Frequently asked Questions

More Questions? Click on a section and go directly to the most frequently asked questions (and answers):

Classes & Workshops

Do I need martial arts experience?

Nope! While Pretty Deadly Self Defense is based on martial arts movements and techniques, it is designed with the sole purpose of making those techniques accessible, easy to learn, and effective. Anyone can do them!

What martial art is Pretty Deadly based on?

Most of our techniques are adapted from the Japanese martial art of Ninjutsu, with some great contributions from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Ba Gua (a form of Kung Fu).

Do I need to be fit?

No. Pretty Deadly is designed for every body type and every age. If you have any physical limitations, health restrictions or disabilities, just let your Trainer know before your first class so we can adapt the techniques for you.

What do I wear to a class or workshop?

Pretty Deadly Self Defense courses are not fitness courses, so fitness clothes are not required. In fact, we prefer to train in the clothes you actually wear so you can feel confident moving in the clothes you wear every day.

Do I need to bring any special equipment?

Nope! Just you! (We provide all the equipment you may need for each class.)

Is it ok if I miss a class?

Every class begins with a review of the previous class; that way if you have to miss one due to work or holidays, you'll always have a chance to catch up.

What if I can’t do it “right”?

Pretty Deadly techniques are tailored for every body type. That means you can’t actually do anything “wrong”, and you can’t make mistakes. We focus on what feels best for you and the way your body moves.

What if I don’t feel comfortable / am scared?

If any of our techniques or exercises are triggering or simply just uncomfortable for you, it’s totally ok to say no thanks, not going to do that one. Or to sit that exercise out. Or to leave the room. Or to put on your coat and shoes and go home. All of these options are ok--we don’t judge (because we’ve been in these situations too), and you can’t fail. But most of all, your safety and comfort are our priority.

Will I get hurt?

We hope not! We do everything we can to make sure you don’t! We encourage safe training, which includes slow, controlled movements while learning the techniques as well as learning how to be a good training partner: how to hold a kick pad, how to receive/respond in a safe way, how to communicate your own limits to your partner. You only use force and/or speed when you feel comfortable doing so.

I have martial arts training already and am a brown/black belt. Can I skip Levels 1 & 2 and join Level 3?

No. Self defense and martial arts are not the same thing, and while you may be the most badass black belt in your art, you’ll be missing out on all the tools and techniques learned in the classes leading up to and incorporated into Level 3.

I’m not interested in taking all three levels. Will Level 1 be enough?

Yes! Not everyone wants to take 15 weeks of self defense, and not everyone can take 15 weeks consecutively. That's totally ok! Level 1 is designed to give you the strongest foundation and address your most urgent needs. Each class builds on the techniques learned from the class before, so even by the end of Level 1, you’ll have a full set of tools to help keep you feeling safe, confident and aware.

Is there a Level 4?

No. If you’ve enjoyed everything you’ve been learning in Levels 1-3, we strongly encourage you to join a martial arts school. Not all martial arts are for all people, so your trainer will have a list of recommendations for you (and may even teach a martial art themselves)!

Once I’ve completed the course, will I be safe?

Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee anyone’s future, including our own! Self defense is not a cone of safety that ensures nothing bad will ever happen. Learning self defense does give us a set of tools we know we can rely on in case anything ever does.

How old do I have to be to take a course?

The Pretty Deadly Program was designed for adults, and we recommend a minimum enrollment age of 18. There is no maximum age limit. If you are younger than 18, or are a parent looking for self defense for your kids, please visit our Sparks Program page and learn more about our workshops specifically for kids and teens.

Are you feminists?

Are you not?

In all seriousness, while self defense by its very nature is political, we don’t believe in imposing our political views on participants in our programs. We believe everyone has a right to self defense, and honor the belief systems of course participants.

That said, we do not tolerate misogyny, racism, bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, sex worker phobia, rape culture, disability bias, economic bias, ageism or fascist politics. If behavior of this nature is displayed and persists to the obvious discomfort of others, we will shut it down and ask the transgressor to leave, with no possibility for refund.

Remember: we’re all about boundaries, and have no problem defending them!

Livestream Courses

Are the livestream courses the same as the offline courses?

Not quite. The livestream courses were created during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, and have been designed for at-home, solo training (meaning: for people who live alone and do not have a roommate or partner to practice techniques on). Because of this, classes are a bit shorter than our offline courses, and can be completed in one week, rather than five weeks.

Are the courses interactive?

Yes. We use a livestream platform so your trainer can watch your movements and provide adjustments and feedback where needed. We also create community through our livestream courses, so we want you to interact with other students too!

What livestream platform do you use?

We vary the platform according to class size (some platforms can only accommodate four participants). However, we use only secure platforms that protect your data. We no longer use Zoom. You will be sent an invitation and a link to the livestream platform before your first class.

