You Should Know: Abrielle Fuerst

Abrielle Fuerst. Courtesy of Abrielle Fuerst

Ellen Braunstein

Abrielle Fuerst, 32, founded Wandering Fighter in 2016 to give children and adults lessons in situational awareness, self-defense and empowerment.

She found her niche in classes for Orthodox Jewish women. Fuerst identifies as Modern Orthodox and incorporates Judaism and spirituality into her trainings at synagogues and day schools.

In the Orthodox Jewish world, women are prohibited from training in the presence of a man. Most martial arts classes are still taught by men, Fuerst said.

Fuerst stresses the importance of fitness and ties her teaching to Torah values, even offering a d’var Torah during her weekday classes.

The practice of self-defense is embedded in Jewish teaching, she said.

“We left Egypt with organized armies and even before we were given the laws, we were taught to defend them,” she said. “This ability to stand up and to fight back has always been a part of who we are as a people.”

Fuerst draws inspiration from “empowering people to find their strength and who they are, but also connect that to who we are as a Jewish people and how we stand in community together.”

Demand for her classes peaked after the horrific Hamas massacre of Israelis on Oct. 7.
“I really wanted to create a space where people could come together and have a constructive outlet for these feelings and leave from a place of strength and empowerment. Not just to come together to hold space for grief, but to stand up and fight back.”

South Philadelphia Shtiebel participants. Courtesy of Abrielle Fuerst

Training since age 14, Fuerst holds a third-degree black belt in Taekwondo with belts in kung fu, Kuk Sool Won and Hapkido. She also has experience in Krav Maga, judo, karate and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Inspired by her teachers and classmates, Fuerst began teaching martial arts at age 15 in Houston. She formed her LLC company two years later. Her earnings as a traveling instructor put her through college at the University of Houston.

“I fell in love with it, the sense of community and sense of accomplishment,” she said.
Fuerst relocated to Philadelphia five years ago. The Jewish community gave her reason to stay. A resident of the Graduate Hospital neighborhood, she participates in synagogue life at multiple congregations including Namash Chabad, Mekor Habracha/Center City Synagogue and South Philadelphia Shtiebel.

Philadelphia gives her the freedom to practice Judaism wherever she is at.

“As a child, I felt that Orthodoxy was an ultimatum in some way or another until I moved to Philadelphia and started discovering Judaism on my own terms and what it means to stand in the Jewish community.”

Abrielle Fuerst (right) teaches self defense. Courtesy of Abrielle Fuerst

She was named a fellow in Tribe 12, a program for entrepreneurial people in their 20s and 30s in the Philadelphia Jewish community.

“I like working with like-minded people who want to build something new and innovative and support each other as we are doing it,” she said.

She maintains ties to Houston where her mother, Orly Fuerst, is in an 18-month-long battle with stage four colon cancer. Her mother is in aggressive chemotherapy yet runs seven miles a day, works full time and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Holocaust studies. Fuerst and her mother compete in half-marathons to raise money for cancer causes.

“She is the fiercest woman I have ever met,” Fuerst said. The teacher at Torah Girls Academy in Houston was given a life expectancy of six to nine months. “She has proven the doctors wrong,” Fuerst said. “The cancer has not deterred her spirit or her strides.

“She’s showing people that you can take something hard or hellish and it doesn’t matter what people say is possible, you can redefine what’s possible.”

Not unlike her mother, Fuerst said, one of her greatest strengths “is being able to take a situation that feels awful and turn it into something meaningful and productive. So, in this line of work, I can meet people wherever they are in their lives and help them realize that they’re able to build from that point.”

She trains boys and men but finds her work with women especially meaningful.

“I really do find power in a woman’s space and building from that space,” Fuerst said. “The connection is different.”

She knows of no one who has had to use their training, but women have told her of certain situations where they would have wanted to fight back. “They say, ‘I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know what to do.’”

Fuerst teaches responses to a chokehold or being grabbed from behind by larger attackers. She teaches three to five variations of a technique.

“They figure out which ones resonate with them the best,” she said. “They should feel comfortable in their own bodies and the technique they’re using.”

Following her training, Fuerst says that women told her they feel more confident and engaged with the world.

“They carry themselves differently knowing they have a skill set and a situational awareness to fall back on,” she said.

To find out more about Fuerst’s self-defense classes, visit

Ellen Braunstein is a freelance writer.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here