By Riley Dauber
On Thursday, Sept. 22, Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA) hosted a self-defense class in the Benjamin A. Johnson Fitness Center Field House.
The class, which was free of charge and open to all members of the campus community was suggested by many members of the sorority.
“This summer, we put out polls for our sisters to ask them what they want to see from our departments, what events they want to see, what presentations they want to see,” Ritual Chair and Director of Member Enrichment junior Paige Dauplaise said. “A lot of sisters said, ‘We’d like to have a self-defense course.’”
The idea of a self-defense class became much more pressing due to the on-campus incidents involving the crosswalk on Washington Avenue, according to Dauplaise. Some dangerous events during freshmen orientation were specifically addressed in a statement written by the members of Black Student Union, specifically president senior Mariama Keita.
“A group of Black students were harassed on campus grounds by a person in a White truck by the roads near the campus green…a Black student was recorded by a person in a White truck by the Caroline crosswalk who then sped off,” BSU said in the statement.
The statement was a catalyst for the self-defense class, with the focus on preparing students for potentially harmful situations.
“We figured we would open [the class] up to the wider campus community, [so] people will be able to feel safe on campus and [know] how to get out of an uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situation if need be,” Dauplaise said.
Dauplaise worked on the event with the Vice President of Programming senior Lexi Meola, as well as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion chair senior Cia Tiu.
“It’s important to have self-defense training. The world is unpredictable, and it’s always good to be prepared,” Tiu said.
The workshop was run by Meola, a black belt in Taekwondo, and senior Stephen Marvel, a black belt in Tang Soo Do.
Participants were encouraged to attend with someone they trusted, as most of the workshop consisted of partner work.
To start, Meola led participants through a series of stretches and warm-ups. Then Meola and Marvel showed off moves, first demonstrating with each other before encouraging pairs to practice together.
The first move was how to escape an arm grab. The workshop focused on how to escape from an attacker first, instead of fighting back.
“We [didn’t] focus on offense because, in general, it’s better to figure out how to get away before you start worrying about how to fight back or how to get out of the situation before you fight back,” Tiu said. “It’s a step system.”
However, Meola and Marvel demonstrated some offensive moves during the class, preparing attendees for dangerous situations they may face in the future. Pairs practiced defending themselves with elbow jabs and pulling away if an attacker grabbed them by the sleeve or wrist.
The final move was how to react if someone attacked them from behind. One partner attacked from behind, and the other practiced pushing away.
The workshop ended with a quick cool down period with calm stretches and relaxing poses.
Sophomores Emily Marik and Hunter Frederick attended the class together to learn valuable self-defense skills.
“It’s important on campus to know self-defense, being independent, living by myself, to know such skills,” Marik said.
Both enjoyed the welcoming environment provided by the ZTAs and the importance of safety on campus.
“I like how they emphasize getting away and not really getting into the physical altercation, just getting someone off and getting away,” Frederick said.
Dauplaise hopes that the class will serve as a learning experience for participants, and that they will utilize the skills they learned in the future, if need be.
“I want them to be comfortable where they are on campus, or even off-campus, wherever they go,” Dauplaise said. “[If] a dangerous situation or an uncomfortable situation happens that they feel confident [and] that they have the skills to get themselves out and get themselves to a safe space.”
Photo by Grace Hazlehurst.
Photo Caption: ZTA sisters seniors Sydney Mika and Avery-Grey Dos Santos practice self-defense moves as a pair.