Press & Testimonials

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The Self-Defence Federation (UK)

Web site:

This is what Dave Turton 8th Dan, Founder and Head of The Self-Defence Federation and highest graded Real Self-Defence Instructor in the UK, has to say about the Founder and Chief Instructor of Premier Self-Defence, Debi Steven:

As head of the Federation, I am delighted to be able to supply this letter in support of Debi Steven, and to acknowledge the following points:

1. Debi Steven is registered and fully recognised by the Federation, as a fully qualified 4th Dan Black Belt in Shotokan Karate
2. She is also recognised and registered by the Federation as an Advanced Level Self-Defence Instructor.
3. In our opinion, she is an excellent Instructor, highly intelligent and dedicated to her teachings, and is well respected throughout the Federation.
4. She is highly knowledgeable on all matters relating to both the traditional teachings of Karate, and the modern requirements of correctly taught self-defence.

Debi has proven to be an excellent member of the S.D.F., and a very valuable representative in the arts of both Karate and Self-Defence. She has attended a great many Workshops, seminars, and training courses organised by the Federation, showing great interest.

I have absolutely no hesitation in fully recommending Debi for any teaching or instructional positions in the Arts of Karate and Self-Defence, and in this she has both my fullest support, and that of the Federation.



Too nice for self defence? No you’re not

Posted on March 9, 2013 by jessmccabe

Have you ever been followed home? Have you ever been shouted at on the street? Attacked? Raped?

I would have to say yes to some of these questions, and so would many women reading this, as the statistics show*. In all these cases, what happens is always the aggressor’s fault. That, I hope, goes without saying. There is no secret key which victims can turn to avoid these things happening.

Today’s session on self defence at the Women of the World festival was, however, a revelation.

It was led by Debi Steven – if you saw her walking down the street, the shortish South African might seem unassuming. You would be wrong – she’s an experienced martial artist, and fluent in what she calls ‘the dance of pain’. She runs an organisation called Premier SelfDefence in London. As it quickly turns out, that’s very apt – many of her techniques are about seeming unthreatening at first, but being able to tap into aggression and violence if necessary.

She asks us near to the start of the session, ‘Could you pick a brick up and smash it into another human’s face?’ Some in the audience are visibly shocked.

Most of the attendees of this session are younger women – that is no surprise. Even though women of all ages are harassed and attacked on the street and in their own home, there is a cluster of awfulness that young women tend to experience more, mostly from men. (Although, Steven says, it’s not impossible that you might be attacked on the streets by a teenage girl or a woman.)

Steven says that her aim is to ‘teach nice people to have no respect and go flat out’ – obviously, only in the worst scenario, if you can’t escape!

She has a number of practical tips: trust your intuition; if a situation feels threatening, it probably is so get away.

In a threatening confrontation on the street, don’t be confrontational back, don’t issue a command like ’go away’ – stroke the ego of the aggressor instead. If someone comes at you saying, ‘you looking at me?’, rather than say no, you might pretend you thought you recognised them from some realistic situation, like, for example, the gym. Say anything to get away and de-escalate the situation.

We ‘get to’ experience the trainers getting in our face, shouting at us, trying to intimidate us – it was actually quite scary, even though we knew it was an act.

Then we move on to a physical demonstration: as in trying out Debi’s defence techniques on four male volunteers. We do not, as a whole, really put much welly into, for example, slapping the volunteers on their carotid artery.

By the time we’ve worked through slapping, kicking, elbowing and screaming, however, it has changed. There’s no ladylike holding back – we are, as a group, unrecognisable. Seeing an elegantly dressed woman enthusiastically kneeing one of the trainers (he was holding a padded block!), I feel a little bit liberated. And that’s only after a taster session – the usual classes are about four hours long.

Feminists, many of us, are pretty pacifist. Women, all of us, are socialised to think of ourselves as weak and men as overwhelmingly strong.

One story that Debbie told stands out for me; she teaches a self defence class in a girls’ school to a group of 13 year olds. Every year, some of her make volunteers come away with broken ribs.

*I’m blogging this live so I trust you’ll Google if you’re not familiar with the dreadful numbers.

Posted in FeaturedWomen of the World Festival | Tagged Domestic AbuseEqualityFeminism,HarassmentRapeSelf DefenceSouth Banksouthbanksouthbank centreViolence Against WomenWomenWomen of the World FestivalWOW 2013


According to Hampton Youth Project Worker Charmaine Farrugia, the teenage girls she has come to know have a genuine fear of being attacked.

She said: “They are at the age when they are starting to go out with friends and they are frightened by stories in the local papers about rapes and assaults.”

