The benefits of self-defence training for employees and why you should add it to your well-being programme

With the development of wellness programmes and an increased awareness of larger societal issues, staff's personal safety and well-being have become a priority for many organisations.

In this article, we will explore the numerous benefits that self-defence training can bring to both employees and employers and why it's a must-have addition to any workplace well-being initiative.

The hierarchy of human needs

As human beings, our needs and desires drive us to take certain actions and make certain choices. But have you ever wondered why we feel motivated to do certain things? And why our priorities change over time?

Enter Abraham Maslow and his theory of the hierarchy of needs. 

The idea was first proposed by Maslow in 1943. It is used as a framework for understanding human motivation and provides insight into why people behave the way they do.

The model suggests that our needs are arranged in a hierarchical order and must be met in a particular sequence. 

According to Maslow, there are five levels of needs:

  1. Physiological Needs: These are the most fundamental needs such as food, water, shelter, and sleep. They must be met before an individual can move on to higher levels of needs. 
  2. Safety Needs: This level includes security, stability, and protection from physical and emotional harm. This level is critical for survival and well-being. 
  3. Love and Belonging Needs: This level encompasses the need for social connections, relationships, and a sense of belonging. Humans have a natural inclination to form relationships with others. 
  4. Esteem Needs: This level of needs includes the need for self-esteem, confidence, respect, and recognition. This is key to developing a positive self-image and feeling good about oneself. 
  5. Self-actualization Needs: This level of needs includes the pursuit of personal growth, creativity, and the realization of one's full potential. This represents the highest level of needs.

Each level builds upon the previous one, creating a pyramid of human motivation:


Maslow's hierarchy of needs


Maslow hypothesized that an individual moves through these levels of needs in a sequential manner, but can reassess lower levels if needs at that level are not met.

His work has been revisited and further expanded by various academics, drawn from different fields such as psychology, economics and cybernetics:

  • David McClelland (Need theory, 1967) 
  • Clayton Alderfer (ERG theory, 1969)
  • Michael Marmot (Whitehall Study, 1967-1977)
  • Manfred Max-Nef (Taxonomy of the fundamental human needs, 1986)
  • Thomas Tang and Beryl West (exploratory factor analysis of human needs, 1997)
  • Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrell (Human Givens theory, 1998)
  • Edward Deci and Richard Ryan (self-determination theory, 2000)
  • Martin Seligman (happiness, 2002)
  • Douglas T. Kenrick (Maslow's work with an evolutionary perspective, 2010)

What all these studies show is that safety/security is one of the most fundamental human needs. 

In fact, security is the first of 9 essential needs outlined in the Human Givens approach (Griffin & Tyrrell 2013):

  1. Security: people need to have a sense of safety and security so that they can develop healthily and perform properly.
  2. Autonomy and control: people need to have a sense of autonomy and control over what happens around them.
  3. Attention: receiving and giving
  4. Feeling part of a wider community
  5. Intimacy: emotional connection to other people
  6. Privacy: enough time and space to reflect and consolidate experience
  7. Status: sense of status within social groupings
  8. Competence and achievement: a sense of our own competence and achievements
  9. Meaning and purpose

To put it simply, in the grand scheme of things, people require a sense of safety and stability so they can thrive and perform at their best. 

This sense of security is necessary for our health and well-being, and it's why companies should take note.


Insecurity & stress

Contrary to what Maslow originally theorized, you don't need to fulfill each level in order to get benefits from the others (Tay and Diener 2011). 

However, fulfilling a lower level supports the following. In other words, the most basic needs are the first things that motivate our behaviour and once a level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us.


"To the extent that the needs are ongoingly satisfied people will develop and function effectively and experience wellness, but to the extent that they are thwarted, people more likely evidence ill-being and non-optimal functioning." (Bartholomew et al. 2011)


These findings are of crucial importance for companies to understand the behaviours and expectations of their workforce. 

Studies have also shown that the lack of security (perceived or real) has an impact on employees' well-being and physical health:


"We found that during the periods of insecurity in the run up to the privatisation, civil servants in PSA suffered more physical ill-health than their unaffected counterparts and they also experienced adverse changes in some of the well-known risk factors for heart disease, such as blood pressure." The Whitehall II Study (Marmot et al.)


In other words, the physiological and psychological effects of stress brought on by insecurity can have serious negative consequences for employees' health and well-being (Ainsworth 1958; Morris & Fulmer 1976; Brenner 1979; Kobasa 1979; De Witte 1999; Gaunt & Benjamin 2007; Whiting & Ward 2010; Gamwell et al. 2015; Becker-Blease & Freyd 2016; Maeng et al. 2017; Salcioglu et al. 2017; Denholm 2019; Fang-Fang et al. 2020). 

Security is such a fundamental human need that anxiety linked to environmental crisis (i.e. insecurity) is becoming a health issue in younger generations (Zurlini & Müller 2008).

By providing their workforce with self-defence training, organizations can play a critical role in ensuring their employees feel secure, both at work and outside of it. This sense of security, in turn, leads to reduced stress levels, increased morale, and improved productivity.  


The benefits of self-defence training for employees

The alarming rise in workplace violence is a growing concern (Mayhew & Chappel 2007; US-OSHA, EU-OSHA, SHRM) and the aftermath of a violent incident can be devastating, both financially and emotionally for a company.


"Training sessions designed to prevent and/or mitigate workplace violence incidents, including hands-on practice, are highly recommended for any business."

Christian Waeldner, Crisis management


Proactive measures, such as personal safety and self-defence training for the workplace, can provide a multitude of benefits for employees and companies alike:

  • Physical health and well-being: The physical aspect of self-defense training is a great way to get employees moving and to promote fitness and health.
  • Safety: Self-defense training can equip employees with the skills and knowledge they need to protect themselves in dangerous or threatening situations, improving their overall safety and well-being.
  • Improved confidence and self-esteem: Personal safety training teaches employees how to be aware of their surroundings and to have confidence in their own abilities, leading to increased self-esteem and overall feeling of empowerment.
  • Reduced stress and improved peace of mind: Employees who have taken part in a self-defense course feel safer and have more peace of mind, reducing stress and anxiety in their personal and professional lives.
  • Team building: Self-defense training can provide an opportunity for employees to bond and build relationships, improving overall morale and teamwork. 

Investing in personal safety training is a smart move for companies looking to not only promote safety in the workplace but also reap the numerous benefits it brings to staff's well-being. 

From preventing workplace violence to fostering a sense of empowerment and confidence in employees, the value of such programs cannot be overstated.

Want to Learn more about Workplace Violence & Safety

Read some of our articles


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