healing from the trauma of violence. Each session is delivered through a trauma-informed lens and focuses on the experiences of those most at risk of violence. You can register for a single session or the full course, all of which are free. If your workplace or organization would also like to host a self-defense empowerment course, email selfdefense@caeny.org. For more information, please visit this page.

Chinese Hawaiian Kenpo Academy

For nearly 30 years, the Academy has offered this free walk-in self-defense classes to women in New York. The course focuses not only on self-defense techniques but also on ways to prevent becoming a victim.

Instructior Sifu Jack teaches self-defense punching and kicking techniques that will help you defend yourself against potential attackers. This class is open to females ages 14 and above.

In-person classes are held on Tuesdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Street Community Center in Manhattan’s East Village, 638 E. 6th St., New York, NY 10009. For more information, email smash@chka.studio or visit this page.

Dragon Combat Club

The club was originally established by a group of volunteers during the pandemic in April 2020 in order for more people to learn self-defense skills. The free self-defense classes it offers continue to this day. The weekly classes were previously held in Manhattan and Flushing, and have now switched locations to Gantry Plaza State Park (Northeast of Rainbow Playground) in Long Island City on Fridays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit this page or follow their Instagram account @dragoncombatclub.

Self-defense strategies

Asian American Federation worked with the Center for Anti-Violence Education to develop a safety resource guide that teaches members of the AAPI community how to defend themselves if faced with violence. The following is the summary of the guide.

Physical self-defense strategies

Only use in situations where you are experiencing a level of aggression that endangers your physical safety.

Safety stance: If cornered, pivot in a half-circle motion to quickly cover the distance to make a safe getaway. Keep at least one arm’s length distance from the aggressor. Slightly angle your body 45°. Start shifting weight and slowly back away. Keep hands up with open palms.

On the ground: Use leg kicks to maintain distance.

Basic strikes: The goal is to slow down/immobilize the attacker. These spots are intended to cause severe damage and hinder eyes, nose, throat and knees. 

  • Palm heel strike: Use palm to strike, keeping fingers back and thumbs tucked in. Target: nose and chin.
  • Foot stomp: Bend your knees to stomp down quickly using the heel of your foot. Target: foot.
  • Front kick: Strike down quickly with the ball of your foot and pull back with a quick snapping motion. Target: knees or shin.

Verbal de-escalation strategies

  • Name the behavior: Address the specific behavior that is inappropriate, offensive, or violent. Avoid using harmful labels or sarcasm.
  • Step it down: To avoid “shushing” the person causing harm, match their vocal intensity. The goal is to slowly “step it down,” or speak in an increasingly calm tone. They may follow your lead without even realizing it. 
  • “I” statements: Use “I” statements to voice your feelings and wishes without expressing judgment to avoid putting the person causing harm on the defensive.
  • Lose to win: Self-defense is anything you do to keep yourself safe. Sometimes, you have to make compromises to protect your or another person’s immediate safety.
  • Say “No”: You always have the right to say, “No,” “Stop” or “That is not okay.”
  • Broken record: Repeat the same statement until the person causing harm corrects their behavior or exits the situation.
  • Assertive ignoring: Ignoring can sometimes be a proactive decision. By choosing not to engage, you can de-escalate a situation. But stay aware. If the situation continues to escalate, be prepared to use another strategy.
  • Get to “we”: Use “we” to foster a sense of unity. When you create a “we,” the person causing harm is less likely to direct their anger towards you.
  • Interrupting: Interrupt or distract from either the person causing harm or the situation.

Non-violent communication (NVC) strategies

The intention of non-violence communication is to empathize and connect with the other person and yourself.

  • Observe: Make neutral statements about what you see without judgment.
  • Identify a feeling: Express your own emotions instead of what you think someone is doing to you.
  • Identify your need or desire: Externalize your needs without referencing specific people, actions or things. 
  • Request: To move things along, suggest specific and doable requests.

Being an Upstander: What to do when you see someone being harassed

  • Direct: Respond directly to the person causing harm or physically intervene if necessary. Be confident, assertive and calm.
  • Distract: Bring attention away from the person causing harm, the person who was harmed, or the situation itself. 
  • Delegate: Get help from someone else. Ask for assistance, a resource or help from a third party. 
  • Delay: Check in with the person who was harmed after the incident. Educate ourselves and our communities on why this happened.
  • Document: If someone is already helping the person in crisis, document through photo or video. Note: Never post or share a video without the consent of the person being harmed.

Find more information on this page.

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