WomenStrength self-defense classes are designed to introduce teenage and adult women to a variety of strategies, including some survival level fighting skills, designed to help defend against sexual assault. The Portland Police Bureau believes that fighting can be an effective response to the threat of sexual assault.
Class activities and discussion are designed to help women identify their risks and evaluate their strengths, and to explore their options for dealing with the threat of sexual violence. Class activities focus on practicing verbal and physical strategies. Discussion topics focus on sexual and domestic violence.
WomenStrength emphasizes that each threat must be assessed quickly. Research on women's experiences indicates that the likelihood of escaping a sexual assault increases with the number of escape strategies employed. Women who choose to fight are encouraged to use the element of surprise to their advantage. Because physical self-defense will be most effective if vulnerable areas of the body are targeted, some of the skills taught include multiple strikes to those areas, as well as escapes from choke holds, body grabs, and wrist grasps, and defense techniques from the ground.
WomenStrength participants are encouraged to maintain their skills by using visualization, practicing, attending refresher classes, and to improve and diversify their skills by pursuing additional training from other self-defense programs.
Participants: We welcome all people who identify as women. Classes are open to ages 13 and above. Young women under 16 need to be accompanied by a participating adult. Younger people may also be interested in our sister program, GirlStrength, which offers classes from 10-17 years of age. Learn more about GirlStrength here: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/girlstrength
- Please fill out our online registration form or call 503-823-0260 on or after the registration date listed for each month.
- Please plan to attend all three sessions at the location you select.
- Please cancel your registration before the first session if you cannot attend all three sessions.
- All classes are wheelchair-accessible unless noted otherwise.
WomenStrength Self-Defense Classes
Registration opens Tuesday, September 6th at 9:00 am
Mondays, October 3rd, 10th, and 17th from 6:00-9:15 pm - CLASS CLOSED
Mt Tabor School, 5800 SE Ash Street, Portland 97215
Thursdays, Oct 13th, 20th, & 27th from 6:00-9:15 pm - CLASS FULL, WAITLIST FULL
East Portland Community Center, 740 SE 106th Ave, Portland 97216
Registration opens Tuesday, October 4th at 9:00 am
Mondays, November 7th, 14th and 21st from 6:00-9:15 pm - CLASS FULL, WAITLIST FULL
SMILE Station (Selwood Moreland Improvement League), 8210 SE 13th Ave, Portland, 97202
Fridays, November 4th, 11th, and 18th from 5:30-8:45 pm - CLASS FULL, WAITLIST FULL
Charles Jordan Community Center (University Park), 9009 N Foss Ave, Portland, OR 97217
Registration opens Tuesday, November 1st at 9:00 am
Saturdays, December 3rd, 10th and 17th from 3:00-6:15 pm
Gem Studio, 1110 NE Glisan, Portland, 97232
How to Register!
- Select a location at which you could attend all three sessions.
- Fill out our online registration form or call 503-823-0260 on or after the registration date listed for each month.
- Please have the following information:
- The location you wish to attend;
- Your name, phone number, and email address;
- The names of others you are registering for. Please note: Because space in class is limited, you may register for yourself and only one or two others.
- Someone will contact you to confirm your registration.
One Class = 3 Sessions
WomenStrength classes are taught in a sequence of three sessions. Because each session builds on the previous one, it is essential that you attend all three sessions in order.
If you realize that you have a conflict with a session and will be unable to attend, please call us as soon as possible before the first session and we will move someone from the waiting list into your space. Notifying us of your cancellation as soon as you are aware of it will give women on the waiting list time to make arrangements for child care and other needs.
WomenStrength classes are free of charge to the participants. We do strongly encourage donations! Donations are used to support our volunteer staff. Every little bit helps! Donations can be made online, or by check (instructions here).
What to wear and bring to class:
For approximately six of your nine hours in class, you will be practicing physical and verbal defense skills. We ask you to wear and bring the following:
- Comfortable clothes that you can move easily in. Dressing in layers is good if it's extra warm or extra cold outside.
- Sneakers or soft-soled athletic shoes.
- As little jewelry as possible.
- A water bottle if you need more than the occasional drink from the water fountain.
- Throat drops, if you would like, because we do a lot of yelling
- Please do not wear perfume or scented products to class. Many students are allergic to it.
Please arrive 10 minutes early for sign-in, so that we can start class on time.
If city-stopping weather, such as a windstorm or ice storm, affects travel on the day of your class, please call 503-823-0260 to learn if your class will occur. If the public schools close because of the weather, we will probably cancel that day's session, and extend your class into the next week to make up the missed session.
We register for classes one month at a time, and once a class is full, we begin a waiting list for it. If you are on a waiting list, it is for the current month only. As we receive cancellations, we call those at the top of the waiting list for that class.
Most cancellations are received in two time frames: 1) within a few days after a student has registered, and 2) within a day or two of the first session of class. If you are on a waiting list, please only go to class if you have received a call from us notifying you of an available space. If a space does not open up for you, we hope that you will request a schedule of upcoming classes and will register for another location in the near future.
What to expect at your class
The class you attend could be as small as 15 students, or as large as 40 students. The size of class is determined by the space available in our room and the number of instructors available to teach. Regardless of class size, you will practice physical and verbal skills in a small group with an instructor, and will sit with the entire class for information segments.
All of your instructors will be women who volunteer their time to teach these classes, and many are former students who felt inspired by their instructors to pursue this large commitment of time and energy. Your instructors will have information about the application process and volunteering.
Your instructors will encourage you to challenge yourself, as well as take care of yourself physically and emotionally while in class. Survivors of violence may have memories surface. If you are a survivor, you may feel many conflicting emotions. Self-defense classes can help renew confidence and facilitate healing. They can also be overwhelming. Some of the things that can influence your experience in self-defense training are how recently you have experienced violence, other recovery work you have done, the support you have available, the trust you feel in your instructors, and the structure of your class. Please don't hesitate to ask us questions or tell us what you need. To confirm: All of our instructors are female.
Childcare policy: If you are a parent or caregiver, please note that we do not provide child care and do not allow children who are not registered for class in the classroom. Our class is designed for teenage and adult women, and the material taught is for that level of understanding and experience.
Auditing and chaperone policy: We sometimes get requests for class auditing, or someone wants to observe their child to class without participating. As a principle, we do not allow anyone to attend the class who is not planning on participating – it is awkward for the active participants to feel watched. Of course, this is different from taking a short break from the activities.
If you have a disability or medical condition that affects your involvement in physical activities, please tell us as soon as possible (if you haven’t done so on your registration form) – so that we can best prepare for your participation in our classes. One-on-one instruction is available for those who would benefit from it. There is a lead time for getting a sign language interpreter, so if you need one please inform us immediately. If you have hearing loss, it is easiest to reach us through email or a relay service, but if you prefer a TTY, the Police Bureau's TTY number is 503-823-4736. All our classes are ADA accessible unless otherwise noted.
Thanks again to all of the facilities which host our classes and to the volunteers who teach them!