Self Defense in High School

This post is more than 2 years old.

Here is a question - why not dump volleyball or soccer in high school for a required self defense class? For girls this seems like a no-brainer, and it would be useful for boys as well. I'm not talking about karate, but simple instructions on how to be safe and defend yourself against attackers.

Are there any high schools doing this?

Raymond Camden's Picture

About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

Lafayette, LA

Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Tony Petruzzi posted on 7/10/2006 at 6:34 PM

Great idea. Although self defense is should only be used to hurt the attacker in order to get away from them. Not to sit there and have a full fledge fight.

The best self defense: break their knee. I don't care if the guy is 100 or 500 pounds. One kick and they're done. Most people tell women to go for the groin which does work, but the problem is the attacker can still run after you. No body is getting up from a broken knee.

Comment 2 by Phil posted on 7/10/2006 at 6:40 PM

I disagree Ray. I think the problem with kids is there isn't enough physical activity for them. Taking away sports like this from gym and replacing with self-defense would only contribute to the growing problem of overweight/not physically active kids. The other question would be are kids mature enough to learn self-defense and not practice on each other in the hallways afterwards. I, personally, don't think they are.

Comment 3 by Freddys posted on 7/10/2006 at 6:45 PM

The maturtiy level issue is a tough one. I am currently studying several self-defense systems. Not the martials arts type either. Real self-defense, the type you should use your life is in danger. But knowing when to use this type of violence to defense one self is the tough part. I say violence because that is exactly what it is. When your life is danger because of asocial violence (as oppose to social violence), you either leave the situation (preferable), or respond back with violence before its too late. But that takes responsability and I don't know if high school kids are ready for that.

Comment 4 by Raymond Camden posted on 7/10/2006 at 6:47 PM

Phil, I agree that weight is a huge issue for kids today. However, I'd rather have my daughter have these skills than be skinnier. And be honest - you had gymn like I did. Did the activity "stick" with you? It didn't with me. But these skills (self defense) could help for the rest of your life.

Also - how can you 'practice' on others in the hallways the skills of escaping from an attacker? That's why I said it shouldn't be karate.

Comment 5 by Phil posted on 7/10/2006 at 7:11 PM

Ray, the practicing would be if you teach someone how to escape being grabbed from behind kids will grab each other from behind and see what happens, throws, trips, punches to the groin, whatever they were taught. As for the "stick with you", I can't answer that fairly. I play and watch sports regularly, so yes, it all did stick with me for the most part the games I learned. But again, I think I'm the exception, not the norm. I'd actually prefer gym class to be less about sports, and more about lifestlye things like nutrition and fitness. It can include sports, but from a social aspect so people at least have an idea of what the sport is about, but you can get that without playing it for 5 weeks or more.

Comment 6 by Raymond Camden posted on 7/10/2006 at 7:22 PM

To be honest, I think the "They will use it in the hallways" type argument is like the arguments against (spam filter got me) ed. But that is a whole other argument. Do you truly feel that mass chaos will escape in the hallways if we teach girls how to escape from attackers?

Comment 7 by Phil posted on 7/10/2006 at 7:34 PM

No, I don't think chaos will rule, but I think the possibilty would exist, and with schools and possible lawsuits as a result of some stupidity by one person, that will rule over teaching common sense things like self-defense or requiring physical standards for gym class.

Comment 8 by tony weeg posted on 7/10/2006 at 8:21 PM

remove a class or two, but not sports, not soccer or volleyball. exercise and sport, team play, etc... are more important... as a team you can take down attackers... after school is better suited for karate and other non-school sports... imo.

Comment 9 by Ken Dunnington posted on 7/10/2006 at 8:30 PM

I practice small circle jujitsu (which focuses on more real world situations) and my sensei is considering letting his 15 year old join, but he's been in trouble for fighting before, so he was told, "If you come to class, and you ever use any of this knowledge for anything other than self defense, we will take you into the dojo, lock the door, and you will show us exactly what you did." :) Personally, I think learning some self defense is a great idea, but I think Phil makes a good point about lawsuits, especially in today's schools. I think it's something that the parent should consider enrolling the child in outside of school.

