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We Tried It: A Self-Defense DVD for Women

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I previously blogged about the importance of self-defense and I still feel very strongly about it being something that every person should know. Because of this, I was very excited that I had the chance to review "Stilettos and Self Defense with Jennifer Cassetta." While this isn't a fitness DVD, which is what we typically review, this DVD does have a lot of valuable information and can help prepare you for possible attacks.
Jennifer Cassetta, a third-degree black belt in HapKiDo and certified personal trainer, is the instructor in this DVD. According to Jennifer's profile information, her HapKiDo experience helped her early on in her training when she was "grabbed on a NYC street, dressed in her highest heels and used her martial arts training to scare off her attacker." So Jennifer has not only been trained in self-defense, but she has also experienced the need for it and is passing along her knowledge to other women on how to defend themselves.
From the DVD cover:
Stilettos and Self Defense is designed for women who enjoy being a woman and have control of their own lives. However, looking confident and being confident are two different matters when personal boundaries are being crossed and when threatened with violence or attacked.
Presented in an easy to follow seminar format, this DVD takes what you learned previously from Defense Tactics, and shows you how to apply those techniques in everyday social situations.
Learn the 4 common attacks every woman is vulnerable to:

  1. An inappropriate grab by a stranger.
  2. Someone you know who suddenly gets violent and throws a punch at you.
  3. The guy you didn't see coming that attacks you from behind.
  4. The attack you see coming at you but you're paralyzed with fear.
(Editor's Note: While the DVD cover mentions that it takes what you learned from another DVD, it is not necessary to view the other DVD first. You can still pick up on the instructions that Jennifer gives, and of course, you always have the option to rewind and watch the instructions again.)

My Take:
Jennifer starts this instructional DVD out by explaining the "ABC's of Prevention." In my opinion, these prevention tips are some of the best pieces of advice that can be given for self-defense. When broken down, the ABC's of Prevention are Awareness, Body Language, and being Centered and Calm. These concepts were highly stressed for me when I started self-defense training and I love that Jennifer does the same! Being aware of your surroundings, not texting or talking on your phone, listening to your headphones, etc. while you are going places and doing things can really make a difference. Someone is less likely to attack you if you are paying attention to your surroundings and walking around with confidence.
Jennifer then discusses and demonstrates the three main targets to be aware of that you can use to strike, how to keep your balance during self-defense, along with a wide variety of self-defense techniques that you can use in various situations. Jennifer and all the women in the DVD wear high heels and clothes that they may typically wear when they go out. It is explained in the DVD that it is great to practice your self-defense techniques like this because you will be better prepared should something happen when you are wearing heels, especially if that is something you typically wear. It is very different to balance and/or move when wearing high heels, plus they can be used as a weapon if necessary. After reviewing this DVD, I can see just how good it really is to do this in all types of shoes and clothing options that you may be most likely to wear just so you can practice and be prepared the best you can.
Overall, even though I believe it is best to learn self-defense in person with an instructor who can work specifically with you and allow you to properly practice and get the techniques down correctly, "Stilettos and Self Defense with Jennifer Cassetta" DVD is a great way to learn self-defense at home, especially to work on your techniques in your various shoes and clothing options.  With some practice of the techniques taught in this DVD, I'm sure many women can gain some confidence and learn a lot of practical ways to defend themselves. This DVD has a lot of great features and Jennifer does a wonderful job in explaining everything. If you have little to no experience in self-defense or don't have access to self-defense  classes, then this DVD is for you!
"Stilettos and Self Defense with Jennifer Cassetta" is available from Jennifer Cassetta's website (currently $22.95) or

Is this a video you would consider trying? Why or why not?

