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 you hope you’ll 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 you 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 recommendations.

Situation Effective Protection System

The Situation Effective Protection System (SEPS) offers nine 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 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 self defense 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 options for finding free classes in your location.

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 several different types of classes, including Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) and pepper spray defense.

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!

Local Fire or Police Department

Some fire or police stations offer occasional free self-defense classes as a way to protect and unite their communities.

The Portland Police Bureau, for example, has educated more than 30,000 women, girls and members of the LGBTQ+ community since 1979 through its free program.

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

Local Martial Arts Studios

Some martial arts studios will offer free self-defense seminars designed to give you an overview of how to defend yourself against an attacker.

For example, FIT HIT in New York City offers regular self-defense seminars for women. It teach the basics of Krav Maga and explains the latest data about sexual assault in Manhattan so women can be prepared.

By attending a free seminar with a local martial arts studio, you can gauge whether you like it enough to continue martial arts classes. Check websites like Eventbrite and call around to local studios for events near you.

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.