Why I Decided to Take a Self-Defense Class (and What I Learned)

Why I Decided to Take a Self-Defense Class (and What I Learned)

Author’s note: This article discusses violence and sexual assault.

Flipping through my local library’s summer activities pamphlet, I came across a free self-defense class for teen girls. When the registration date came, I made sure I was one of the first to sign up and secure my spot in the class. I was 14 years old at the time, getting ready to enter the world of high school.

It’s important to know that self-defense is more than just knowing how to scream help. The Los Angeles Commission on Assaults against Women (LACAAW) states that “participation in self-defense classes encourages you to think in terms of options and choices, develops your awareness and assertiveness skills and provides practice for physical self-defense techniques.” The LACAAW also states that a good self-defense class will “expand the way you think about violence prevention, help you deal with your fears and enable you to feel more empowered in your life.”

I had heard the horror stories on the news of teenage girls getting abducted and raped; coming across this self-defense class gave me a sense of safety even before I signed up. I felt that I was taking a part of my life, my safety, into my own hands. It’s important to learn self-defense because statistics aren’t in the favor of safety. Every 24 minutes, a murder occurs. Every five minutes, a rape happens. Every 54 seconds, a robbery happens. However, taking a self-defense class can assist in changing these statistics for the better. A study by the University of Oregon showed that taking a self-defense class does create a difference. Three women reported being raped in the control group (group did not have self-defense training) while no woman with self-defense training reported being raped. About 30% of women in the control group reported some form of sexual intrusion during the follow-up period, while only 12% of the women reported sexual intrusion.

It’s important to remember that every situation you feel unsafe in is different. For me, I felt an overall sense of calm knowing that I had ways to protect myself in almost any situation that arises. While I wish that everywhere I go was safe, the hard reality is that it’s not. Even safe places can have an unsafe event occur there. That is why it is important to be aware of surroundings and protect yourself. I took this self-defense class three years ago, but the lessons I learned then are probably more relevant now.

The class I took was for girls aged 13 to 18. It was a two-hour class for one evening at my local library. We started by sitting in a circle and talking about how safe we felt, what our fears were, and what we hoped to learn from the class. Then, we went through a detailed PowerPoint with videos showing ways of defense. The class concluded by everyone getting active and trying out some of the self-defense methods with an imaginary danger. Throughout the class, it was evident that people were feeling more confident and more secure. By starting with the boundary breaking activity in the beginning, all of the girls in the group became comfortable with one another.

The biggest lesson that struck most with me is safety at night. I have one night class this semester and often close shop at my job once or twice per week. This means me walking to my car late at night with barely anyone around. The instructor suggested that we walk to our cars holding our keys with the pointed edge outward. That way if someone comes up from behind, it is easy to stab and run. While this may sound like something out of a suspense television show, it is important to arm yourself with knowledge.

Another lesson was to use well-lit walkways. While shortcuts are incredible convenient, it is important to save those for daylight. Shortcuts often aren’t typically part of common walkways so these ways may not have lights on at night. It is also important to be even more aware of surroundings at night. Send all text before leaving the building. A phone should only be used as a flashlight not a distraction late at night.

Some may question why I took a self-defense class but I think the question should be, why should I not take a self-defense class? If the opportunity arises again, I would love to take another workshop.

This time, I would try to get all my friends to go, because I do feel it is very valuable, especially as a woman. That’s the biggest takeaway from the self-defense class for me: While I did learn ways to defend myself, I also was able to feel safer in the world, knowing that I was aware of ways to stay safe, creating a more comfortable feeling for me.

Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.