How to Find Free Self-Defense Classes Online and In-Person

A woman uses the palm of her hand to shove a man's chin away from her in a self-defense glass.
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Self-defense is one of those skills most people hope they never have to use, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared just in case. However, the high cost of many self-defense classes can cause people to put it off for when they have more money to spare, which often ends up being never.

Thankfully, there are plenty of free ways to learn how to defend yourself both through in-person and online classes.

A few hours of your time could potentially save your life. Here are some ways to find free self-defense classes and resources:

Free Online Self-Defense Classes

Before diving into all the options, it’s a good idea to get a sense of the basics. But knowing where to start can be daunting. Luckily, there are plenty of free online self defense courses that you can take from the comfort of your own home using your phone or laptop. Here are a few that are recommended.

Situation Effective Protection System

The Situation Effective Protection System (SEPS) offers several modules designed to teach self-defense to women in a number of common situations, including sexual assault, domestic abuse, stalking, mugging and date rape. SEPS suggests women study each module for at least one week to ensure they get the moves down so they are prepared no matter what situation they find themselves in.

Wallace Smedley Free Online Self-Defense Course

Wallace Smedley is a martial arts instructor in Dallas/Fort Worth. He has recorded a free video demonstrating the basic self-defense moves anyone should know. The video is accessible via his website or on his YouTube channel.

HowCast Self-Defense Tips

HowCast has a video showing their top three self-defense tips, as well as several videos on correct punching form, how to use your legs and feet to defend, and how to mentally prepare for an attack, among others. The videos can be viewed in any order and give some good basic tips and information to help teach the basics of self defense.

Free Self-Defense Courses on Udemy

Udemy has almost 200,000 courses over a range of topics, including self-defense. While Udemy membership is required for the majority of courses on the platform, there are several free online self-defense courses that don’t require a paid membership. There are videos designed specifically for women, as well as those teaching military-grade jiu-jitsu techniques.

Free In-Person Self Defense Classes

If online learning isn’t your jam, there are plenty of ways to find in-person classes as well. To find defense classes near you, it’s a good idea to start by searching “self-defense classes near me” to see what comes up. But that’s not the only way to find in-person classes. Here are a few tips for finding free classes in your location.

Call a Campus Safety Department

Some colleges offer a variety of free self-defense courses through their campus safety programs. For example, the University of Denver offers 10 types of classes, ranging from rape prevention to active shooter awareness programs.

If you’re a college student, call your school’s campus-safety office and see what they have to offer. If they don’t currently offer free self-defense classes, you may inspire them to. It never hurts to ask!

Call the Local Fire or Police Department

Some fire or police stations offer occasional free self-defense classes as a way not only to protect their communities, but also to bring them together.

The Portland Police Bureau, for example, has educated more than 30,000 women since 1979 through its free program.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and many stations offer classes around this time, so be sure to keep an eye out for them.

Check Your City’s Parks and Recreation Website

City parks and recreation departments are known for sponsoring free events and providing free resources for people of all ages.

For example, the city of Boise, Idaho, offers free martial art classes for youth to “focus on the development of self-defense” as well as increasing cardiovascular development and overall fitness.

Check whether your city or state offers similar classes for teens or adults.

Ohio-based contributor Catherine Hiles writes about finance, cars, pet ownership and lifestyle issues for The Penny Hoarder. Former Penny Hoarder staff writer Kelly Smith contributed to this report.