For learning the tricks of the trade and actually being able to save yourself, self-defense classes are the best bet. While there might be umpteen advertisements on TV as well as in the newspapers about these classes, it's not the best thing to join the first class that you come across. There needs to be some information that has to be gained before you join a class. The factors to consider have been given below.
The class duration has to be extensive enough. Unless the class is spread over a few weeks, maximum muscle memory and retention will not happen. Make sure that this factor has been taken care of.
Any good self-defense class will advise about options, self-defense techniques, and the different ways of analyzing situations, instead of 'telling' the person what he should and should not do. Such a class will always advice the students about what will normally work best in maximum situations, as well as let them know that every situation is unique and that the basics need to be strong enough to tackle anything.
The class should not claim what seems to be an unrealistic or a mean feat. If it appears that the classes are beating their own trumpet, they should be avoided. Beware of words like 'guaranteed success' and the like.
Self-defense programs for any age group should include a good amount of time devoted to practice. Otherwise, there is no use of learning these strategies and moves. But the practice should be varied, something that includes practicing of correct techniques, and its usage in simulated real life scenarios.
Classes for Women
Women's self-defense classes have to be chosen very carefully. There is no point in learning self-defense if you are going to freeze when faced with an attacker. At the onset, mind setting needs to be learned, then the techniques, and finally, the actual exposure to role-playing, and varied scenarios should happen. After the role play and realistic scenario training, visualizing these actions is seen to work. In the classes meant for girls or even adult women, it is better if there is a female trainer. But then, in realistic scenario training, the women should be pitted against men. The reason being that 9 out of 10 times, a woman is going to encounter a man or men. So it would not help if women train with other women. The fear of responding when faced with a potentially dangerous situation has to be defeated first by training and inculcating self-defense techniques.
Self-defense classes can guide you about what to do when faced with a potentially harmful encounter. What you do and think at the moment is what finally counts. In such a scenario, what matters is what 'you are going to do', rather than what the attacker is going to do.