Come the end of several hours focusing on self defense, people may experience many different emotional states, ranging from exhilaration to exhaustion. Though it may not be evident, be aware that old traumas and fears may have been stirred up during the class. A supportive, positive closing with the whole group is really important to give participants the tools to move out of the class space and back into their daily lives making the most of what they’ve learned.
Shortly before the scheduled ending time, we gather participants into a comfortable circle to share thoughts about self care and practicing.
Self care is an important part of self defense. Remind folks that you’ve just covered some pretty intense topics, and it’s perfectly normal to be reminded of old traumas and fears. Encourage participants to treat themselves especially kindly for a while after this class, and to do something special to take care of themselves. And remind them to appreciate themselves for taking the bold, positive step of attending a self defense class.
It can be helpful to share a tip for dealing with recurring memories or frightening imaginings or nightmares: play it back in your head like a movie, and insert yourself practicing the most powerful, successful self defense imaginable. We have to imagine it in order to be it!
Especially after a one-time class, practice is vital to building strong self defense skills. Luckily, we have many opportunities to practice boundary setting — this is lifelong, ongoing work. Physical skills and loud vocal practice require more intentional, concerted practice time. We recommend practicing physical self defense with someone who’s going to be supportive of your learning. Talk through the exercises and the amount of force that you’re wanting used before you start in on an exercise; also, it’s usually smart to practice gently at first and move into using more strength and force after building some shared familiarity with the exercise. And be intentional, if you practice with a friend or intimate partner, about how it may affect your relationship or your sexuality — for example, some folks may choose to keep self defense practice out of the bedroom, or to clearly acknowledge when practice roles end and normal identities are resumed.
It’s great to be able to offer a handout to participants featuring some of the most useful skills for them to keep around as a refresher.
Sometimes we’ll close with a go-round: everyone gets to share one thing they’ll do for self care today, or one thing that makes them feel powerful, or one thing they’ll take away from the class, or…
One sweet final closing activity is called the Yes! Stomp, and takes about 3 minutes. Gather everyone into a standing circle. Acknowledge how many no’s we’ve said today — a lot! — and remind folks that self defense, self care and creating safe and healthy communities are actually also very much about saying yes. What do we want to invite into our lives, relationships and communities? Ask participants to call out some of the things they want to say yes to. Allow everyone’s verbal contributions to create an amazing heap of good stuff in the center of the circle. Then, have everyone step into confident stance, and on the count of three, land a powerful united stomp accompanied by a loud resounding “YES!”