How Empowerment Self-Defense Can Improve Your Relationships

Understanding the traffic light approach to evaluating risk — & safety.

Toby Israel
Hello, Love
Published in
5 min readOct 29, 2022


Photo Credit: Unsplash

What does self-defense mean to you? Is it just about martial arts strikes and yelling at an attacker? Or is it also about expressing firm boundaries, communicating a “No” without excuses or apologies, and interrupting uncomfortable situations before they become dangerous.

Or, is it about improving our relationships, relaxing into deeper connection and pleasure, knowing that the tools for self-defense are within reach, just in case.

For me, the answer is D, all of the above.

As an empowerment self-defense instructor, I define both violence and self-defense along a broad spectrum. An attack by a stranger in the street or on the beach is violence. Emotional abuse is violence. Street harrassment is violence.

As a general rule, we humans don’t learn basic skills for defending ourselves anywhere along this spectrum. Empowerment self-defense provides choices and practical strategies — both verbal and physical — for dealing with risk, danger, or simple discomfort in ways that support safety and agency.

At it’s best, I think it can also improve our day-to-day interactions with family, friends, and partners by helping us dial into our needs, desires and boundaries, hone our intuition, and speak from it with confidence and power.

The Interview: Leaning Back from Danger (Red)

Perhaps the first step to building healthy relationships is learning to listen to the voice of intuition and hit the brakes at the red flags.

News stories and popular culture give the impression that gender-based violence always appears out of nowhere. You’re walking down the street and someone attacks you. You’re alone at the beach and someone attacks you. You’re in your house and someone attacks you…

While these situations are real, they don’t represent the majority of cases of violence.

It is a well-documented fact that gender-based violence (whether initiated by someone known or unknown) normally begins with an “interview.” In an interview, the potential…