Understanding and Applying Self-Defense Strategies

Course No. 7808
Instructor Tammy Yard-McCracken, Psy.D., LPC
Kore Self-Defense & Krav Maga
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Course No. 7808
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers See the world through the eyes of potential threats to gain a stronger sense of yourself and your environment.
  • numbers Get to know the "meat puzzle"-how to weaponize your body and recognize weaknesses in your opponent.
  • numbers Unpack the psychology of violence and what it goes on inside the mind of a predator.

Course Overview

Most of us don’t think about self-defense until it’s too late, perhaps assuming we will be able to muddle through a defense of ourselves if the need ever arose—or perhaps believing self-defense is impossible without years of intricate drills and many hours of physical training. The truth, however, is that anyone, regardless of age, size, or background, can learn to improve their safety, avoid or de-escalate threatening situations, or even escape a conflict altogether.

Understanding and Applying Self-Defense Strategies is a comprehensive introduction to self-defense, and will change the way you look at the world and think about yourself. Taught by acclaimed self-defense instructor, Krav Maga expert, and psychotherapist Dr. Tammy Yard-McCracken, these 24 interactive lessons will give you an arsenal of physical and mental strategies to prepare you to defend yourself and your loved ones.

Traditional martial arts are about mastering techniques and demonstrating specific moves. It can take years of practice to become a master of Kung Fu or Tae Kwon Do, but self-defense is different. In fact, people with years of martial arts training often freeze in a real-world defense situation because they haven’t prepared their mind for conflicts where rules don’t apply and the quickest, most adaptable, and most determined person often has the upper hand.

At its most basic, self-defense is about understanding violence and using skills to stay safe in a variety of situations. Elements of good self-defense include:

  • Getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of the body, or the “meat puzzle”;
  • Putting yourself inside the mind of potential predators—and how to avoid them;
  • Picking up nonverbal cues to what a potential threat may be thinking;
  • Taking note of “natural lines of drift,” exit points, and other environmental opportunities at your disposal;
  • De-escalating situations before they rise to the level of violence; and
  • Using any means necessary to defeat the threat and get away.


Dr. Yard-McCracken uses four fundamentals of learning to change the way you act and think: play (having fun), teaching (conveying information), training (practicing moves), and operant conditioning (getting yourself “tactical ready”). As you will learn in Understanding and Applying Self-Defense Strategies, you don’t need years of practice to solve the “meat puzzle.” Thanks to Dr. Yard-McCracken’s guidance, whether you go through these lessons by yourself or with a partner, you will come away empowered with new skills and self-awareness.

Wake Up the Human Animal Within
As members of civilized society, we live most of our lives in terms of the social contract. We try hard to respect rules of civility, decency, fairness, and politeness. But deep within us as human beings lies another self: an apex predator at the top of the food chain. True, we’re not capable of speeding across a savannah to sink our teeth into a hapless gazelle, but we have cunning and reason and creativity. And it is these skills that will help us defend ourselves in a conflict.

Dr. Yard-McCracken guides you into waking up the animal within us—thinking differently, like a predator, so that you will be able to recognize dangerous situations for what they are and do what is necessary to escape a conflict. This process starts with yourself, by getting to know your body and how it responds to stressful situations. Through an abundance of physical exercises, activities, demonstrations, and more, Dr. Yard-McCracken teaches you about your body and how to engage it in a conflict. Among other things, you will learn about:

  • Tactical breathing
  • Fighting stances
  • Kicks and punches, including using knees and elbows
  • Joint locks
  • On-the-ground grappling
  • Non-traditional fighting maneuvers


Find out how to build a kinetic chain, or use momentum to build power. Explore the relationship between bone structure and impact. Learn about “golden moves,” the ideal actions that worsen your opponent’s position and cause the most damage while improving your own position and minimizing damage to yourself.

Beyond the physical, however, mental preparation is equally important. Our body has a natural Survival Stress Response, or SSR, and when the SSR kicks in, the “you” in the midst of a conflict is not the “you” that is going about your everyday life. A flood of hormones will cloud your thinking. Primal “monkey” and “lizard” brain impulses try to take over. And, worst of all, you may get caught in the freeze phase of your freeze-fight-flight response.

Dr. Yard-McCracken helps you understand the process of violence and your body’s physical and mental response to danger so that if you are ever in a threatening situation, you can remain level-headed, quick, agile, and smart.

Become a Better Observer of People around You
Self-defense is also about understanding the world around you—both the threat you are facing and the environment where the conflict takes place. Much of this course, therefore, teaches you how to widen your “affordances” so that you see beyond the surface and look at the world through a different lens. Learn to observe the people you encounter in new ways. Where is the center of balance for the person in front of you? What are this person’s weak lines and vulnerabilities? How would you defeat them if they attacked you?

Dr. Yard-McCracken takes you inside the mind of the predators out there. Asocial predators may want something from you, such as your money, or they may simply enjoy the process of doing harm. By going inside the mind of such people, you’ll learn to understand their motivations, which will in turn help you spot threats while there is still time to escape. Meanwhile, social predators have their own motivations—including tribal pack behavior, the emotions surrounding betrayal and vengeance, and more.

Once you know how predators think, you can become much better at spotting potential threats in the world: Learn to evaluate locations such as bars, empty corridors, elevators, parking lots. You’ll learn how to spot situations that are escalating—raised voices, threatening language, and a variety of nonverbal communications—and how to stay in control of a situation so that you can escape these threats or be ready for the confrontation to come.

Make the Most of Your Environment
Getting yourself tactical ready and learning to read potential threats are two important pillars for self-defense. The third pillar is the environment. Avoiding a late-night bar full of angry drunks or an unlit parking lot may be common sense, but what about the elevator ride up to your hotel room? Or the short walk from a parking lot to a townhouse?

Sometimes higher-risk locations can’t be avoided, so self-defense is about knowing where you are and what tools you have at your disposal. For example, military professionals talk about “natural lines of drift”—the most likely paths a person might take to get from A to B. What are the natural lines of drift between you and the exit? If someone is after you, which path are they most likely to take?

If a conflict can’t be avoided, waking up the inner animal means the fight doesn’t have to be fair, and it probably shouldn’t be. The social contract may condition you to be polite, but staying alive and safe means doing what you have to. Look around: What objects can you use as weapons? Can anything be used to stab? Anything that can cause blunt-force trauma? What can you use to get away?

When you complete this course, you will not walk through the world the same way. You will notice other people and their behavior, you will be more aware of your environment, and you will recognize your own body’s strengths and limitations. Ultimately, this course is about empowerment. Self-defense training is not simply about seeing a world full of threats, but about becoming self-aware, and becoming a harder target. Understanding and Applying Self-Defense Strategies will prepare you to face whatever is out there—and to live a fuller, more confident life.

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25 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Waking Up Your Natural Human Animal
    At its core, self-defense means learning to understand violence and carry out decisions necessary to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. The great news is that you already have the ability to do this. In this first lesson, tap into your own body's resources and access your inner animal. x
  • 2
    Other Bodies as “Meat Puzzles”
    Self-defense requires an understanding of our physical selves. Our bodies are essentially “meat puzzles”—blood, flesh, and bone assembled for optimal living, but with a variety of weaknesses. Practice drills of timing, balance, and more to learn how your body works, and how to identify weaknesses in others. x
  • 3
    Natural Targets on the Human Body
    Continue your study of the meat puzzle by reflecting on targets. Consider how bones line up to create strength, how to spot weak structures in opponents, and ways to maintain balance in yourself. Develop “targeting” as a skill through shadow boxing, combinations, and blindfold drills. x
  • 4
    Weaponizing Your Body
    Lunges, strikes, punches, kicks: Your body has numerous weapons at its disposal. Here, you will practice a number of drills to build the movements and ingrain patterns—a.k.a., muscle memory. Put it all together with combination patterns and environmental scenarios. Then, find out the best things to do after you disable your opponent in an attack. x
  • 5
    Generating Power by Playing Smart
    One important aspect of self-defense is understanding how your body will behave in an attack. Your “survival stress response,” or SSR, is the body’s natural alarm system—a flood of hormones that will change the way you think and act. Get to know your SSR as you study ways to generate power, from kinetic chains to exploiting gravity. x
  • 6
    Expanding What You Are Willing to See and Do
    In a self-defense encounter, you enter a decision cycle called the “OODA loop”—observe, orient, decide, act. Because every second counts, the quicker you can move from observe and orient to decisions and action, the better off you will be. In this lesson, you will explore ways to expand what you see—because how you see controls what you can do. x
  • 7
    Responding to the Ambush
    Round out your study of the body’s survival stress response and the OODA decision cycle. The term “reactionary gap” refers to the distance between the awareness that something is happening and the moment we take action; training and repetition are ways to close this gap. Learn responses to bear hugs and other ambush techniques, and practice your reps to condition yourself. x
  • 8
    How Violence Occurs
    Here, shift your attention from your own body's physical reaction and reflect on the nature of violence. Although the experience of violence can be chaotic, the process of violence is somewhat logical. Think about the motivations and goals of predators, and unpack the six primary elements common in the process of violent attacks. x
  • 9
    Predator Behavior and Violence
    Continue your examination of predator motivations. Some predators, like muggers or carjackers, want resources, whereas others may simply enjoy violence. Delving into the ways they see the world can help you better understand your surroundings and avoid dangerous situations. Consider habitual areas, natural lines of drift, and the role of chance. x
  • 10
    Social Conflict and Violence
    The “asocial violence” of the previous lesson occurred wherever the predator is hunting. In this lesson, Dr. Yard-McCracken explores violence in social settings, from the primal chest-thumping of drunks in a bar, to the thirst for vengeance after a betrayal, to violence as a means to achieve social status. Learn “tactical breathing” to de-escalate yourself. x
  • 11
    Escape and Evasion
    Because getting home safely is the primary goal of self-defense, escape and evasion are critical tools for personal safety. The four elements of a violent encounter are the target (i.e., you), the threat, the environment, and luck. See how escape and evasion tools apply to each of these elements. x
  • 12
    How and Why Conflict Escalates to Violence
    Why do conflicts escalate to violence? From a psychological standpoint, we all have a hierarchy of needs, with survival and security at the base of the pyramid, and belonging and esteem toward the top. Reflect on the nature of tribal behavior, how humans “other” people outside their group, and the connection between “othering” and violence. x
  • 13
    De-escalating Your Monkey Brain
    One way of thinking about humans is that we have a lizard brain (focused on survival), a monkey brain (focused on emotion and tribal behavior), and a rational brain. The “monkey brain” is an evolutionary survival mechanism that can get us into trouble by escalating conflicts. Learn to control this part of your brain to prevent violence. x
  • 14
    When and How to De-escalate Threats
    In the moments before an attack, you won’t have much time to reflect on the threat. In this lesson, examine ways to read nonverbal communication and practice what law enforcement professionals call “intelligence gathering.” Listen to what someone says, watch how they move, and recognize threats in the making. x
  • 15
    Verbal Boundary Setting and Predator Test
    Physical training is about winning in a conflict, but the real win is to avoid the conflict altogether. “Boundary setting” is a strategy for bridging the gap, helping you ward off threats before they turn into violence. Gain a few insights into how to set boundaries with potential threats—and how to recognize predators. x
  • 16
    Physical Boundary Setting and Defenses
    If verbal boundary setting doesn’t work, physical boundary setting may help you defend yourself without coming to blows. Find out how to get “tactical ready”—a guard-up fighting stance that shows you know what you’re doing, without escalating the conflict. Explore basic parries and positions that will help you play defense. x
  • 17
    Ethical Articulation Skills in Self-Defense
    What are the legal and ethical implications of self-defense? This course is not about the legal term “self-defense,” but rather is about understanding how to make decisions to keep yourself safe. Here, Dr. Yard-McCracken offers a few rules of thumb for understanding the ethical parameters of defending yourself. x
  • 18
    Physical Cheats in Self-Defense
    The rules of fair play are ingrained in all of us from an early age, but self-defense is about getting home safely by any means necessary. You don't have to (and likely shouldn't) fight fair to get away from a violent attack. Examine a variety of creative ways to attack the threat's body, moving from pain to injury to damage. x
  • 19
    Joint Locks in Self-Defense
    Joint locks are an unconventional but potentially effective way to fight. Apply what you know about the body's physical structure to practice locks on hinging joints (elbows and knees), ball and socket joints (shoulders and hips), and gliding joints (wrists and ankles). See full demonstrations of each lock as you learn them. x
  • 20
    Preparing for Defense on the Ground
    The game of defense is different if you are on the ground. You have less time, and will more quickly run out of energy, strength, and opportunity. As you'll see in this lesson, ground work is something of a paradox: It's seriously uncomfortable, but the more comfortable you get with it, you'll find it's also a seriously fun way to play with the meat puzzle. x
  • 21
    The Ground Problem from Start to Finish
    Continue your study of defense from the ground. Success on the ground means surviving to your feet, so follow the process of defense from start to finish. Unpack issues of mobility, flexibility, pass-throughs, controlled falls, and more, and look at techniques from wrestlers and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. x
  • 22
    Weapons in Self-Defense
    Guns and knives are obvious weapons for defense, but they are bound by laws of Every Day Carry (EDC). When it comes to defense, improvised weapons such as pens, keychains, and coin purses can be just as helpful. Survey potential stabbing weapons, blunt-force objects, and other tools at your disposal. x
  • 23
    Protecting Your Very Important People
    Avoiding a conflict can be as simple as running away, but this becomes challenging if you have a partner or children with you. As someone who has studied self-defense, you become the person capable of taking and maintaining control of the situation. Enhance your skills of observation, prevention—and physical defense. x
  • 24
    Adapt Your Self-Defense to the Environment
    Now that you've reached the end of the course, you are your own bodyguard, armed with a toolkit of ways to de-escalate conflicts and defend yourself if a physical threat presents itself. Watch a few final demonstrations to help you put together everything you've learned in different environments, and then consider the arsenal you have developed and what you can continue to learn. x
  • 25
    Bonus: Extended Warm-Up with Adaptations
    Full warm-up session with adaptations and modifications. x

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DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures plus bonus content on 4 DVDs
  • 184-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 184-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos and illustrations
  • Suggested reading
  • Key training exercises and concepts

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Your professor

Tammy Yard-McCracken

About Your Professor

Tammy Yard-McCracken, Psy.D., LPC
Kore Self-Defense & Krav Maga
Dr. Tammy Yard-McCracken is the owner and chief instructor of Kore Self-Defense & Krav Maga, a training center in Northern Virginia. She is a certified expert Krav Maga instructor with Krav Maga Global (KMG), and she holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from Illinois State University, a Master of Science in Professional Counseling (LPC) from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, and a Doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) from...
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Understanding and Applying Self-Defense Strategies is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 72.
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not very happy with this course. I've been involved in self-defense martial arts for over 40 years Shotokan karate, Tai Chi Chuan, Bagua and Xingyi Chuan. I thought that this course would complement my studys. I was not really impressed.
Date published: 2020-09-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from This DVD on self defense is disappointing and not worthwhile
Date published: 2020-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoughtfull and thorough. Discussed more than the physical applications but also the legal/emotional/moral aspects. Covers the threat/prey dynamics, the mindset of the predators, the ways to minimize response times, and so much more. Fits well with my training/experiences in both the military and as a peace officer. I have offered both the content and the course to co-workers and received positive responses.
Date published: 2020-07-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great presentation. I am only part way through this but it is really informative and interesting. I made a very good choice in buying this course.
Date published: 2020-05-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from True to title Great explanations of techniques and she shows techniques with help from her students
Date published: 2020-05-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not great, but ... Only because this can't be taught in a few lessons by video. I am a martial artist and I know that unless a person will learn, practice continually and advance in the art, self-defense techniques are of limited value. They might give you time to strike a lucky blow and get away, and that is something. But you won't win a fight on this.
Date published: 2020-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very practical This course was much better than I thought it would be. Self defense is very hard to teach without the pupil actually being there. The instructor did an outstanding job.
Date published: 2020-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really Informative An excellent course that helps me to be more aware of the predetors that are amongs us.
Date published: 2020-03-10
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