Free Women’s Self-Defence Class from Wen Do

As a woman, you can never be too prepared to protect yourself. Learning self-defence is a great way to boost our confidence and empowering ourselves in difficult situations.

I took my first Wen Do class during my university years when one of my roommates asked me if I was interested in taking the class with her. Being extremely busy with school, taking time out of my schedule was difficult and I admit was not on my list of priorities. The weekly classes went by really quickly, I recall feeling silly practicing these moves on cushions and rolled up yoga mats pretending them to be our attacker. Being naive and oblivious to the dangers the world can bring, I admit I didn’t take the class seriously enough. In the back of my mind, I just thought, Oh, I’ll never need to use it! 

It’s been many years since I took that class (yes, I’m getting old!). Not surprisingly I don’t remember everything I learned but I recall 2-3 skills should I ever need to use it. So this story doesn’t unfold into a success story of how learning Wen Do got me out of a life-and-death situation. Sorry! (Actually I’m thankful I don’t have one to share!) With plans to travel alone next month, learning self-defence became a necessity. I did a quick Google search on ‘self-defence‘ classes in Toronto and got a few hits for martial arts and MMA type of training — close, but not exactly what I’m looking for. Then I searched ‘women’s self-defence‘ and was among the first few hits. At first, it sounded familiar but I wasn’t sure if this was the same class I took before.
Wen Do classes featured on CBC news! The instructor here demonstrates the choke-hold release.

What is Wen Do?

From their website:


Wen Do is the longest running Women’s Self Defence organization in Canada. It all began in 1964, when Anne and Dr. Ned Paige saw a story in the media that had widespread coverage in Canada and the U.S.A about a woman named Kitty Genovese. She was murdered in New York City by a stranger with a weapon as she walked home from work. Anne and Ned were impacted in particular by the news reports that suggested neighbours heard Kitty screaming for help. Some of those neighbours said they saw through their windows the actual attack and thought that ‘everyone else would be calling the police.’ This lack of support from witnesses was named the ‘bystander effect’ because of this situation. The Paige family decided to take their martial arts expertise to begin developing physical self defence techniques based on the concept of that women never have to use strength against strength to successfully defend themselves.

In summary, Wen Do is a women’s self-defence organization that began in 1964 to empower women mentally and physically to protect themselves. They have taught over 5,000 courses and 100,000 women and girls in the past 40 years!

What do they teach?

Each class is a nice balance of theory and physical skills. We spend about half the class learning and practicing physical techniques, and half the time on discussion. The instructor shares many many success stories about how girls as young as 6 years old, to women as old as 60+ were able to survive harassment and attacks from perpetrators. There are so many more successes shared here, but each of them had a very positive effect on me personally because it shows we don’t need to be physically strong to survive, but techniques really make a difference!

Over the course of 6 weeks, we focused on a new set of physical techniques and discussed different themes. Many girls and women in the course openly shared how they’re skeptical about their own abilities and some even shared their own experiences. Each class empowered me as we focused on positive reinforcement and reminding ourselves we’re worth fighting for.

Where can you take the courses?

I hope by now I’ve convinced you that this is such a great course and you’re maybe intrigued to enroll in a class! The Wen Do courses are offered at many different institutions throughout Ontario, Canada. The first one I took many years ago was at McMaster University, Hamilton and the most recent one was offered by the Women’s College Hospital, Toronto.

The link here shows an updated list of what’s being offered and I think you can also request to get them to teach at a location closer to you if they don’t have that already.

Women’s College Hospital kindly hosts free Wen Do courses for women.

How much does it cost?

The cost for the course varies depending on whether the fees are sponsored/subsidized. Navigating through the current offerings, there are basic 15-hr courses ranging from $0 to $150.

If I recall correctly, the course I took back in McMaster University was around $50 and the rest was subsidized by the University. The recent course I took was completely free and was graciously sponsored by the Women’s College Hospital. The hospital offered a venue for the group, covered the course fees and even reimbursed participants with TTC tokens. WCH also offered sign language interpreters for those who have difficulty hearing and/or speaking. I really can’t thank the hospital enough for such a wonderful gesture to help protect women.

Regardless if the course fees were covered, I think the cost is very reasonable and so worth it. You can feel the instructors’ contagious passion about their work and desire to help empower you.

Key take-away from the course

  • Unlike martial arts, self-defence has no rules. The course instructors remind us everything is situational and there will always be a time certain techniques are favoured over others. She said she won’t tell us ‘never do this, never do that…’
  • Breathe. Breathing prevents us from freezing in stressful situation. On top of that. yelling forces us to breath and empowers us and draws attention to us. If in doubt, yell!
  • Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, trust that instinct and be prepared.
  • Sometimes it’s easier to stand up for someone else, or a loved one than ourselves. But remember you’re also worth fighting for!
In case you’re wondering, yes, I broke the board with my bare hands!!!
Ladies, I highly recommend this course! It was really fun and most importantly educational. Whether you live in the city or plan to travel, I can’t stress how useful it is to learn a potentially life-saving skill. Please share this with your girl friends, sisters, mother, or any ladies in your life! Take the course together or go alone and walk out with new friends 🙂

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