An event presented by the Center for Diversity and Unity and the Weber State University Student Association taught students how and in what circumstances to use self-defense on Thursday in the Shepherd Union Ballrooms.
Megan Gour, the college program chair for the center, organized the event as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. She brought in Officer Robin Helton of the WSU Police Department to teach when it is appropriate to physically defend oneself and also Thomas Bakke, a martial arts instructor, to teach self-defense techniques.
“I thought it was important to bring in both of them so that people know how to use these physical techniques, but they know that there is also a legal side to it,” Gour said.
Helton taught participants that it is OK to stand up for themselves and fight back when they are attacked, but that deadly force is rarely necessary and can have legal repercussions for those who use it when it is not appropriate.
“You have the right to defend yourself up to the point where you get away and call someone,” she said.
According to Helton, many people make the mistake of thinking they won’t be the target of an attacker, either because they are physically strong or because they don’t put themselves in dangerous places or situations. She said there is no guarantee of safety in the world.
“Crime can happen to anyone, anywhere, any time,” Helton said. “Understand that, at some point in time, you will flash in a predator’s mind as prey.”
After Helton’s presentation, students gathered in an open area in the ballroom to learn and practice key self-defense techniques. Bakke began by showing students the correct stance to be in when someone attacks, and explained that body language alone can scare away an attacker. He taught students how to deliver basic punches and jabs and how to get away when a predator attacks from behind.
Both Helton and Bakke taught that, in a situation that requires self-defense, the victim needs to be able to use verbal as well as physical self-defense. Helton suggested learning how to speak to an attacker, especially if the attacker has a weapon of some sort. Bakke said that if someone can scream and draw attention to themselves when they are being attacked, the attacker is likely to give up.
Near the end of the self-defense class, students had the opportunity to practice the techniques in a safe setting, with Bakke acting as the attacker. One by one, the students began walking, and Bakke came up from behind and grabbed individual students to give them chances to practice getting away. Afterward, Bakke took turns sparring with anyone who was willing to try the moves he had taught.
Bakke said he feels self-defense and martial arts training is good preparation for individuals, but that physical violence should be used only when there is no other option.
“Martial arts isn’t about fighting just because you can,” Bakke said. “Martial arts is a journey of self-discovery and learning who you are and what you’re capable of.”
Bakke is a black belt in kenpo and teaches martial arts classes every Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in the University Village Community Center. He said this will be his last semester teaching these classes and invited all participants to come to his class.
There were 15 students in attendance, most of them female. Freshman Shelbie William said she came to the class because of pressure from her boyfriend.
“He told me to come because he said he won’t always be there to protect me, so I should learn to protect myself,” she said.
Gour said she was happy to see some men in attendance as well, because violent attacks don’t happen to women exclusively.
“I think everyone should know how to defend themselves,” she said. “It is possible for anyone to get into situations they never think will happen to them, and they need to be able to protect themselves.”