Learning to fight back
Defense essential for all genders
February 19, 2019
Signs of distress
According to Epstein, who participates in taekwondo, violence has increased, so self-defense is not only important for female demographics, but for anyone in the progressive world.
“In today’s society, it’s a lot more dangerous because of rising situations with gun violence, and I think people find it important to take (self-defense classes) so that they know how to defend themselves,” Epstein said.
According to Ben Newman, martial arts center Warrior’s Cove instructor, potential customers say they want to take classes, not to earn a black belt, but to learn how to defend themselves and others.
“The reason they want to train is that they want to assess different skills, and they want to feel they could protect themselves if they need to or protect their family members,” Newman said.
According to teacher Timothy Donahue, self-defense could be helpful in surviving dangerous situations where an attacker poses a serious threat.
“It’s a good thing to be able to try and survive the situation. I think (self-defense) is good for people to know,” Donahue said.
Donahue said he has always wanted to take a self-defense class like science teacher Alan Wachutka. According to Wachutka, he took taekwondo when he was younger and realized it was relaxing.
“I trained in taekwondo, and I will probably go back but I really liked the opportunity to get rid of energy throughout the day. I find that to be a stress reliever,” Wachutka said.
According to American Karate Studio instructor Elena Middlekauss, recent news of school shootings has driven more students to find methods of protecting themselves.
“As sad as it is to say, there has been more rising dangers of school shooters, and kids want to be able to do their part on how to defend themselves, which is really sweet but also sad,” Middlekauss said.
Junior Jaye Townsend said she wanted to join a self-defense class to protect herself in dangerous environments and was entertained while taking the class.
“I always wanted to learn to how to fight, but it’s also good to know how to defend myself if I ever need to,” Townsend said. “It was cool, we had fun while also learning stuff on a serious topic.”
Sophomore Grace Kanyinku said she wants to begin taking self-defense classes before living on her own.
“A little before I start living alone I want to take self-defense classes because the truth of the matter is it is really hard being a woman in America,” Kanyinku said.
Kanyinku said rising instances of bullying contribute to the need for students to take self-defense classes.
“People are bullying now more than ever for many different reasons, whether it’s for your religion, your sexuality (or) your gender,” Kanyinku said.
Safety for all
Epstein said although many associate the need for self-defense classes with women, everyone should consider taking classes.
“I think that it’s really important for people to take self-defense no matter their gender, or sex or age because it’s important for people to know how to defend themselves in case of an attack,” Epstein said.
Power and Finesse Fitness karate instructor Luis Ocampo said he thinks more women should join self-defense classes to learn about how to protect themselves in dangerous situations.
“I think females (are more interested) because it’s a great thing to understand how to be safe and for any events with any bad experience,” Ocampo said.
Epstein said they believe there are more self-defense classes for women because usually females are seen as victims.
“I feel like there are more women self-defense classes because usually if we think (about) the stereotypical attacker, it’s usually men attacking women,” Epstein said.
Ocampo said Power and Finesse Fitness offers free classes for women as a service to the St. Louis Park community.
“We love our community and so sometimes we do some free classes just so they can see what it is about. They can take (more classes) after that if they want to or not,” Ocampo said.
Middlekauss said she has equal numbers of men and women in her classes, although more males attend right now, the younger students tend to be heavily female.
“I think it’s pretty evenly split,” Middlekauss said. “Since newer generations coming in there is now more girls.”
Townsend said she took a free self-defense class at Warrior’s Cove, which taught about mixed martial arts. She said classes are available for families and for young people.
“They had an opening class, which was free, but it was really easy and they have mixed martial arts classes and they have one for family and kids,” Townsend said.
Newman said while Warrior’s Cove has a program for both men and women, they also offer free self-defense seminars exclusively for women once a month.
“Our full program is paid for men and women, but (the seminars for women) are a free way to get a good feel for it, and achieve in something that you enjoy and to get a basic level of what self-defense you should be thinking about,” Newman said.
Kanyinku said she thinks bullying can occur for both males and females and different genders utilize self-defense differently.
“Bullying happens to both men and women so I feel like both girls and guys need to take the self-defense classes for different reasons,” Kanyinku said.
According to Middlekauss, self-defense classes are beneficial for health because they are a form of exercise as well as a way to survive potentially dangerous situations.
“I think it’s important because it’s a sport and it’s a good way to get exercise,” Middlekauss said. “I tell them that it’s important to know how to defend yourself.”
Ocampo said six to 16 girls generally attend his self-defense classes.
“I teach karate classes and self-defense for women and there is a website they can go to, it’s Power and Finesse Fitness,” Ocampo said.
Wachutka said self-defense helps people increase their confidence and helps them to feel good about themselves.
“It benefits many people as part of focusing their energies determining what they are capable of,” Wachutka said.
Newman said involvement in martial arts can be a positive impact on self-image.
“One type seminar definitely won’t have a huge impact as far as changing your life,” Newman said. “(But) it could really help you with your confidence and skills. I just encourage people to step out of your comfort zone and try out a session with us or another school.”