IT had been more than two decades since Betty Kim Ryan, then a high school student, last took a course in self-defense. Ms. Ryan, now 42 and a mother of one son, had been meaning to sign up for a refresher, but there was always something more pressing to do.

Then she heard about Girls' Fight Night Out, a monthly fund-raiser in Seattle that features food, cocktails, shopping, raffles — and an hourlong self-defense class that mixes some martial arts with simple street-fighting techniques. With her 70-year-old mother, Joyce Koeppen, in tow, Ms. Ryan went, joining more than 50 women who paid $30 each to spend an evening buying accessories, chitchatting and learning basic techniques to fend off an attacker. "This was about fun and self-defense, which is why I chose to go," she said.

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