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Self-Defense Training Camp

Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Ubisoft Entertainment
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Health and Exercise/ Fighting/ Edutainment

Graphics & Sound:

Start up Self-Defense Training Camp and you'll find yourself inside of a spacious, modern-looking gym / training facility. You can see other people working out in the various rooms and you can see the beauty of nature outside of the large windows on the back wall. You will choose from a male or female avatar and a male or female trainer, and these will be the characters which you'll see the most. In addition, however, there will be others who assist in certain activities. In the Self Defense Rehearsal, there will be an assistant playing the part of the "attacker," for example. In the Cardio Workout and the Balance Practice, your trainer will have two assistants mimicking her moves.

If you're looking for breathtaking beauty, however, you will enjoy the Balance Practice mode, which takes place in a zen garden which features a Yin & Yang-patterned stone work area, lush vegetation and a waterfall, all in colors that are a bit over-saturated. This mode is very calming, overall, with very relaxing ambient background music with a waterfall and wind chimes.

Elsewhere in Self-Defense Training Camp, the music is faster paced, providing a tempo and helping to keep energy up.

In addition to the different activities in the game, there are some unlockable bonus videos of self defense tips featuring Audrey Ronquillo, a black belt in Karate and instructor in women's self defense. Early on, I must admit that the videos seem a bit strange, however. Self defense is something that both men and women should learn, of course, but some of the content seems to be pointed specifically at women (such as the safest way to carry your purse), while the first few videos seem to be made with a strangely seductive approach. The first one opens with a low angle of Audrey walking in high heels, then slipping them off to step into the practice area, while a later video opens under the premise that we just caught her unaware, as she was wrapping herself in a towel after showering. Nothing is shown, but I don't quite understand the reason for the "tease" approach used here - especially given that her delivery of the script is overly wooden, making it overly obvious that this couldn't possibly be "accidental."


There are multiple activities to experience in Self-Defense Training Camp. The interactive training sessions include Self Defense Training, Reflex Training and even a Cardio Workout.

The Self Defense Training and Reflex Training are just that - training - not necessarily a workout. Each lesson lasts only a few minutes, including the demonstration, the instruction on each step involved and the timed performance of the move. The Reflex Training exercises are even shorter, at just one and a half minutes. If you want to string a series of these lessons and exercises together to act as your workout, that's fine, but be aware that Self-Defense Training Camp doesn't have you perform any warm-up or cool-down, it just jumps straight into the lessons or exercises; if you're going to make a workout of it, you should always warm-up or cool-down before starting your workout session.

The primary mode (and the only one available at the outset of the game) is the Self Defense Rehearsal Mode. This mode teaches you how to handle yourself in a variety of confrontations. Spoiler: it involves a lot of striking the genitals. Successful completion of one move will unlock other moves. In general, progress also advances your rating (on a black-belt scale) and unlocks the locked modes and content. If there's a specific thing you want to unlock, going to it on the Menu will indicate what you need to achieve to unlock it, but I found that things opened at a reasonable clip by simply playing what was available and doing well on the exercises.

The Reflex Training was the second thing to open for me, and this mode has you fitted with boxing gloves with an sparring partner who is attempting to punch you. The twist is, you can't punch back. You are supposed to simply react to the punch by leaning out of the way, all the while keeping your gloves up to defend your face. At the slow speeds, it's a fun little game. At the higher speeds - and when the punches start coming more quickly and in pairs, your instincts take over and it gets a bit more real; at times I found myself amused at the amount of energy I was putting into getting out of the way of virtual punches... lunging my upper body to the right and then exploding back to the left to miss a two-punch combo. By the end of my workout, I felt like I was reinventing Capoeira.

I should also mention that I overdid it a bit and was sore for a couple of days, so when trying out the different exercises and activities, take a break from time to time and try sitting down, bending over, etc. to make sure you're aware of how much you've worked out, so you can avoid a surprise like I got. I didn't realize just how strenuous this exercise was until I sat down on the couch and really felt it in my lower back.