And gym class sucked beyond 4th grade. :)

Comment 10 by tony weeg posted on 7/10/2006 at 8:32 PM

what??? gym class was the only class that was fun in high school... chicks in short shorts, kicking ass in the games we played, ruling the nerds in the games we played... FUN stuff.

Comment 11 by Don posted on 7/10/2006 at 8:39 PM

I plan on teaching my child(ren) how to defend themselves and the importance of discipline. It would be nice if schools could effectively train kids how to react in certain situations (kidnapping, etc) but I'd rather teach them martial arts myself. It's a good way to get exercise for you and your family, spend time with the kids, and teach discipline and responsibility.

How about schools teaching kids about gun safety and how to handle, clean and use firearms? (I'm sure this would be met with a ton of resistance)

Comment 12 by Ken Dunnington posted on 7/10/2006 at 8:40 PM

Tony, we're Web Application Developers 'round here, I think it's safe to say that we were those nerds! ;)

Comment 13 by tony weeg posted on 7/10/2006 at 8:44 PM

i am as well :) i just happen to be a bit more sports inclined than geek inclined... i hate computers and would rather be playing sports, however the money is too good :) hah. and yah... i wasnt THAT mean to the nerds, just made sure to win, and never let em beat me!

i was a compassionate jock

Comment 14 by Ken Dunnington posted on 7/10/2006 at 8:45 PM

That's good. We'll kill you last. ;)

Comment 15 by Stephen Cassady posted on 7/10/2006 at 9:50 PM

Are you kidding - teach kids to attack each other? I know that's not your intention, but (and as always, having to look at it this way sucks) I can just see the lawsuits as kids use their school-taught skills on each other: in fun, jest, or as part of the bullying. It's unfortunate, but if you teach kids how to injure, then you've opened your school to liability.

Comment 16 by Raymond Camden posted on 7/10/2006 at 9:54 PM

Attack? Where did you read attack? I'm talking about self defense classes. The ones girls can use to save themselves if they are attacked. Stuff like, try to walk in lighted areas, have your keys out so you don't fiddle with them by the car.

Comment 17 by Freddys Garcia posted on 7/10/2006 at 9:59 PM

I guess self defense can mean a lot of things. The way I'm interpreting self defense as learning how to cause injury to somebody else in order to preserve one self in a situation involving asocial violence.

Comment 18 by Phil posted on 7/10/2006 at 11:15 PM

Ray, what do you mean by self-defense? Do you mean the ability to defend one's self if grabbed or otherwise physically assaulted or do you mean situational awareness to understand when one may be in a situation in which they could become the subject of an attack? Your last post makes me think it's the latter more than the former.

Comment 19 by Raymond Camden posted on 7/10/2006 at 11:17 PM

I meant the ability to defend oneself when attacked. This is primary for girls/women, but could be helpful to boys as well. Awareness is part of it. Nothing at all like karate. Like this morinng on the Today show they showed how you can lift your shoulders and turn your head to ensure you can keep breathing.

Comment 20 by Scott Stewart posted on 7/10/2006 at 11:19 PM

Then again you have school districts like Fairfax County, VA. which have taken the no tolerance policy to far. If a child is attacked in a Fairfax County school, his only recourse is to run or take a beating (or worse). if he defends himself in any way he will be suspended or expelled along with the attacker.

It absolves the school from having to make the "who started it call" and from having to actually deal with the bullying issue

Comment 21 by Edward T posted on 7/10/2006 at 11:39 PM

Huh...I had something to say, but apparently your spam filter doesn't want to hear it ;-)

Comment 22 by Raymond Camden posted on 7/10/2006 at 11:43 PM

Sorry Edward, your comment was blocked by my spam checker. I checked it out - and I can't see what word tripped it. I may need to back off a bit on the keylist.

