Self-defence Classes for Women by Women.

Zama Twala

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High rates of VAW have led to women taking up self-defence classes to protect themselves. However, women are not only taking self-defence classes to be able to fight predators. Other benefits that come with taking these classes are confidence, fitness and de-stressing.

Women throw their best punch at violence.

Violence against women is an epidemic in South Africa. We’ve saw it recently with Gqom artist Mampintsha who assaulted his girlfriend Babes Wodumo during a live video on Instagram. The death of Karabo Mokoena in 2017 who was burned by her boyfriend Sandile Mantsoe, motivated the awareness of the high femicide cases in South Africa. More women such as Gugu Ncube who was allegedly sexually assaulted and raped by her boss Shibambu Mhlava, are speaking out against their abusers. It has been reported that more than 2,000 women were killed in 2017/18.

High rates of VAW have led to women taking up self-defence classes to protect themselves.  However, women are not only taking self-defence classes to be able to fight predators. Other benefits that come with taking these classes are confidence, fitness and de-stressing. Women also  feel empowered knowing they can protect themselves, while participating in a sport that is often unfairly stereotyped as being for men.

Many of us are familiar with the terrible feeling of fear that comes when your feeling of safety is compromised. It certainly doesn’t help knowing the stats of GBV and the horrifying stories that come out on the news. We’ve listed some self-defence classes to help you protect yourself in times of fear, as well as help you start feeling confident and empowered in your day to day life.



Where: Randburg


BJMMA is a training club run by Bobby and Jeni Karagiannidis since 2000. The pair trains mixed martial arts such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Kickboxing. The club is for everyone; women, men and kids. However, they have a programme exclusively for women which is the Ladies Kickboxing. Designed to provide women with confidence, fitness and self-defence; the 45-minute programme includes cardio, upper and lower body workouts. The Ladies kickboxing is instructed by Jeni who has been practising martial arts since 1993 and has been training women since 1999. BJMMA also offers customers one-on-one classes for a more intimate training.

Fight Club SA

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Where: Fourways, Kyalami, Honeydew, centurion, Clearwater, Dainfern, Victory Park & Glenvista

With 2500 clients, 50%  female clients and more than 80 boxing coaches, Fight Club SA has different packages that an individual can set to meet their own needs and goals. The packages include up to 10 BoxFit classes per day, yoga sessions, unlimited attendance, one-one-one sessions and meals. The costs are from R2495 for the 8 week challenge to R300 for the Saturday sessions only.

Fight Like A Girl

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Where: Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal

Fight Like A Girl is a fight club solely for women. Run by Christine Eriksen and Ann Du Plessis, the club was created to educate and give women the power to protect themselves from becoming victims of assault. The club also holds seminars in high schools and corporate spaces where they teach women of all ages how to protect themselves against assault. The seminars include demonstrating how women should act during an attack and a hijacking to showing them different physical techniques to defend themselves. The seminars are divided into beginner’s to advanced level.

Gracie Jiu Jitsu

Where: Parklands, Cape Town

Gracie Jiu Jitsu is the only certified training center in the Western Cape that offers easy but effective techniques of self-defence. The center has six training programmes that teach average people the skills needed to defend themselves against attackers. One of the programmes offered is exclusively for women, the Women Empowered programme. The programme also has a 10-day free trial to give women a chance to try-out before committing. The women are taught different techniques to use when under attack and at the end of the training they receive a pink belt. Gracie Jiu Jitsu also provides online access to videos of the techniques on YouTube. The costs run from R100 per lesson to R1200 for a 10-week programme.

So, what happens when a woman kills their abuser in self-defence?

How does the justice system respond to women who kill their abusers? #FreeCyntoiaBrown went viral in 2017 when former child slave Cyntoia Brown who was arrested at age 16 for killing a man who bought her for sex when she was a teenager. After serving 15 years in jail, Cyntoia was granted clemency and will be released on August 7. There are also stories of battered women who kill their abusers while sleeping. These women have been arrested and face charges of murder. Is it self-defence or murder?

We spoke with Lindsay Henson from Lawyers against Abuse (LvA) an NGO that provides legal services, psychosocial support and empowers victims of Gender-based Violence. “We educate women in the community about their legal rights and the criminal justice system,” says Lindsay.
LvA usually helps victims of abuse with opening a criminal case against their abuser but they have had one client who killed their intimate partner in self-defence.

In a case like that the woman is charged with murder and the defence attorney will have to prove that the homicide was self-defence. “The defence attorney will have to prove that the woman suffered some wounds during the incident and that this was imminent danger,” says Lindsay.

Amazon Prime Video released a documentary titled Lorena, about Lorena Bobbitt ; a woman who cut off her husband’s penis in his sleep. Lorena claimed that her husband, John Bobbitt had raped and abused her mentally and physically before the incident. Lorena was arrested but was found not guilty by the jury. She could have served 20 years in jail but the charges against her were acquitted because the jury believed her actions were a result of psychological abuse by her husband.

Lorena Bobbitt’s case was not only a win for her but it also represented the liberation for thousands of battered women. It is important for the justice system to consider the psychological effects that women who killed their abusers have went through during their abuse before throwing them in jail for murder.

Women should learn to be comfortable with the idea of self-defence and learn that it is not only for men. Self-defence does not only train women to protect themselves but it instills a sense of confidence in their daily lives against unequal treatment from men.