Cardio Workout has you throwing various punches and kicks to get your heart rate up, and features a moving track on the left side of the screen that indicates what move is to be made and what time that move is to be made. This gives it certain aspects of a rhythm game - or even, perhaps, some of the modern dancing games - except that these moves are all action flick and not all romantic comedy. You will, however need to take extra care to ensure that you're not too close to objects or other people... and that includes things above you, such as ceiling fans or light fixtures as well as pets who may not have been around when you started, but who might wander into the play area once you've been playing for a bit. And, no... I didn't have any incidents, but I did have to be quite mindful not to punch my ceiling fan.

The Balance Practice Mode seems like Tai Chi and is all about doing slow, deliberate movements into poses and holding them. Balance Practice Mode also features the strip on the left side of the screen that illustrates what moves to make and when, but you'll want to mirror the trainer and assistants and use this strip more as a guide, since this isn't about making sudden movements, but about reaching a certain pose at the appropriate time.

There is also a Menu option called "Profiles and Extras." This is where you would go to check on your performance and training history and is also where you go to find Audrey Ronquillo's tip videos.


There is some good information to be gained by using Self-Defense Training Camp, and it's surprisingly easy to play. In the Self Defense Rehearsal Mode, the moves are made up of multiple individual actions, but they are taught individually, building one upon the other until you know how to do the whole move and then immediately followed up with a Timed Performance, to make sure you can string the actions together quickly and fluidly, so that they would be effective in an actual confrontation. Mind you, you'll want to play through the different actions until you've got them down perfectly, and revisit them from time to time to make sure you keep your training honed. There is no "failure," really, however; you play through an action and, if your performance wasn't so great, you can play through again.

In addition to the self defense techniques you'll learn, there are training exercises to sharpen your balance, reflexes and to help keep you in shape. These exercises are typically shorter than five minutes, and while they may be in a game aimed at self defense, they definitely can give you a workout; especially if you perform multiple activities in the same play session.

On occasion, I would use a thirty-minute game session in the place of a workout, and I definitely felt the workout, but it's important to note that the only warm-up or cool-down in the game is found in the Cardio Mode, so if you're planning on using your gameplay as a workout, you will want to warm-up before and cool-down afterward to minimize soreness and avoid injuries. I also would jog in place or do jumping jacks during the load screens to keep my heart rate up.

The main thing here is to not overdo it, but to keep coming back and working on different things.

Game Mechanics:

One thing that can be a bit disconcerting at first is that in the Self Defense Rehearsal Mode, when you are performing multiple steps of a move, your avatar won't keep up with you, especially if you're trying to move at a realistic speed. This doesn't seem to affect the game's recognition of your performance, however; you will get graded appropriately and then your on-screen avatar will finish working through the move.

There several good self defense tips to learn from in Self-Defense Training Camp, in the text at the bottom of the loading screens, in the Audrey Ronquillo tips videos and in the Self Defense Rehearsals. I would say that, while this is a good start on learning self defense, you would want to follow it up by taking lessons in person. The game says as much. It also warns not to use these on anyone other than an attacker and to only use these as a way to get away from an attacker; to buy time to make your escape. And that these moves don't have any place in a fight against someone with a gun.

The one thing that was, strangely, off a bit is the right punch used to confirm a selection. Several times that I would attempt to make a selection by punching with my right hand, it wouldn't register. At other times, when I was trying to use my right hand to flip to another menu option by sliding my hand from right to left, it would register as a right punch and select whatever option I was on at the moment. Then, when watching one of Audrey Ronquillo's tip videos (specifically the one about making different types of fists), I would make the slightest motion with my right hand and it would register as a punch, stopping the video. I eventually had to start the video, then sit down on the couch so I didn't inadvertently try out the fist being taught. This isn't a show-stopper, but the punch recognition seems to sometimes be better than others and when it's not working well, it can be a bit frustrating.

All of those things considered, this seems like a nice introduction to self defense and a decent way to get some exercise. If you or someone you know could stand to learn a thing or two about protecting themselves... and they have an Xbox 360 and a Kinect... then Self-Defense Training Camp is a nice way to get started without having to leave home.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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