You may have seen the signs around ZŪM about the women’s self-defense class offered by 3rd degree Jiu Jitsu black belt Kevin Lollis and Seattle Police Captain Deanna Nollette a couple of weekends ago. I’d been wanting to take a course like that for several years, but I’d never gotten around to it, instead just hoping not to be one of the 1 in 5 women who are raped in their lifetimes. Since this course was on site, I had no more excuses and signed right up to see if I could pick up a few moves to protect myself out in the wild.
The class took place over three days: Friday evening, plus two hours on both Saturday and Sunday in the late morning. The first session on Friday started off with Kevin and Deanna talking with the group about assault statistics and how rare it is to be assaulted by a stranger. The vast majority (92%) of assaults on women are committed by a known person. They told us the kinds of red flags to look for among the men in our lives that indicate the possibility of future abusive behavior. It was extremely eye-opening.
After about half an hour of discussion, we moved to learning some actual defensive moves. The first one was a simple way to get loose if someone grabs you by the wrist. It was an easy motion to learn, and we all mastered it quickly, practicing with each other. Over the next hour, we learned how to get free if a man grabs us in a bear hug from the front or behind, with arms free and without, and how to stop someone from literally picking us up to carry us elsewhere. We also mastered getting out of a situation in which someone has us in a choke hold, grabs us by the hair and, most importantly, how to seriously injure a perpetrator to allow for escape to safety.
I went home, even after that first 90 minutes of instruction, feeling remarkably empowered. Deanna had also given us tips on how to go about our daily lives with a higher level of safety (for example, always know exactly where you are by cross-street), and I practiced those strategies as I drove home, feeling more in control of my own safety than I had in years.
Saturday and Sunday followed the same basic format. We started with a discussion about different ways to stay safe in various areas of our lives–everywhere from on the bus, to during and after a work party, to while driving and parking our cars. The information Kevin and Deanna shared was absolutely invaluable. The class attendees asked them many, many questions and the instructors answered thoroughly, often with related anecdotes. It was a serious subject, but there was also a lot of laughter.
The second half of Saturday and Sunday was dedicated to learning new physical self-defense skills and having the most important points drilled into us over and over. Much of the course was devoted to changing that mindset of always feeling like we must be polite and ignoring our own gut feelings when people are pushing our boundaries, which I found to be at least as valuable as the actual defensive moves we learned. After all, listening to your gut and having permission to be rude even if you’re accused of overreacting may very well prevent an attack so that you don’t even need to use physical escape techniques.
The physical techniques themselves were worth the price of admission, though, and were actually a lot of fun to learn. Women, we have a whole lot more power than we think, even against a much bigger and stronger man. We just need to know how to take advantage of anatomical advantages. We were given plenty of time to practice with each other and the instructors so that we all felt comfortable with the movements we were taught.
To say that the course was life-changing is not an exaggeration. Personally, I feel significantly safer walking to my car at night, going for runs, and handling myself in social situations, and I am determined that my 15- and 23-year-old daughters take this course as well. This first class had women of all ages, from teen to elderly, and everyone was able to fully participate–I would unequivocally recommend it to every woman, either as a refresher if you’ve already taken self-defense in the past, or as a way to empower yourself. If there is enough interest, Kevin and Deanna will be offering the class again, hopefully quarterly. I highly recommend it!