Twelve students, 11 women and one man, attended the self-defense class taught by Director of Campus Safety John Schlaf this past Sunday, Jan 18. The class, developed as a result of the grievances and demands submitted to President Roger Taylor by S.A.S.S. last year, was the solution to finding a self-defense program that was less time-intensive than the Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) system taught at Knox in the past.
Unlike R.A.D., which could involve up to three hours a week for four to six weeks, the NSDI (National Self-Defense Institute) S.A.F.E. program taught by Schlaf involved light-contact technique and focused on maintaining a state of mind that would, ideally, allow students to avoid confrontation. However, in the event of an unavoidable confrontation, the class also touched on basic physical self-defense.
Schlaf began the session by sharing a book by Gavin Debecker, “The Gift of Fear,” which explains how fear can be used as a tool to lend a person needed strength or inspiration. Schlaf’s short explanation was followed by a ten-minute movie from NSDI which outlined the 12-step program used in S.A.F.E.
While students commented on the “corny” nature of the film, they did admit that the movie itself did demonstrate its most important point well; that mental visualization of surviving or getting out of a situation is paramount.
S.A.F.E. is only supposed to be taught to women, but Schlaf acknowledged that as a school program, he was not allowed to keep any men out of the program.
“That said, when I turn in the paperwork there will be twelve girls’ names on the sheets. It’s a safety issue for the program when a man can potentially exploit weaknesses he sees in the individuals that attend training,” said Schlaf, “but men deserve a chance to learn self-defense, too.”
According to Schlaf, work on an all-male oriented class is underway. The program also advises that when practicing, students do not do so with a significant other or close friends for the same reason; a rape or attack is often perpetrated by those close to the victim, and giving them the advantage of seeing a person in action ahead of time can be dangerous.
For the remaining hour-and-a-half, Schlaf taught the students a variety of defense techniques in a variety of positions, including a warning stance, palm strike, knee strike, head butt and eye and throat gouge. Before beginning, he admonished the students that S.A.F.E. was a light contact training.
“I went through a bit of this training with my family,” said Schlaf, “And, well, my wife hurt me,” he said, laughing. To aid in the technique teaching, Schlaf instructed students to visualize not just the action they were performing, but that action in extreme. Schlaf would demonstrate a technique, and give a verbal command for the group to repeat it, and then work one-on-one with each student on each technique, sometimes with a padded target.
“If you’re going to palm strike a person in the face, I want you to visualize your hand actually going out the back of his head, even though that might be gruesome,” said Schlaf. “When your life depends on it, you don’t hold back. That said, resist the urge to stay once he’s down and keep on fighting. Get him down, and get out.”
Students were also taught to yell “No!” during each move, a yell from the diaphragm to make noise to draw attention and to encourage to breathing, since holding your breath is often a reaction of fear and can keep a person from performing physically.
“Remember, there’s only one rule to street fighting. There are no rules. These techniques are good guidelines, but you do what you have to,” said Schlaf.
At the end of the two-hour session, students had generally positive reactions.
“The training was good, but it’d be nice to have more instructors to demonstrate technique and more equipment so we can all learn at once,” said sophomore Michaela Romano. Junior Ashley Antenore had already had martial arts training, and took away a different view from the training.
“I found what he said about mental state to be useful,” said Antenore. “Just thinking ‘I’m not going to die’ can help.”
While the session on Sunday was the only scheduled class, Schlaf shared with students his intent to make himself available in the Gizmo every Tuesday from 1:30-2:30 p.m. for any students who wanted to discuss safety concerns on campus.
“If you’re interested in us holding another class, or you want to talk about places you feel are unsafe, or if you just want to touch base with how safe you’ve felt lately, come and meet with me,” said Schlaf. “I’ll buy.”