‘Defense Ninjas’ instructor Fauzia Lala demonstrates self-defense techniques to the women in her class. Photo via Instagram

‘Defense Ninjas’ instructor Fauzia Lala demonstrates self-defense techniques to the women in her class. Photo via Instagram

Women become ninjas in local self defense classes

Instructor Fauzia Lala aims to empower, educate women to protect themselves.

Ten women gathered in Redmond on a wintery Tuesday evening, stretching and chatting after an hour-long class focused on how to break a wrist grab, escape from a group of attackers and improve their self-awareness and reflexes.

One had left an abusive relationship. Another is a single mom. One had wanted to learn more about self defense before heading off to college. All wanted to feel more confident and self-reliant, so they enrolled in instructor Fauzia Lala’s “Defense Ninja” classes for women’s self-defense.

Lala has black belts in taekwondo and Arnis, and currently trains in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Krav Maga and Wing Chun. Through 12 years of training and research, Lala came to believe that the biological and psychological differences between men and women warrant different techniques for self-defense.

“The reason I started this program is that martial arts out there don’t fulfill a very specific need which is, a) self-defense and b) for women, for women’s bodies and women’s emotional needs,” she said.

Fauzia Lala works with some of her Level Four students at a class in Redmond on Jan. 15. Katie Metzger/staff photo

Fauzia Lala works with some of her Level Four students at a class in Redmond on Jan. 15. Katie Metzger/staff photo

Her classes incorporate elements of martial arts, but with real-world scenarios. They focus on women’s strengths and use a holistic approach that also teaches breathing, awareness, nutrition and confidence.

“Martial arts are all very stylistic, and self-defense isn’t,” she said. “Even if you look at a self-defense style of martial arts like Krav Maga, it’s very male-oriented.”

Men have more upper body strength, whereas a woman’s strength comes from her legs and core, Lala said. Women tend to have more fat, while men have more muscle. Women are more flexible, but men have denser bones, which Lala said she learned the hard way. Once when she was sparring with a man, she shattered her shin.

“I was out of commission for six months…and he had no bruise, no pain, nothing,” she said.

Lala, a Muslim woman who grew up in Dubai, also said she recognized political realities for people of color and women. Shortly before she started her classes in September 2017, a mosque in Bellevue was burned down and a sign at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) facility in Redmond was vandalized. That summer, two people had been killed on a train in Portland, Oregon after trying to intervene as a man yelled at two women, one of which was wearing a hijab.

‘Defense Ninjas’ instructor Fauzia Lala demonstrates self-defense techniques to the women in her class. Photo via Instagram

‘Defense Ninjas’ instructor Fauzia Lala demonstrates self-defense techniques to the women in her class. Photo via Instagram

Lala wanted to be able to protect herself and help other women do the same. Her class started with a focus on Muslim women, because it was a way for them to learn self-defense and get fit, while keeping with cultural values of modesty.

Lala is aware of the statistics for the number of women who experience assault, domestic violence and sexual harassment — the latter of which she endured throughout her childhood. She knows many of her students have had traumatic and triggering experiences and wants her classes to be a safe space.

In 2017, Lala decided to write a 10-step curriculum and started teaching classes at MAPS and at a studio in Seattle’s University District. Learning how to escape effectively is the first level of her program.

“Out of all of the women who are attacked, 70 percent don’t kick or punch fight back; they don’t really fight back in a physical sense,” she said. “It’s not natural for us in general to engage physically and on top of that, it’s very weird for us to touch people who are being aggressive to us. We just want to get away.”

Lala said her goal is to help women become empowered and “strengthen their strengths.” Her goal is “to have defense ninjas everywhere;” to give every woman a set of self-defense tools in her arsenal to use if necessary. She also wants her students to be able to play games, get a workout, build a community of powerful women and have fun.

She recently decided to expand her program to North Bend, Shoreline and possibly Mercer Island, where she lives. The cost is $150 monthly, but partial scholarships are available. Classes usually run for two hours every week, and can be on separate days or back to back.

See www.defenseninjas.com for more.

Fauzia Lala watches as one of her students practices self-defense with Bellevue police officer Craig Hanaumi. Photo via Instagram

Fauzia Lala watches as one of her students practices self-defense with Bellevue police officer Craig Hanaumi. Photo via Instagram

‘Defense Ninjas’ instructor Fauzia Lala and COO Kate Warady demonstrate how to break a wrist grab in a workout room at Redmond’s DaVinci Academy on Jan. 15. Katie Metzger/staff photo

‘Defense Ninjas’ instructor Fauzia Lala and COO Kate Warady demonstrate how to break a wrist grab in a workout room at Redmond’s DaVinci Academy on Jan. 15. Katie Metzger/staff photo

More in Life

Photo by Nityia Photography
Three simple rules for the holiday

A monthly column about mindfulness.

Santa waves to the crowd as Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson leads the crowd in an acapella version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” during the annual Winter Lights on Dec. 7. Corey Morris/staff photo
Santa Claus came to town

Photos from the 2019 Winter Lights celebration in Snoqualmie.

Erin Wakefield
Recognizing the value of veterans

A monthly column from Waste Management.

The Island’s third Pumpkin Walk is set for Oct. 27 at Luther Burbank Park. Photo courtesy of Amanda Colburn
Eastside Halloween roundup

Family-friendly seasonal events throughout the Eastside.

Raffle proceeds to benefit family of veteran who died in crane collapse

This year’s Mother Brundage raffle will benefit Andrew Yoder’s family.

Chamber proposes website to boost tourism in Valley

Three-phase project is called Gateway to the Cascades.

The Nightmare at Beaver Lake runs through Oct. 31. Take a scary stroll through Beaver Lake Park, 2600 244th Ave. SE, Sammamish. Courtesy image
Nightmare at Beaver Lake continues through Oct. 31

The Nightmare at Beaver Lake is back. Experience one of the Northwest’s… Continue reading

What happiness, etiquette, mindfulness have in common

A monthly column about mindfulness and mental wellbeing.

Photos by Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo
                                Greg Giuliani outside of his home, ready to press apples for the season.
Cider making is in season

Fall City native discusses his passion for apples.

The Refuge Outdoor Festival returns for a second year to Tolt-MacDonald Park, Sept. 27-29. Photo courtesy of Sally Phnouk
Refuge Outdoor Festival returns for a second year

The festival will take place at Tolt-MacDonald Park in Carnation, Sept. 27-29.

Libraries are welcoming spaces for everyone | Book Nook

A monthly column from the King County Library System.