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I think this DVD would be something I'd consider investing in. I actually find myself to be pretty decent in self defense tactics in heels, but I think hearing/seeing a professional's take on it could give more confidence if you were presented with being forced to use it. Which is not without saying that you should take an actual class and be well versed in self defense tactics overall. It does definitely lend the thought though that you're not going to be in your workout or martial arts gear when you're attacked. Report
Thanks for previewing it. It sounds like something I would like to check out as I have never had any self defense training. I don't wear heels like I used to but you never know when you might wind up in a circumstance you need to. I also know some people naturally like to prey on women since they often are defensive less as a general rule in these people's eyes. Report
Hey hello, even i have join the Self Defense Classes For Women and believe me its very important for girls and i got this with my own personal incident which make me realize that learning self defense can save us for dangerous attack. Report
Any self defense training or knowledge is a good thing - in person or from a DVD. Since I haven't worn stilettos in many, many years, this video doesn't really appeal to me personally and I don't have $20+ to spend on a video of any kind. Report
The grammar in the excerpt from the DVD cover is atrocious. I'm not trying to be a snob here ... it just makes me trust it less because it doesn't seem very professional. Report
A few of the commenters here, particularly BEECHNUT13 and JMF5521, said a lot of what I was going to say, and they said it better! While I absolutely believe women & girls need to know what to do to fight back, it takes practice to get those vocal chords working instead of going mute, and to *believe* that what is happening, IS HAPPENING to you!

To me, it's also disturbing that all the responsibility for defense is laid entirely on the woman (or child) while education for males in not using violence is severely lacking, as the other side of the coin here.

My sister took a Model Mugging class with her daughter a few years ago. While I think those classes are a great idea, if a woman is later attacked, and does not manage to fight off her attacker, more often than not she'll be blamed for the attack if not blaming herself for not using those techniques to her advantage, making it *more* her fault. But, better to be taught not to freeze or go mute, and to practice that. And educate your sons. Report
The smart thing is to keep yourself out of places where you could be attacked. My DD who is 22 has been in JUDO classes since she was 10. She can defend herself, but her Sensei always says to use your gut feeling and avoid a bad situation. I don't think a DVD will help much. Report
I studied a variety of martial arts for 25 years and taught Karate and women's self-defense for a while. I have also been in a few altercations. I think videos like these are unfortunate. The avoidance strategies are all that's useful. The rest is counter-productive, because it gives a false sense of security. Wear high heels if you must, but accept that you are self-defense impaired when you do. It would be best to wear ones you can kick off easily.

I would never recommend kicking with high heels, as the video shows. If you are footwear-challenged, you keep your feet on the ground. Also unless you are highly trained (in which case you wouldn’t need this video), I would not recommend boxing a larger, stronger attacker as the video shows. Larger, stronger assailants will always win a boxing match, that's why there are weight classes in boxing.

Better choices are a fast eye gouge, V-strike to the throat, palm heel to the nose, just to stun and then run screaming "fire" to get help. Those strikes are also good to set up a knee to the mid-section, but the heels would still be a problem for stability and traction. There are also some simple ground-fighting techniques you should learn, but they really require actual instruction.

