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The City of Portland, Oregon

Police Bureau

Sworn to protect. Dedicated to serve.

Phone: 503-823-0000

Non-Emergency: 503-823-3333

1111 S.W. 2nd Avenue, Portland, OR 97204

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Self-Defense Instructor Training



We are not accepting volunteer applications at this time. Our hope I to offer a new volunteer training in the winter of 2023. We will keep this website updated with next steps. Thank you.



Help Empower Women & Girls: Become a self-defense instructor!


What Makes Our Training Unique

Our training is free to all applicants who pass the interview and background check process.  Our comprehensive instructor training utilizes an immersion model that has been crucial to the 37 year success of WomenStrength. Our experienced trainers provide the most up-to-date knowledge, skills and research on topics related to violence prevention while also providing a step-by-step approach to teaching the curriculum and physical skills.  

Theory and Knowledge

Over thirty professional trainers in the field of violence prevention offer their services and are committed to training our self-defense instructors. These professional trainers provide knowledge as well as prevention and intervention strategies on topics related to trauma, oppression & privilege, bullying, gendered  violence which includes sexual assault, dating, domestic and intimate partner violence, trafficking, gang involvement and child abuse.  

Curriculum & Physical Training

Over the course of seven weeks, new instructors learn how to deliver effective physical and non-physical self-dense skills as well as how to teach these skills to girls and women. The training includes public speaking strategies and acting techniques so that instructors complete the training feeling confident to deliver material to audiences of all sizes and able to utilize role plays and games to enhance student learning.  Over the course of the training, experienced self-defense instructors coach, mentor and share their teaching strategies and skills with the new candidates. Learn more about our immersion training


Common Questions about Instructor Training

What are the benefits of becoming an instructor?

As an instructor, you have the opportunity to change lives and make a huge difference in your community. One of the biggest personal benefits is self-empowerment and the true belief in your ability to defend yourself, and in turn help others achieve this goal. Many instructors gain confidence in themselves and their skills and report having higher self-esteem. Consistently, new instructors complete the training with a deeper understanding of how privilege and oppression has impacted their lives and their communities. Many are motivated to continue doing social justice work with other organizations.

Each instructor has a unique story and many are inspired by the women and youth that they teach. Instructors often tell us that it is the students’ courage, growth and gratitude for the skills they are teaching that inspires them to continue volunteering. Consistently, instructors tell us that they leave classes feeling more energized and exhilarated than when they arrived.

Benefits also include marketable skills such as the ability to lead colleagues and students, collaborate and work effectively in team settings, co-teach, as well as public speaking, role play and facilitation skills; all of which can be included on a resume.  Many instructors have said that the assertiveness training and boundary setting skills that they share with students have helped them to develop healthier relationships with family members, friends and coworkers.

Lastly, your knowledge and awareness about sexual violence and child abuse will impact your world view and understanding of human behavior. You will be part of an active worldwide movement to end sexual violence, which is tremendously rewarding! You will make a difference and do your part to help build a stronger, safer Portland.

What exactly is this “job”?

This is a volunteer position in which your primary responsibility is to team teach introductory violence prevention and personal safety classes throughout the city of Portland. Instructors are responsible for maintaining confidentiality, representing information accurately, and providing students with a supportive and safe learning environment.  Beyond teaching, each instructor influences our curriculum and policies by participating in the collective decision-making that occurs throughout the year.

What qualities do I need to have to become a Strength instructor?

Among the qualities we look for in new instructors are a strong desire to teach and learn, flexibility, effective communication and interpersonal skills, sound judgment, ability to work as part of a team, comfort with and interest in working with diverse communities with a sensitivity to issues related to gendered violence and oppression. Although prior team-teaching experience is not required, the aptitude to teach effectively with co-instructors is necessary. 

How do I become an instructor?

Its simple! Complete the following:

  • An online application and emails it to the program  of their choice.
  • A panel interview with Strength Directors and volunteer instructors ( bring ID to notarize documents) 

Once you are approved

  • Staff from the Strength programs  will conduct  reference checks and submit your application for a Portland Police Bureau background check.
  • A Police Bureau Background Investigator will contact you to be  fingerprinted for your card and possibly conduct a brief interview for further questioning.  
  • Once you pass, you will be contacted by a Strength Director and invited to commence training!

Why the background check?

As volunteers,  you will be working in the community representing the Strength Programs and  the Portland Police Bureau. You will also be role models for youth and adults. All instructors must pass a Police background check. All individuals who represent the Portland Police Bureau, whether paid or volunteer must complete this background check process.  As a volunteer staff member, your criminal history check is the briefest of all the types of  background checks.  Please call WomenStrength/GirlStrength if you have any questions about this process.

The only thing stopping me from applying is the training schedule. How could I make it work for me?

The schedule is definitely intense. We recommend that you not begin or take on any additional or new commitments during this time.  Unless you normally keep a schedule like this, your family and friends will not see you as often, you may not get to exercise as regularly or on the same schedule and your time alone might be reduced. We, of course, implore you to continue taking good care of yourself throughout the training.

Do I need to attend every session during training? What if I get sick or have a family emergency?

This training is preparation for the important responsibility you agree to take on.  Each session of training covers an essential piece of knowledge necessary to being an instructor.  We want to make sure all new volunteers commit to the entire training.  We know emergencies sometimes come up and will work with you on options for making-up missed training sessions. Learn more about our immersion training!

What is my commitment once I have completed new instructor training?  

Once you complete the training your load lightens!  All instructors are required to commit to the following responsibilities:   

  • Monthly staff meetings/ trainings or other events, usually held on a week night, 6:00—9:00 pm
  • The annual mandatory refresher training  (scheduled in January)

Additionally, each specific program has specific requirements:  

WomenStrength instructors are asked to teach 8, nine-hour classes, in the first twelve months after training, and  at least 4 classes in each subsequent year of volunteering. GirlStrength instructors are asked to teach 4, nine-week programs or 4 week-long summer camps in the first twelve months after training, and in the subsequent year of volunteering teach at least 2 programs.

Who decides where and when I teach? 

Once you complete the training, you decide where and when you teach.  As we are city-wide programs, we try to reach all geographical quadrants and as many different  locations as we can during the year.  Therefore, instructors frequently teach in a variety of locations.

WomenStrength offers classes at two or three different locations per month. The classes are a total of nine hours long, split-up into three 3-hour sessions.  When an instructor signs up to teach a class, this person  teaches all three sessions.  Most WomenStrength classes occur from 6pm – 9pm on weeknights and during the day on weekends.

GirlStrength offers programs and workshops for schools, community centers and through organizations that serve youth throughout the school year, September-June. Programs are nine weeks in length and are usually taught in 45-90 minute sessions. During the summer GirlStrength offers week long camps that are three hours each day. Typically, programs and camps are taught during the day but occasionally we offer evening classes. One time safety workshops may be taught on weekends or evenings as well as during the day.


WomenStrength: Telephone: 503-823-0262  Email: 

GirlStrength: Telephone: 503-823-0239         Email: