ZMAINW Self Defense

Basic Self Defense

This outline of basic self-defense is taught throughout the Zen Martial Arts curriculum. By the time a student completes the color belt track, they are expected to be familiar enough with each bullet point in this list to be able to teach it effectively to someone else.

Author’s Note

I am not a trained professional self-defense instructor, but I have been practicing martial arts for many years and have learned a lot in that time about how to protect myself and others. This document is a summary of the basics of self-defense as I interpret them. Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments! - James Swartwood



Contrary to popular belief, self-defense is not just a collection of physical techniques. In fact, the majority of self-defense happens before anything escalates. There are a few key things to cover before diving into the material.

Defining Self-Defense

Community Resources

Situational Awareness

Defense Outfitting and Tools

Physical Methods

Disclaimer: It is easy to misunderstand the written descriptions of physical actions. The following notes are best used to remind people of what they have learned from an in-person self-defense session on this material, where they were able to see an instructor demonstrate the actions and correct mistakes. Despite the shortcomings of written language, there is still much to be learned here for those who have not yet received in-person instruction. As always, you may contact me with any questions.

Intermediate Self Defense

The intermediate self-defense curriculum is more open-ended than the basic self-defense defined above. Learning these topics involves deeper discussions with instructors. These topics are used as a way to spread awareness of violent realities so that each person can better defend themselves and the people around them. These topics are not discussed in much detail with those who are not yet ready and are intended for mature individuals. We require completion of these topics across the first three black belt ranks in the Zen Martial Arts system.

Topics of Discussion

Advanced Self Defense

The advanced self-defense topics are intended to provide instructors with the insights they need to understand the implications of their actions and words as it relates to self-defense, and maybe even the defense of their martial arts school. These topics are required discussions before earning the fourth black belt rank in Zen Martial Arts.

Topics of Discussion