The best and most efficient self-defense training I have ever encountered is not one I taught, but one my wife took. It goes by the names "Model Mugging" or "Impact Self-Defense." There are schools in some major cities. I have also seen spin-offs on some college campuses called "Rape Aggressive Defense." The course is taught by two instructors, one female, one male. The female is the coach, the male is an attacker, in a full protective suit. They actually simulate attacks based on research done about actual rapes, complete with the verbal threats. The participant is taught and coached to deliver a small repertoire of full contact strikes against the guy in the padded suit, in both standing scenarios and on the ground. It is simple and effective, and the realistic full-contact experience gets the techniques into "muscle memory" quickly. It is only about 20 hours of training. They have done research on it. Women have successfully defended themselves with these techniques years after taking the training.
I read the comments below after writing my own comment. Many people are saying to take a class instead of buying this DVD. I just want to add that although taking a class does have it's avantages after the class is over all you have is your memory to rely on, ya know. This DVD is meant to be used with someone else as a partner I bet, just like many classes on self dense most likely tells you to prectice at home while you are taking the class. If you know someone who is willing to "be the attacker". I am gpoing to buy this DVD and tell my husband to not only "attack" me, but after I have the moves down to plan some surprise attacks on me! I will have the best of both worlds as far as being really prepaared to the real thing! (Or at least as close to the real world as you can be without danger really coming into your life.) Report
Sincw I was about 28 years old I have wanted to take a self defense class. In fact last year I was going to take a class at a community college. I forgot to register for it and missed it though. I would encourge anyone to take purchase, even to have your kids do it with you (both girls and boys.) The truth is you never know when lerning self defense might help you. These days are getting more and more violent, no matter where you are you just might be asaulted in one way or another. A common mistake most Americans make is thinking silly thoughts like, bad things don't happen in the day light, or I live in a safe community nothing is ever going to happpen to me. We get a fasle sense of sucrity just through the way our enviroment looks! However, the truthni is more and more crimminals are servining shorter prisons lengths, and with the encononmy more and nore police officers are being laid off or will be laid off. There is not a better time for me to buy this video. Owning a video like this is great becuase I can practice the moves over and over until I get all the self dense moves down perfect. I am grateful that I saw this blog! Thanks! Report
It's a good idea and certainly can't hurt, but to be truly effective you really do need to practice with other people and to the point that the responses become instinctual. There is a world of difference between throwing a punch in the air and actually connecting with a target, not to mention throws. And the bad guy isn't going to stand there waiting for you to remember what the DVD said to do in this particular situation; you have to react instinctively and immediately, which comes from training with other people, who can change up the routines so we can't anticipate exactly what comes next. Report
While I do not think the DVD would be a waste of time, it would seem classes would be more effective with someone showing you firsthand. Report
No I feel a lot of the time these dvds can do more harm than good. I participated in a woman's self defense class along with 2 other black belts about 14 years ago and even that was in a lot of ways NOT realistic as we were not allowed to fight back and I said as much at the end of the class. with over 14 years experience both teaching and as a student, I truly feel that the best way to learn any martial art is in a class. Report
Great Report
Great Report
Many police/sheriff's depts. offer self-defense classes for women of all ages. I would highly recommend such a class. The DVD might be helpful, too, but I think classes are more useful. Report
Thanks for the review! Looking confident and being confident are absolutely two different things! Many people can pull off looking confident without really felling it. I will definitely get it and learn what I can. Like Denise said in the blog, even though a class is best, it can't hurt to learn what you can from a DVD. I rarely ever wear heels but who cares...that's not the point. That's just how they chose to market it :) Report
A DVD is utterly useless. You need sparring partners and an actual instructor. Go to a self defense class or better yet, begin training a martial art. Brazilian jiu jitsu is an excelent one where strength and size advantages are very limited, a good base for women's self defense. Report
I would also recommend reading "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker. This was a pick from Oprah's book club. I found out about the book by reading a column in the Wall Street Journal. Check the local library for a copy. Report
I do not wear high heel, but feel that I am a confident woman and in control of my life. I would love to take a class on self defense. There don't seem to be any in my area that are welcoming to a woman my age (73) that is still very active and in good health. Report
Go to a class! I am almost finished a 5 week self defense class for women at a nearby dojo. Nothing can substitute for practicing the moves on real people, in class. It's a lot of fun, too, as well as informative. I've already signed up for Aikido at the dojo. And shop around until you find a dojo that works for you, other classes I've tried have been way too uncomfortable because of the guys in it. I finally found one where the guys are welcoming to women. Report
I want to try a self-defense DVD or class sooooo bad! As a 120 lb. 5' 6" female, it would go a long way to keep me feeling safe, especially because I have absolutely NO experience in this whatsoever. Report
I think a lot of people wear high heels for work or for their down time. It may not be your thing, but look around is the norm for a lot of people. Every one should have a level of comfort in protecting themselves and a lot of the pointers are good even if you don't wear high heels. it is a good idea to be more aware of your surroundings, so the suggestion that you be aware that you could be in danger because of distractions is valid. if you aren't interested in it, don't watch it. Report
"Stilettos and Self Defense is designed for women who enjoy being a woman and have control of their own lives. However, looking confident and being confident are two different matters..."

This is a contradictory statement that makes it seem like women are only pretending to have control. It also seems to reduce women to targets on little 4-inch sticks.

I'm a fan of self-defense - I trained in Kenpo for 4 years when I started going to college in Detroit. I also taught Kenpo to children and adults for about 1.5-2 years, until I started graduate school. But there's just something with a hint of sexism in this DVD and it's aim at women. It is implicitly saying that "women who like to be a woman" are those who wear stilettos and the like. It also less implicitly says women are at risk by wearing stilettos, and that they need to be trained to fight when wearing them (instead of not wearing them!). It directly says that women are in danger when they listen to music, talk on the phone, etc... but it implicitly says that as long as whatever it is that puts them at risk makes them look sexy, then it's ok.

Which also makes me wonder... does anyone ever write anything negative in their blogs anymore, or is Sparkpeople getting a kickback from this? Kudos to women learning how to defend themselves, but do we really need a self-defense video akin to the Bick For Her pens? Report
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