Press "Enter" to skip to content

Get Certified!

Overview of NWMAF Empowerment Self-Defense Instructor Certification Application (revised May 2024)

Since the early 1970s, the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation has pioneered the development of self-defense instruction, bringing together highly-trained martial artists and people knowledgeable about issues of violence – enabling them to gain support, share ideas, and promote quality programs. Since the 1990s, the NWMAF has been at the forefront of certifying and supporting empowerment self-defense (ESD) Instructors. By undertaking the journey to NWMAF certification, you will be working towards recognition as an experienced practitioner exemplifying the highest standards of quality and professionalism in the field. In addition, you will become part of our network of certified instructors, an engaged, collaborative, and supportive community of ESD practitioners.  We believe that people deserve empowerment self-defense instructors with the highest standards. We hope you will find the process of certification itself to be educational.

This is a comprehensive application, meant to cover the full range of concepts and skills involved in teaching empowerment self-defense at a high level. Physical skills, verbal skills, anti-violence education, the works.

NWMAF Certification remains valid for five years from your certification date as long as your yearly NWMAF membership is up-to-date. To be eligible to be recertified, you must meet the requirements of membership, participation, and service (see Requirements for Recertification below).

We look forward to accompanying you on your certification journey and welcoming you into our international network of affiliated instructors. For background, read about information on Empowerment Self Defense on the NWMAF website and see below for the application process.

This page contains: 

  • The eligibility requirements for NWMAF ESD  Instructor Certification and requirements for recertification
  • Benefits of NWMAF Certification
  • Certification application checklist
  • The review process
  • Links to the membership page, the ESD Certification Application, reference form, ESD Code of Ethics, and how to pay the certification fee.

Eligibility For NWMAF Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) Instructor Certification

NWMAF Empowerment Self-Defense Certification is designed to recognize women, trans, and nonbinary instructors with significant and broad knowledge and teaching experience in Empowerment Self-Defense. Certified instructors demonstrate a breadth and depth of understanding of ESD principles and ethical practices. They are highly skilled in teaching awareness, verbal, and physical self-defense skills and can craft safe and welcoming environments for participants of all identities, abilities, and backgrounds.  

Benefits of Certification

  • Establishing recognized professional credentials to attract students, funding, partnerships, and collaborations
  • Joining a network of knowledgeable and experienced ESD Instructors who are leaders in the field
  • Sharing skills and building relationships with other ESD instructors
  • Accessing documents, curricula, and reflections on teaching philosophy and practice, invaluable aids for program development and instructor training
  • Documenting your curricula, policies, and practices

Certification Application Checklist (links below for membership, reference forms, ESD Code of Ethics, and payment)

  • Current NWMAF membership. You must be a current member of NWMAF for your application to be accepted. Visit the NWMAF membership page for membership information 
  • Attend at least one NWMAF annual, regional, or virtual conference, including completing the ESD Model Course and additional ESD sessions for a total of 12 hours.
  • In-depth training in ESD
  • At least 3 years of consistent ESD teaching 
  • Completed application form 
  • Written curriculum for short workshop (1-3 hours)
  • Written curriculum for multi-session course (8-24 or more hours)
  • Video recording or an NWMAF-approved observer’s report of a short workshop or introductory session of a multi-session course
  • Completed reference form from three individuals with first-hand knowledge of your teaching and/or training
  • Sign the ESD Code of Ethics.
  • Application Fee:  $125.00 (US funds) paid through the NWMAF website. The fee may be negotiable. Contact

The Review Process   

  1. The Certification Coordinator will recruit two certified NWMAF ESD instructors to review the application materials. The reviewers will develop a timeline for the review and will communicate that timeline to the applicant.
  2. Once the initial review is complete, the reviewers may request a follow-up meeting with the applicant to discuss the application.
  3. Reviewers may request additional information and/or suggest additional training or preparation before recommending certification. 
  4. The applicant will receive written feedback from the reviewers.
  5. When the certification decision is made, applicants are notified immediately. Formal awards of certification are made at the next annual conference.

Application for Empowerment Self-Defense Instructor Certification

Have questions? Contact us at for more info about becoming an NWMAF Certified Empowerment Self-Defense Instructor.

To be re-certified, you must be a current member of NWMAF and logged in to fill out the application. The fee for re-certification is $125.00.

Re-Certify Now!

Requirements for Recertification (revised May 2024)

NWMAF Certification remains valid for five years from your certification date as long as your yearly NWMAF membership is up-to-date. To be eligible to be recertified, you must meet the requirements of membership, participation, and service.

Membership: maintain your NWMAF membership

Participation: within the five year certification period, attend at least 6 hours of ESD sessions at an NWMAF annual conference, NWMAF regional training, OR NWMAF-sponsored virtual programs. Examples of NWMAF-sponsored virtual programs include ESD monthly meetings, webinars, or other virtual events. 

Service: engage in at least one, short-, or long-term task for NWMAF during those five years  Examples of service opportunities include but are not limited to reviewing an application for certification, mentoring someone seeking certification, serving on the certification committee, serving on the NWMAF board or another committee, or offering an online or in-person NWMAF program.

To register for membership please visit our membership page.