Once she realised the extent of the of their fears Miss Farrugia called on Kew based self-defence instructor Debi Steven to take the girls on a workshop. Debi explained: “I think it is wrong for anybody to be physically terrorised. There is no reason why anybody can’t learn to defend themselves. If they know the correct techniques they will at least have a chance of fighting off an attacker.”

Robyn, a pupil at Hampton, said the course has built her confidence adding before the course she did not know what to do if she was attacked. “The course was a wake up call,” she admitted. “Now I know what to do if someone grabs me from behind. Before I would have frozen.”

The course culminated in an attack with the girls practising moves on a man in protective clothing. Ms Steven said: “This builds up into a realistic attack ….It is important they practise the techniques and don’t crumble at the first hurdle”
Ms Farrugia could not believe the effect the course had on the group saying: “It has improved their confidence 100 percent.”


Dear Debi,

I wanted to write to thank you for leading on the Self Defence event as part of WOW at the weekend.  It was such an engaging workshop, and I hope you will be really pleased to hear that we had marvellous feedback from the women at the session.

Once again, I just wanted to tell you how grateful I am to you for agreeing to be part of it. Now that the weekend is over and we’re starting to slowly recover, we are already thinking about planning for WOW 2014.  I hope you’ll put the dates in your diary for next year, it will be 7-9 March 2014.

Warmest regards,

Jude Kelly

Artistic Director

* Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX

Dear Debi

Just a quick note to say a really huge THANK YOU for being part of WOW 2013. I’ve had FANTASTIC anecdotal evidence from some of the women who were in your session and I’m delighted it was part of WOW. Debi of course you know this already but people said how much of an excellent teacher you are.

With all best wishes and congratulations on a fantastic event.


FTI Consulting

Hi Debbie & Co,
I just wanted to let you know how fantastic I thought your Level 1 course was yesterday. Enjoyable as well as empowering, it gave me the confidence to believe that I could now actually stand a fighting chance against a man in a threatening situation. And the fact that there were male instructors that we could practice our techniques on, rather than just learning the theory and the moves, was great. I can’t wait to do the Level 2 course.
Lisa, FTI Consulting


Brilliant instruction, tailored to our requirements, will definitely recommend for another roll out

Ali Mahdi   Centrica


I’m just writing to thank you and your team for a sterling job on Friday.
The course was informative yet fun. The trainers (Mark and Gabriel) level of enthusiasm was outstanding and was maintained thought out  the 4 hour course.
Everyone really benefited from all the information.
Please can you forward me some more specific details for level 2, as we might be able to book this for our 3rd quarter safety initiative
I have passed on your contact details to some of the other administrator in my department and they should be contacting you soon.
Thank you once again.
Lucy Frier
Administration Assistant to
Michael Smith, Project Manager
Gary Robertson, Project Manager
ExxonMobil International Limited

BP International

The course was very useful and the instructors were very competent  Maria

Absolutely Fantastic, will ensure I arrange another for my team  Dawn

Excellent course, gave very useful tips Muhammad

British Airways London Eye 

As part of our duty of care to employees, The London Eye decided to offer
staff the opportunity to participate in Personal Safety training.  Staff at
The Eye can leave work as late as 11.00 p.m. and we felt it was important
that we offered this training.

I found the details of Premier Self-Defence via the internet and I contacted
Debi to discuss the possibility of her company delivering this training for
us.  Debi was exceptionally helpful during this conversation, informing me
of the options and answering any queries I had.  As a result of this
conversation I attended a session that Debi ran for another company to
assess whether it would be suitable for The London Eye.

We have now run 2 sessions of the Level 1 course and I have received
exceptionally positive feedback from the staff who attended.  They loved the
practical element of the course and stated that they felt ’empowered’ and
‘more confident’  The majority of the delegates would like to carry out
Level 2 training!

If you need any more information please do not hesitate to contact me.


Joady Frost
Human Resources & Training Manager

Great instructors – serious subject taught in a fun and accessible way. Feel much more empowered! Participant


The courses are fantastic and between the men and us ladies we have found them to be an invaluable & empowering experience.

EML Ltd (events management company)

Neil Cleaver


I would just like to say a big thank you for your assistance with our conference for ‘Transport for London’.

The participants’ feedback on the event was excellent and Premier Self-Defence were definitely the stars of the show!

Your office support was efficient and friendly and your event team were both professional and a pleasure to work with.

We would have no hesitation in using your services in the future and I look forward to working with you again.’

The Press Association

Realistic advice – a great confidence builder. Engaging & informative.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Vista Editor

I found the course run by Debi was invaluable. She was able to impart many useful self defence tips. The physical nature of the course meant that we were able to practise safely on each other and improve in both our attitude and confidence. This course should be attended by everyone – Debi showed you in a very practical way how to empower yourself so that if, God forbid, you are ever in a vulnerable position there are a multitude of strategies you can call upon. Thanks for a fantastic evening, it was fun!

Bain & Company, Inc
Lynn Woods

Thank you very much again for the self-defence seminar that you  and Dino conducted last week for Bain & Company’s Women Consultant Group.

The discussion portion of the seminar, together with the real-life stories you shared throughout the evening, made all of us think seriously about safety issues and how vulnerable women can be in our everyday lives. With simple, practical techniques you taught us, and the opportunity to use them in a realistic role play situation, we all now have a much better sense of what we would need to do in a real situation to have a “fighting” chance.

In a quick survey that we conducted a few days after the event, the women who participated said that the seminar exceeded their expectations and made them feel safer. They also said that they would recommend it highly to friends and colleagues.

I would like to thank you also for your responsiveness and professionalism at every step of the planning process; it made the event very easy to organise from our side.

Please feel free to share my recommendation of Premier Self-Defence with any other organisation interested in running a similar event, or with anyone considering one of the workshops.


Godolphin and Latymer School

March 2013

Reference for Debi Steven – Premier Self- Defence LTD

My name is Sue Adey, I am the Head of the Lower School (age 11 – 14) at The Godolphin and Latymer School. We are an all girls, private school in West London.

Debi first came to our school about 10 years ago and offered the course to our girls. Many of our girls travel to and from school unaccompanied – some walk but, many travel on the train or bus. We have had situations when girls have been confronted by other school children or total strangers and this course is a fantastic way to assist with such problems.

The Level One workshop starts with Debi talking to the girls about awareness, avoidance, verbal diffusion and the importance of quick decision making.

They then spend 2 hours actually learning and practising the physical skills and learning how/when to defend / respond. The girls particularly enjoy fending off and hitting / kicking the really nice men that work with Debi. At first the girls find this aspect a little daunting but the guys set up a realistic situation and encourage the girls to respond. By the end of the 2 hours, the girls are confident and assertive.

Every year there are about 60 girls that take the level 1 course and they love it. The feedback is always positive and the words “feeling empowered “,” great fun but amazingly useful “always appear.

This year, at Debi’s’ suggestion we offered the course to the mothers as well. She thought that by educating the mother with a modern, realistic approach to their daughters personal safety, it would increase their chances of staying safe.  It was very well received and we had 25 mothers who thought the course was excellent. It was also nice for them to do something like this with their daughters.

We also offer level 2 and everyone that took level 1 signed up for second course. This is run on the same format – some discussion then the practical.

I would highly recommend this course to anyone and Debi and her company are brilliant at delivering the content.

Debi is a very honest and trustworthy person and I have found her reliable and easy to work with. She is good at tailoring the course to your liking and has a great rapport with the girls and adults.

Yours Sincerely,

Sue Adey

Portland Place School

As both the Head of a Sixth Form in Central London and some one who has been the victim of a violent attack in the past (prior to attending the course, that is, I can wholeheartedly recommend Premier Self Defence to schools, colleges, institutions, corporate organisations and members of the general public alike.

Whilst we all need to be acutely aware of our surroundings, it is not necessary to live in a perpetual state of fear of being attacked nor need we become compliant unstable victims.

The instructors on this course teach participants to be realistic; to assess each situation as it arises;to respond intelligently and calmly;to use verbal diffusion insofar as this is possible, and finally, as a last resort, extricate oneself from a potentially brutal attack by fighting back in a measured effective way.

While fitness enables each of us to fight back or flee from a mugging with more ease, one’s innate size is not the issue, one’s modus operandi is what matters. Debi Steven, who is svelte and feminine demonstrated to my unsuspecting students, most of whom were twice her size, that skill plays an instrumental part in one’s safety, size does not. The course was also meted out with humour and passion. My sixth form has benefitted from this enthusiastic instructor and her colleagues with their clear sight into self defence. They have subsequently gained in self awareness and self confidence. The course comprises a perfect balance between practical tips;memorable anecdotes;physical demonstrations and opportunities to practise newly aquired self defence skills.Not only are these courses immensely useful but are also surprisingly enjoyable

Catherine Brahams-Melinek ( and her students) Head of Sixth Portland Place School, London

