Got Questions??

Impact is a unique style of self-defense, so you may have questions about what we do and why we do it. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions. If you don't find the answer you're looking for here, contact us.

What does Impact Bay Area do?


IMPACT Bay Area is one of the only self-defense organizations in California that uses padded mock assailant instructors. This allows us to teach self-defense to students in an adrenalized state which helps them learn how to fight through the "freeze response" that naturally happens when attacked.

Since 1985, Impact Bay Area has given more than 12,000 people the skills to defend themselves against verbal, physical and sexual assault. We offer mixed-gender, women/girl-only and men's courses.Impact's self-defense training is different from ordinary self-defense training.
  1. We teach full-force self-defense. By training students to fight full-force against padded mock attackers, in an adrenalized state, we engrain our techniques into your 'muscle memory'. This means that your body will remember - and respond appropriately - even when the mind has forgotten or "freezes" during an attack.
  2. We teach using realistic scenarios. Our instructors are trained to use real-life scenarios of violence and potential violence by playing the role of perpetrators so that you are prepared to counter an actual assault.
  3. Training is tailored to each individual. While our techniques utilize the strengths in most student's bodies, they can be learned by virtually anyone regardless of age or physical ability. Class size is limited to provide a maximum level of individual instruction.
  4. We understand the extremely emotional nature inherent in confronting the fear of violence. Our classes are taught in an extremely supportive environment by trauma-informed instructors. We help you develop your inner strength and work through your fears, as well as honing your physical abilities.
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Why is Impact different than other forms of self-defense?


Impact coursework has grown out of three decades of first-hand experience teaching personal safety. Programs are typically taught by specially-trained teams of female and male instructors and can address situations ranging from the day-to-day levels of boundary violation to the worst-case scenario of violent assault. We offer programs to the public and schedule private courses for organizations, schools and corporations.

Impact is the name of a unique style of self-defense, which differs from traditional self-defense programs in several ways:

  • Impact style self-defense was originally designed for women. It was created after lengthy research into how women are actually attacked and how they can use their unique strengths against an assailant's weaknesses. When we expanded our program to teach men, we researched ways that men are commonly attacked and made necessary modifications to our curriculum. Both women and men are taught how to defend themselves quickly and effectively against an attacker who is most likely bigger and stronger than them.
  • Impact is self-defense for the mind, body and voice. Impact strengthens a student's natural abilities by teaching them how to use their intuition, body and voice to defend themselves.
  • Impact addresses the emotions around assault and self-defense. Most people who sign up for our courses are nervous, afraid or both. We recognize that fighting back is an emotional as well as physical process, so our instructors create emotionally supportive environments for healing and learning. Courses include opportunities to explore societal expectations, personal fears and boundary setting through exercises, role plays and discussions. Our focus on the emotional aspects of assault has allowed many rape, assault, child abuse and domestic violence victims to use our courses as a part of their healing process.
  • Through practice, our students become familiar with the adrenaline rush that accompanies being attacked and are able to practice fighting through the "freeze response" that paralyzes many assault victims.
  • Our courses give students the opportunity to practice full-force on a well padded mock assailant instructor who plays the role of potential attacker. By repeatedly practicing techniques full-force our students experience the benefits of "muscle memory" - their bodies will remember the techniques in a crisis situation.
  • Impact creates lasting change. Impact students worldwide have effectively used their skills even years after a course.
  • Impact works. 100% of our students surveyed reported an increased ability to defend themselves against both verbal and physical assault after taking an Impact Bay Area course.

What is the difference between martial arts and self-defense?


"Self-defense and martial arts are not the same thing!

Many people have the idea that to learn to protect themselves against everyday dangers they have to learn a martial art--they have to learn Michelle Yeoh’s or Jackie Chan’s moves. This simply isn’t true.

While many martial arts did evolve as self-defense systems, they suited the needs of a people in a specific time and place (such as sword-fighting on horseback in 17th century Korea). They don’t necessarily translate well to practical, modern-day needs. You’re not, for example, going to do a flying kick to a potential date rapist, workplace harasser, or child abuser.

