Since the question is in two parts, I’ll answer this one in, well two parts. I can do a post talking about how to train someone in basic self-defense. The problem is that the question of “basic self-defense" is actually not clearly defined. There are a vast number of different approaches to training someone in self-defense, so many that it’s actually a lot easier to break them down into separate schools of thought than it is to talk about their step by step training regimen. Every single program is different, most of what the student learns in them depends on their instructor and their instructors approach. But I’ll list most of what the programs should cover in my answer to your second question.
The first thing you should know about most forms of self-defense training is this: self-defense training won’t teach you how to fight, it will teach you how to fight back.
This may not sound like a big distinction, but it’s actually a pretty huge one. The goal of almost every self-defense program is to give the student access to a limited set of basic techniques that can be used and the body can easily remember. The intention is to teach the student just enough so that they can extract themselves from dangerous situations and be aware of their surroundings. The assumption of those programs is that the student will be facing someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing: like the school bully or a street fighter. The vast majority of training isn’t preparing them to take on someone who knows what they are doing like a cop, a martial artist, or a marine.
Most self-defense courses last anywhere between a few hours to six weeks of training before the student is turned loose. The problem for describing self-defense training is that your character could be picking up their training from whoever got called in by the college rec center or they could be getting it at their local precinct, the results for both will be very different.
So let’s go over the three basic schools of self-defense and that ever elusive fourth one, which is probably the one you’re looking for.
1) The Martial Arts School
This one covers a lot of bases and a lot of techniques from a lot of different styles. I’ll also say this isn’t Mister Miyagi teaching Daniel ala The Karate Kid. This is the most common of the self-defense schools, the instructors who teach under it are usually martial artists themselves and their either working with a home-brewed concoction of different techniques or under a single corporate banner and style. That is to say: your character won’t be learning martial arts, they’ll be learning cherry-picked techniques that the instructor has deemed appropriate to be taught in the limited amount time the student has. For the most part, all they’ll be getting is techniques and not much else. What they do learn is certainly useful, but it is hodgepodge. Most of the stuff we usually associate with martial arts training, a student won’t learn here. They just won’t have the time. Like I said, it’s not The Karate Kid.
2) The Police:
The cops (at least in America) have their own brand of self-defense that they’ve designed for civilian use. Every local precinct and Sheriff’s Office should have a listing of seminars that you (or your character) can sign up for if you wanted to get some actual on the ground experience of what it’s like going from zero to sixty. This approach isn’t for everyone, but if you live in America and can stand the idea of being around cops for a few days it might not be a bad one to look into. Since the Police are government subsidized, some of their self-defense programs are free.
If they do cost money, they tend to be cheaper than the Martial Arts and Military ones, because again these programs are usually subsidized. They’re also cheaper in the short run than signing up with a traditional school for some sort of conventional martial arts training.
Police Self-Defense training is not the same thing as Police Hand to Hand training though, this is the style that’s for civilians and is designed to do the least amount of damage to the opponent. Regular Police Hand to Hand is much more lethal and, unless you get “lucky" with your instructor, you won’t find programs teaching that unless your character signs up for the Police Academy.
3) Military Training:
The styles under this header go to the Military taught professionals who leave the Military and then turn around and go into the business of civilian self-defense. The self-defense training under Military professionals is a little more conventional and usually a lot more brutal. These are not self-defense styles that focus on the preservation of the enemy, but on stopping the enemy and eliminating them as a threat. They won’t advocate for lethal force, usually, but everything up to that point is usually fair game.
An example of more military minded self-defense styles are the Michael Janich Martial Blade Concept videos on YouTube, some are posted under the “Michael Janich" tag on this blog. The Michael Janich videos also fall under category 4 of Self-Defense training, for the most part.
4) Training in a Martial Art:
This is when the student says they’re training in self-defense, but are actually training in one of the many Martial Arts styles. This is a student who goes to classes or studies with a single instructor three to four times a week, whether it’s in a traditional school or their own backyard. Their training involves months or years, instead of hours or weeks, and they get all the extra conditioning, balance, and stamina training that the “normal" self-defense courses absolutely 100% lack.
There is a big difference between training in self-defense and training in a style for self-defense. It’s an important distinction, because it keys what gates of information your character will have access to in their training. Self-defense isn’t the quicker version of learning how to fight and someone trained in self-defense while less handicapped than a street fighter can share some similar weaknesses.
Some articles that may be useful to you:
Anything under our self defense tag, the Michael Janich videos in particular.
Our article: How to Choose A Martial Art, which includes a list of martial arts based around “subdual" the main mechanic of self-defense training: http://howtofightwrite.tumblr.com/post/50682766604/fight-write-how-do-you-choose-a-martial-art
And our article: Unusual Martial Art: Street Fighting for some thoughts on what self-defense training is, for the most part, preparing your character for.
In answer to your second question, I will post the basic concepts and techniques that most basic self-defense courses cover.