Sir William Perkins’s School

Dear Debi

I just wanted to drop you a note to say how much my daughter and I enjoyed your course on Sunday.  What had seemed like a good idea months ago when we signed up for it, had turned into a significant chore by Sunday.  We arrived and, within minutes of your fascinating, stimulating and empowering session, I was completely hooked – at times close to tears and at others feeling as if we could make the world a better place.  I couldn’t believe that you spoke for the best part of an hour and three quarters and none of us had so much as thought of looking at our watches!  My cynicism returned when you left and I wasn’t sure how the practical side of the course would be – I certainly had no desire to get stuck in.  However, wrong again!  George and Jonathan were fantastic.  I felt a little sorry for them but they appeared to be programmed not to feel any pain and, again, the time flew.  Being “attacked” at the end was really quite scary but, by then, we had learnt some moves and were feeling much more aggressive towards any would-be attacker.

Both Beth and I came away feeling braver and more capable should the need ever arise.

I do hope you come back to do Part 2 of the course.

Thank you and best wishes,

Nan Lindsay

St George’s College Weybridge

M A Saxon

Deputy Head

In response to requests from some of our parents and girls, I arranged with Debi Steven to run a Level 1 Personal Safety Awareness and Self-Defence class on two consecutive Saturdays for some 45 4th Year (Year 10) girls, and 5th Year (Year 11) girls who had expressed an interest.

The girls arrived a little unsure of what to expect but four hours later emerged exuberant, full of confidence and delighted in what they had been taught and shown in the workshop. They emphasised the realism, the relevance and the thought-provoking ideas as they were advised how to diffuse difficult situations, or failing that, how to defend themselves effectively. Two of our martial-arts girls commented on how valuable it had been for them, others referred to the workshop as a significant “reality check” for them. Parents, too, have responded very positively.

The session proved to be hugely empowering for the girls and their self-confidence. Such has been their enthusiasm for the impact the workshop made that there is now a strong demand for a Level 2 workshop.

I am therefore very happy to recommend Debi and her Self-Defence course to any individual or school wishing to promote the safety and protection of their children.

The Queen’s Church of England Primary School

Mrs Jane E Goodlace


The Queen’s Church of England Primary School, Kew held two very successful one day Personal Safety and Self-Defence Workshops for our year six boys and girls in June as part of their ‘preparation for secondary school’ programme.

We worked closely with Premier Self-Defence to take a 2-pronged approach to reinforcing personal safety education to our pupils:

Firstly, we invited all year six parents to attend a personal safety talk at the school prior to the actual workshops being held. The parents were informed as to what woddl be covered in the course from a personal safety information and physical self-defence training perspective. Each parent was given a copy of the personal safety tips handout that each child would receive at the course. This enabled the parents to reinforce the lessons learnt on the workshop.

Secondly, the pupils (in single sex groups) were encouraged by the instructors to share, with their peers, their experiences and concerns with regards to their personal safety in a fun educational environment. This was followed by the actual physical self-defence training element of the course which also covered information on the multifunctional personal safety aid the Weeble. The pupils’ feedback was extremely positive.

We highly recommend Debi Steven and her team. They interacted well with the children in imparting important life skill lessons.

Hampton Community College

Bev Bell

Vice Principal

I am writing to thank you enormously for the excellent Level 1 self defence course, which you ran recently.

Your professionalism was superb along with excellent organisational skills, timekeeping, enthusiasm and teaching.

We were delighted that you were able to come to the college on four separate occasions to present an assembly for all years as this helped to present this serious issue to all students in our college at a time when both our students and staff have been feeling more vulnerable.

The feedback form all the girls has been overwhelming, and they feel so much more confident to oppose an attacker as I do. They obviously enjoyed the opportunity to carry out their excellent training on an attacker.

The ‘Weebles’ also went down well and many other students have been asking what they are for.

May I take this opportunity of thanking you for this excellent course. We are hoping that it might be possible to run a male group later in the year.

Once again, many thanks.

Caterham School

Mark Bishop
Deputy Headmaster

I am writing on behalf of Caterham School to thank you for the excellent Level 1 self-defence class that you ran. As you know this is the first time that we have ever put on such a course in school and the reaction from the girls could not have been more positive. Their feedback afterwards was full of praise for the course with many of them pointing out that their self-confidence had been enhanced and that they had been given the necessary knowledge and skills to keep themselves more safe.

We will definitely be running the course again for girls, but I would also like to run a parallel course for our boys as well.

Many thanks again for the highly professional delivery of the course.

West Thames College
J G Stocks

Premier Self-Defence has recently completed its third year in teaching students of West Thames College personal safety awareness. Once again, the courses have been professionally run and popular. Feedback has been very positive with the students having gained a tremendous amount out of their personal safety training.