Comment 23 by Edward T posted on 7/10/2006 at 11:46 PM

Well, the point was to get it to you, so, glad you saw it :-)

Comment 24 by Lola Lee Beno posted on 7/10/2006 at 11:51 PM

Scott, that's a real cop-out on the behalf of the Fairfax County school system. I'm afraid it's going to take a death of a child before this inane policy is reversed.

Comment 25 by carlosM() posted on 7/11/2006 at 12:32 AM

Do you guys remember when Nicholas Cage defended his wife and killed the attackers in ConAir? He went to prison because his military training made him a lethal weapon and he basically should have known better. Now I’m not saying the school systems will make 15 year old girls into lethal weapons but I don’t think the state wants that kind of liability.

All in all, when you take a self-defense class you are taught discipline and then how to turn your body into a weapon. The school systems are doing a piss-poor job with the discipline. I don’t think they should jump the gun and start teaching,” physical self defense”…

Comment 26 by Mark Mandel posted on 7/11/2006 at 4:02 AM


I totally hear what you are saying.

It seems to be that you would be advocating a program that takes more of a violence avoidence path, than one of reaction once the violence has started, which I couldn't agree with more.

As someone who has studies martial arts for quite a few years, I'm often disgusted with alot of the 'self defense' programs I see - especially those that are of the type that say 'if he grabs your wrist, turn and do X, Y and Z'.

a) The focus should be more on being aware of your surroundings, and ensuring you aren't in a position to be grabbed in the first place. How to not look like a target, how to walk confidently, ensuring you stay in groups etc. This is going to save your life 9 times out of 10 than being able to do a wrist lock if the guy happens to grab your wrist the right way.

It scares me how often people put themselves in seriously dangerous situations because they think 'they will be okay'. As a species, humans are the only ones around that tend to ignore their fear emotions.

b) Doing half a dozen repetitions of a bad move against an unresisting opponent during a 2 day course is in no way going to prepare you for a violent assault. If push actually comes to shove, and you are serious about being prepared to actually defend yourself, you need to be training for it (and TKD at the local Y is probably not going to do it). Failing that, go back to section 1 - just don't be there in the first place.

c) That being said, on the teaching kids thing - through the years I've been training, I've seen younger kids with no confidence really develop under martial arts tutalege, and also seen some 'bad seeds' turn into some really nice kids. So it can definatley be a plus in a lot of cases.

However, the aspect of teaching it in schools is that the Teacher is severly restricted in terms of being able to hurt the student - and yes, martial arts IS about fighting, so there is going to be a pain aspect, and also may not have the option of throwing the student out of the class - which can severly limit his/her power over the class body, and therefore students are more liable to take advantge.

I know my kids (whenever they come around) will be learning to defend themselves, but they will also be learning the aspects of discipline that accompany that. I don't want to turn them into killing machines, but there are alot of valuable lessons to be learnt through martial arts, one of which is personal safety.

Comment 27 by Raymond Camden posted on 7/11/2006 at 6:00 PM

Mark, thanks for your comment. I think you better described what I had intended than I did. "Violence Avoidence" is exactly what I had in mind as opposed to karate kicks and the like.

Comment 28 by Judy posted on 7/13/2006 at 4:39 AM

I went to an all girl school (7th - 12th) in NYC during the early 1970s. It was a prim and proper school, for "intellectually gifted girls". The students were drawn from all over the city, so we rode subways and buses everyday.

We were taught how to properly sit like ladies, how to walk, how to talk, how to set a table, how to cook. We were also taught advanced math, physics and chemistry. During our gym classes, we were taught a lot of things -- one thing I particularly remember is how to defend yourself from perverts on the subway.

It was quite useful information; you'd be surprised (or maybe not) on how many perverted men there are who think nothing about feeling up the butt of a little girl. You don't know how empowering it is for a little 11 year old to know just what to do when there's a strange hand on her ass.