Rachel Teaches Feminist Self Defense

Warrior Woman

Rachel Piazza

Ten years ago, just after finally ending a 7-year toxic relationship, I started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I had wanted to try it years before, but my boyfriend at the time discouraged me from doing so. While it took a lot of guts to walk into a jiu-jitsu school full of men, it was a liberating feeling. Day by day, I embarked on the long, arduous process of training in a full-contact grappling sport. 

The physical and emotional challenges over the last 10 years have been overwhelming at times. They’ve included surgery, hospitalizations, and confronting my inner strengths and weaknesses in a very visceral way; splayed out on the mat, soaked in sweat, and listless from exhaustion. Yet, from these challenges, a strong sense of power has emerged. Not only learning how to fight, but knowing what I’m capable of inside and out has given me more confidence and a stronger voice.

That’s why I founded Feminist Self-Defense. I wanted to help other women embrace the power inside of them. Women and girls are too often taught that they aren’t powerful. They feel vulnerable in a world where violence against women is rampant. Showing women that they are more than capable of being strong and effective fighters can ignite a transformation inside of them. 

Further, it was important to me to offer “self-defense” training in a way that is sensitive to the reality of women’s lives. I believe women don’t need to be reminded of their vulnerability, so I steer away from the scare tactics that many self-defense programs rely on. I’m also acutely aware that women often know the perpetrators of violence, so teaching them how to defend themselves from random attackers is not realistic. Instead, I incorporate boundary setting skills to help women navigate the more insidious nature of intimate partner and acquaintance violence. 

My goal now is to use Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a way to boost women’s self-confidence and give them tools to stay safe. While I acknowledge that violence is a social problem, and never the fault of the target, women deserve to have the resources to navigate potentially dangerous situations in their own lives. Women can discover an internal power through physical combat training and have fun doing it! 

Overcoming the emotional trauma of my past relationship has been a long process, but I’m proud that through jiu-jitsu and my creation of Feminist Self-Defense, I’ve created a path to healing and joy for myself and others.


Rachel, thank you for sharing and for establishing a program like this. I can't wait to try out your class the next time I'm in NYC! XOXO - Kell

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