Re: Bad Advice and Self Defense
Before condemning the instructors too much, mind your source. Your co-worker is relating what she understood or remembers of the course. She was also telling a story, feeling empowered, etc.
She may have missed, or left out, vital information that was included in the instruction. She may have been trying to impress with the most exciting ideas from the seminar.
Overall, though, I agree. Those defense courses can be great for cognitive self-defense skills, but physical self-defense skills are another issue. Seeing what people accomplish, or fail to accomplish, in martial arts classes, I find it hard to believe that a few days' course will transform someone in some lasting manner.
Having said that, having a few, effective, well-drilled techniques can be very useful in a self-defense situation. I think you give too much credit to many would-be attackers. They are often the lowest rung to the criminal world. They are often relying on intimidation and fear to get what they want and do not possess any specific skill or proficiency in fighting. A sudden, directed burst of violence can be enough to get free of a single attacker, assuming they don't have a weapon and the will to use it. With multiple attackers, you might also be lucky enough to win free by the element of surprise.