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Graham Turner Kickboxing at Pure Fitness
Calvin Sit

The best self-defence classes in Hong Kong

The first rule of fight club tell everyone about it

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong

Hong Kong may be one of the safest cities in the world but it never hurts to be prepared. Since self-defence comes in many forms, the Time Out writers tried and tested different classes so you can see which is right for you.

RECOMMENDED: Many Hong Kong gyms offer some form of body combat and martial art classes, but there are tons of fun alternative workouts and quirky indoor sports in Hong Kong if you get bored and want to change things up. 

Hong Kong’s best self-defence classes

  • Sport and fitness
  • Sheung Wan

What it is: It’s a martial art style that incorporates judo and jiu-jitsu and which seems to involve a lot of entwined legs and entanglement on the ground.

The classmates: A welcoming group of young women who want to raise their fitness game rather than crush the patriarchy between their thighs. 
The physicality of the class: It’s quite draining to constantly be locking legs around your sparring partner, trying to apply a joint lock and chokehold and roll around a whole lot. It’s nice to be in an all-women’s class, though.
Practicality in a real-life situation: Since BJJ is more about submission rather than physical strength, with proper training, even the most petite of women can easily defend themselves against a stronger and heavier assailant.
Confidence level after one class: If I find myself in a chokehold, I’m less likely to panic. But my first instinct is still far off going all Black Widow on any knife-wielding assailant. Olivia Lai, Art and Citylife editor

  • Sport and fitness
  • Gyms and fitness centres
  • Soho

What it is: This visceral form of combat is one of the quickest ways to develop fitness, balance and the techniques needed not only to fend off an attacker, but to wreck them.
The instructor: Hong Kong Muay Thai Level B champion Kyle Yeung’s mantra is ‘train insane or stay the same’. Yeung had a great sense of when to push me and when to ease off.
Level of fitness required: A basic level of fitness is ideal.
Practicality in a real-life situation The sessions establish the basics like your stance and punching, elbowing and kicking techniques – all of which are invaluable if someone’s looking to start a brawl. Or two.
Confidence level after one class: By the end of my session, I already felt I had improved on some basic stuff. In reality, though, it takes around three to six months to be fighting fit. Graham Turner, Contributor

  • Sport and fitness
  • Central

What it is: A no-holds-barred martial art focused on, at this level, punches, kicks and simple and effective ways to counter those moves and strike back.
Level of fitness required: Hope you like burpees. The warm-up is a series of high-intensity drills that had us in sweat-drenched T-shirts 15 minutes in. And that’s just the start of the two-hour session.
Writer’s experience: Krav maga isn’t thought of as hardcore without reason. We took punches to the face and one drill involved repeatedly nailing our sparring partner in the groin (thank god for the cups).
Practicality in a real-life situation: A focus on realism was definitely apparent. There was no fluff about what to do if an opponent slaps you in some fancy MMA armbar, rather it was, “If someone’s throwing this sort of punch, here’s what you can do.”
Confidence level after one class: Since I joined the beginner’s course halfway through, there were some basics skills I was lacking compared to other fighters, but what I did learn seemed like it could be put to use immediately. Douglas Parkes, Managing Editor

  • Sport and fitness
  • Sheung Wan

What it is: A Russian form of self-defence, Systema puts an emphasis on breathing techniques, mental preparation and conquering your fears rather than physical skills.
Writer’s experience: A majority of the class was spent sparring with a partner, one grabbing from behind and the other trying to break free. Our class was mostly guys, and it was difficult to avoid getting seriously up close and intimate. Not every girl will be comfortable with that.
Practicality in a real-life situation: There’s no special move here. The focus is on staying calm, relaxing the body and reacting quickly to your enemy’s movements. I believe that with more practice, it could be quite a handy technique in the long run.
Number of bruises by the end: Since it was only the first class, I didn’t get a grasp of the techniques and ended falling on the ground a fair bit. I counted nine bruises on my legs.
Confidence level after one class: If someone were to try and abduct me right now, I doubt I could truly defend myself. It’s probably easier to grab some pepper spray. Cara Hung, Staff writer

Wing Chun – Pure Ving Tsun
  • Sport and fitness
  • Tsim Sha Tsui

What it is: A martial art made famous by Bruce Lee that focuses on close range combat.
The Instructor: Jerry Yeung trained under Master Wong Shun-leung – one of the most notable students of Bruce Lee’s trainer, Ip Man. Yueng teaches a modern form of wing chun that blends traditional moves with techniques more applicable to real-life combat situations.
Level of fitness required: It’s for everyone. There were even two ladies in their 50s in the class who were intent on kicking ass.
Practicality in a real-life situation: I was expecting to learn the showy techniques seen in movies, but the class genuinely teaches you how to protect yourself – from the proper way to position your arm to block and how to punch without hurting your wrist.
Confidence level after one class: While I’m far from ready to engage in real combat, I think I can now easily wing chun stun the next person who tries to steal my wallet. Sarah Moran, Editorial assistant

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