Instead, you can use self-defense techniques for the real dangers women and girls face in our society today, such as harassment, abuse, and sexual assault. These are best addressed through a quality women’s self-defense class.

Self-defense and martial arts each have strengths--and they do have things in common. Here are a few:

SELF-DEFENSE: Anybody can learn basic self-defense skills, even somebody small, elderly, with physical disabilities, overweight, or out of shape. It is not a form of exercise.

MARTIAL ARTS: Is a good workout. Will get you in shape and bring you the health benefits of fitness. Some schools are geared toward sports and competition and attract younger or more athletic people. Other schools are non-competitive and view martial arts as a practice open to anyone.

BOTH: Get you in touch with your physical power.

SELF-DEFENSE: Teaches skills to use against harassment, abuse, and assault, including everyday situations that don’t involve physical attack.

MARTIAL ARTS: May teach awareness to help with prevention, and may help develop confidence to handle daily situations. The physical fighting techniques of martial arts, though, are not usually practical or realistic for the kind of attacks that happen in today’s world.

BOTH: Increase confidence.

SELF-DEFENSE: Effective skills that can be learned quickly.

MARTIAL ARTS: Must be studied for a long time to attain proficiency; often a life-long pursuit.

BOTH: Create a stronger mind-body connection.

SELF-DEFENSE: Develops self-respect and awareness. Encourages personal insights into experiences with violence.

MARTIAL ARTS: Develops discipline, respect, focus.

BOTH: May spur internal change as well as learning specific skills.

SELF-DEFENSE: Depending on the program, may connect to feminism, anti-racism, and larger sociopolitical issues. Develops a broader awareness of issues related to violence against women and girls.

MARTIAL ARTS: Depending on the focus of each school, may encourage spiritual development and/or martial arts as sport and competition.

BOTH: May make connections beyond the particular focus of the program or school."

--From Defend Yourself, an organization focused on training to prevent harassment, abuse and assault.

I have a disability, injury or other physical challenges. Can I take an Impact class?

Sometimes people wonder if our classes will be physically "too much" because of an injury, disability, being a senior citizen or just not feeling very "athletic."


People with all levels of physical ability can take Impact classes and do benefit from our curriculum. Our classes are small, so instructors tailor the basic physical, emotional and verbal techniques to fit each student.

We teach all ages, from kids through elders - everyone can learn to defend themselves, using the unique tools and techniques that work for your size, physical ability and individual circumstances.

We teach people with all levels of physical ability and disability to defend themselves. People with disabilities have a much higher rate of being physically, sexually, and emotionally abused then the general population - we are actively working to empower people with different physical and cognitive abilities to protect and advocate for themselves. Here's a great video about Impact: ABILITY - a specific Impact self-defense and empowerment program designed for people with physical or intellectual disabilities.

We teach people of all sizes and physical builds. Whether you're a petite or hefty person, we will teach you how to maximize your body's natural strengths to fight off an attacker who is larger (or smaller) than yourself.

We teach people with different levels of regular physical activity - couch potatoes to black-belts will find our training useful and accessible. Most of the people who take our classes don't consider themselves "athletic," but some of our students bring martial arts, sports or other physical experiences to the class. Each student is unique, and our program is tailored for the students in each class.

If you're injured temporarily (such as a broken ankle, knee surgery, etc), it might be a good idea to postpone your class (contact regarding changing your scheduled class due to injury).

If you have a long-standing injury, like a "bad knee" or an old football injury, we can teach you how to fight in ways that protect your existing injury. During the class, we use duct tape to indicate injured area(s), and the instructors review before each practice fight which body parts are injured and whether the student is "using" or "not using" the injured part, so the padded assailant will not grab your injured knee. You will learn strategies to protect yourself despite having a long-term injury.

If you have any questions or specific accommodations you need in order to take an Impact class, please contact Lisa Scheff at or (510) 208-0474. We would be happy to talk with you about your needs and concerns, because we believe everyone who wants to take an Impact class CAN. We'll help you make it happen in a way that works for you.