Kicking up confidence

Self-defense, martial arts classes equip students with safety skills


Makenna Kramer, Reporter

Whether it’s to stay active, be social or protect themselves from potential assault, many young women are enrolling in self-defense classes.

Although not specifically self-defense courses, martial arts like taekwondo and jiu-jitsu can also provide practitioners with self-defense skills, according to senior Olivia Meere who has practiced taekwondo for 14 years.

“Self-defense training is really important, especially for girls because you never want to be in a position where you’re in danger and have no idea how to protect yourself or others,” Meere said. “It’s also a great way to stay in shape and is super fun.”

Self-defense training can help make individuals physically stronger and more aware, but can also have real-world applications, according to Meere. Nearly 97% of the graduates from Model Mugging classes who were victims of attempted assault successfully fought off their attacker, according to a study by Model Mugging.

“I’ve used jiu-jitsu in a real setting twice,” Bruno Vetter, who practices the martial art jiu-jitsu, said. “It allowed me to deescalate the situation without endangering anyone that was involved.” 

While self-defense training often teaches participants self-defense techniques, Katie Sasso, the lead instructor for André Salvage & Associates self-defense company, says her classes also train students in situational awareness and assertiveness. 

“We learned how to shield our bodies and punch but also about following our intuitions and learning how to say no,” sophomore Sophie Jones, who attended Sasso’s class, said. “After, I felt more prepared to be safe in my everyday life.” 

Sasso says it’s important to create boundaries and be conscious of one’s surroundings, and she recommends women engage in simple practices like taking note of their nearest exit and making sure they stick with a group of people in large crowds. 

“Another thing that’s helpful for teen girls is having secret code words with your family and friends that you can use if you want to leave a situation,” Sasso said. “I watch women react to learning these things in such a remarkable way because it’s a very empowering feeling learning how to defend yourself.”

Many self-defense companies offer classes specifically for women because of their increased risk of harassment, says Sasso. Females ages 16 to 19-years-old are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault, according to a survey conducted by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. 

“Self-defense is important for girls not just because of the safety skills it teaches,” Athletic Director Elena DeSantis said, “but it also teaches people about themselves and their physical strengths and weaknesses.”

Those who don’t take martial arts or self-defense classes can still benefit from educating themselves on simple self-defense techniques like how to aim for an attacker’s vulnerable areas, according to Sasso. 

“We always line up students and show them how to go for the four vital areas,” Sasso said, “the eyes, the throat, the groin and the knee.” 

Local self-defense training businesses such as André Salvage & Associates, and IMPACT Bay Area are currently offering online classes via Zoom, and many say they plan to begin in-person instruction soon. 

“I recommend that every girl who wants to takes self-defense classes,” Meere said. “The sense of community and safeness it brings is really nice.”