The course content has proved to be practical, realistic and thus useful for attendees. Not only does the course cover physical self-defence techniques but also importantly general personal safety awareness in ones daily life.

The students have thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed teaching style of the instructors and have also found the final application of the skills they have learnt in a staged “attack” situation, in the last lesson of the course, to be very empowering.

Premier Self-Defence is highly recommended!

Sir William Perkins School

Mary Robertson
Head of PE

Debi Steven and her organisation approached our school in October about putting on some Self Defence classes for the girls. This is something that I had wanted to do for some time as we had had requests from girls and parents.

From the beginning I found Debi to be professional, helpful and passionate about her subject. Debi was happy to come in and do the courses when we wanted them to happen and was flexible over dates and times. The interest was overwhelming with over half of the school (300) girls wanting to take part.

Debi and her team have been a highly organised and professional outfit. Their courses have been well planned and informative with all risk assessments and health and safety measures in place.

Following on from these courses we have organised a mid week course for sixth formers who were unable to attend a Saturday session and another session for staff, parents and friends. We will be offering follow-up courses in the future and I would have no hesitation in recommending them to any organisation that may be thinking of arranging Self Defence courses.

Woldingham School
Diana Vernon

Debi Steven conducted Level 1 Self-Defence classes for members of the Lower and Upper Sixth who had expressed an interest.

The girls were keen to attend and found the course stimulating and thought provoking. The course not only taught them how to defend themselves during an attack but also how to avoid an attack and diffuse a potentially dangerous situation.

Many of the girls now want to go on to Level 2 and their enthusiasm has inspired their peers to request that we run Level 1 again.

Richmond upon Thames College
Alice Langrish
Youth Project Worker

I approached Debi Steven to do a Level One course with young women at the college, after attending one of her courses, which was excellent.

I found that she had a relaxed but authoritative manner with the young women and had a very professional approach to her work with her classes being well planned. The students found the instruction very effective and the subject matter was highly relevant and hard-hitting. The course was successful; it has improved the confidence and safety awareness of the students who have now requested Level Two.

I sincerely recommend her as the students were impressed by her teaching abilities and they related very well to her.

Royal College of Music

Dana Parkhill
College Hall Manager

For 11 consecutive years Debi has run a self-defence course for new students at College Hall, the student Hall Residence of the Royal College of Music. Separate sessions are run for men and women as they address the different issues for each sex.

Each session has held around 30 students and are always very well received. Participating students are most enthusiastic about Debi’s style and the feedback after every course has been entirely positive.

Hampton Youth Project
Charmaine Farrugia
Youth Worker

Premier Self-Defence has definitely lived up to their reputation of running an excellent course in Self-Defence.

I would personally recommend this course to anyone who has an interest in protecting their own well-being, or that of their family and friends.

Comments from a person who booked a 2-hour one on one private physical self defence lesson:

“The one on one session was brilliant. I felt Debi was very clear and thorough with her information – and it really helped me to have a one on session as I could ask questions and feel safe at the same time, which was important to me. Debi’s advice about handling situations, as well as the actual physical training tools made for a powerful combination. As a result I have felt 100% more confident walking home in the evenings and less nervous about being approached. I’m very grateful.”

Chris A (attended general public workshop)

I would just like to say that it isn’t often that you meet someone who is advertising realistic self-defence & teaching just that. The content is technically sound and put across in a coherent & easily absorbable manner. I recommend Premier Self-Defence to anyone, men or women, who is interested in learning how to look after themselves.

Thanks again!

Comments from those having been on the course

What people had to say having been on our courses:

Easy to learn techniques & definitely effective! I should have done this years ago – Charlie

Absolutely fantastic! I will definitely come again! – Florence

The instruction was excellent. Very useful and easy techniques – John

Great to think there is something we can do than just be a victim – Jennifer

Very professional. I learnt a lot & it was enjoyable. I’d recommend – Karen

Wow! I feel a lot better having learnt such great self-defence techniques – Paul

Superb! Concise & informative – Anna

Excellent – exactly what I needed. Having a man to practise the moves on was very useful – Sue

Doing the Level Two Workshop has made me more confident and a broader knowledge – Jamila

Really effective – excellent instructors – useful & interesting workshop. Will recommend it to others – Catherine

Amazing! I plan on coming to both workshops on an annual basis – Lana

Excellent for teaching empowerment. Feel now that I have a better chance than before in handling a confrontation – Nina

Increased my awareness for my safety & made me think emotionally & mentally as well as learning physically – Krishna