Do I need to bring any special equipment?

Yup! Our Livestream courses utilize household items and features to help train the techniques. You will need: a coffee mug, a door, a pillow, a chair, and a dish towel. See you online!

Mobile App

Where can I download the app?

You can download the app from Google Play or the Apple Store. Link directly from our App Page.

Is it free?

It sure is! Future versions may not be free, but our first version absolutely is. Go!

I don’t have a smartphone, but I want to learn the techniques on the app. What can I do?

No problem! You can access all the app videos on our Youtube channel here.

I’m having technical difficulties with the app. Who do I contact?

Please send your tech issues to

I’m visually impaired/blind. Is there a version for me?

All the videos use a voiceover narration in the audio that was specifically recorded for the blind and visually impaired, so you can learn self defense too!

Is the app in any languages other than English?

We’re working on it! We hope to release a version in German and Spanish in the near future, and are working on additional language versions as well.

Will there be more versions with different techniques?

Indeed there will be! We’ve planned for four versions of the app, to be rolled out over the next couple of years. Of course, plans can change but we’ll always try and keep everyone updated.

Where can I get those rockin’ tracks I hear on the app?

Those rockin’ tracks are by the brilliant Laura Kidd, performing under her stage name She Makes War. You can download all of them from Bandcamp, or from her website directly at Be sure to check out her new project called Penfriend!

Trainers & Coaches

What is the difference between a Trainer and a Community Coach?

A Community Coach is trained for the techniques featured in the mobile app only, and is certified to host, lead and oversee training of small, informal groups of those techniques via App Parties. A Trainer has completed the full Pretty Deadly Trainers’ Certification, and is qualified to teach all three levels of the Pretty Deadly Program, and any additional programs they have been certified for.

What is the process to be certified as a Community Coach?

Community Coach certification requires completing a questionnaire, and a 5-day livestream certification course. Please visit our JOIN US page and follow the steps under BECOME A COMMUNITY COACH. Then check the calendar at the bottom of the page to find the next certification course dates and times.

What is the process to be certified as a Trainer?

Trainer certification requires completing a questionnaire, and a 5-day in person certification course. Please visit our JOIN US page and follow the steps under BECOME A TRAINER. Then check the calendar at the bottom of the page to find the next certification course dates and locations.

If I am a certified Community Coach, can I become a Trainer?

Yes! You can convert your Community Coach certification to a Trainer’s certification any time. You will have to complete additional in person training. For Community Coaches, the fees to “upcycle” to Trainer are reduced based on your coaching experience.

Is becoming a Trainer or coach open to all genders?

Yes. Pretty Deadly Self Defense does not practice discrimination against gender, race, religion, or ethnic background. We support and encourage diversity. We do not tolerate misogyny, racism, bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, sex worker phobia, rape culture, disability bias, economic bias, ageism or fascist politics, and will revoke certification if any behavior of this kind is reported to us by course participants. We strongly urge our Trainers and Community Coaches to discourage any behavior of a similar nature in their courses and workshops.

Do I need to be (or have on site) a certified Trainer or Community Coach to offer Pretty Deadly Self Defense in my school or studio?

Yes. Because of the nature of our program and the potentially triggering issues it addresses, the program can only be led by a Trainer or coach who has successfully completed our certification process, which includes sensitivity and trauma training.

What martial art is Pretty Deadly based on?

It’s important to remember that martial arts and self defense are not the same thing. That said, most of our techniques are adapted from the Japanese martial art of Ninjutsu, with some great contributions from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Ba Gua (a form of Kung Fu).

My martial arts background/training/school is not Ninjutsu. Can I still teach Pretty Deadly Self Defense?

Yes. While the techniques used in the Pretty Deadly program are based on founder Susie Kahlich’s Ninjutsu training, you’ll find that most of the moves are general across all martial arts. Some of Pretty Deadly techniques are also based on BJJ and Ba Gua as well. And we are always open to developing and learning more! If you find a technique from your own art that you believe is applicable, share in our Trainers’ Group, teach us the move, and if it tests out we’ll be happy to add that one, too (and you’ll get to come up with a name for it, too!).

Outreach program & volunteers

Are courses in the outreach program free for participants?

Yes they are. While some NPOs offer us a stipend if it is in their budget, we do not require payment to provide these workshops.

What language are the courses in?

Workshops and courses in the outreach program are in the native language of the country in which they are being held; however, we endeavor to work with interpreters who can translate for the group’s majority language needs (e.g., Farsi, Arabic, Turkish, Cantonese, French, etc).

How can we offer your program at our organization?

Please send an email to and let us know your needs and what you’re looking for. We’ll be happy to work with you!

Do you partner with nonprofits?

Yes, we are always open to partnerships.

How do I become a volunteer?

Please send an email to for more information on our volunteer training program.