July 8, 2020

Self-defense workshop strives to empower

By Dorian Armstrong
Staff Writer

Lambda Tau Omega hosted a self-defense workshop taught by the College’s Kokikai Aikido Club on Tuesday, Oct. 4. The workshop focused on using the martial art strategy to evade and disarm attackers and abusive partners.

According to Dylilah Bryant, president of Lambda Tau Omega and a senior public health major, the workshop was part of the sorority’s Week of Enchantment, which was a series of events centered on female empowerment.

Of the 18 students who attended the workshop in the Student Recreational Center, most were female. However, Bryant said the self-defense course and the techniques of Kokikai Aikido are open to anyone.

Students learn to disarm attackers and practice self-defense skills. (Joanna Felsenstein / Staff Photographer)
Students learn to disarm attackers and practice self-defense skills. (Joanna Felsenstein / Staff Photographer)

The Kokikai Aikido Club began the evening by distributing pamphlets detailing coercive dating tactics and warning signs to avoid. According to the pamphlets, one in five women experience either sexual assault or attempted sexual assault while attending college. The risk increases when women are alone or consume alcohol.

Originating  in the ’20s, Aikido is a relatively new martial art and is concentrated on the East Coast, according to Bryan Gibbons, a volunteer teacher and the administrative leader of the Kokikai Aikido Club.

“The basic premise is self-defense without resorting to violence,” Gibbons said. “Primarily, it uses natural movement, and we’re also looking for efficiency… Kokikai is a softer version of Aikido, but just as effective.”

The course then broke into small sparring exercises, where students practiced basic movements, such as redirecting an attacker’s hands or elbows. They were reminded to stay defensive and prevent attackers from gaining any advantage.

“These techniques are the ‘oh shit’ button,” said alumnus Anchuing “Chewie” Wang (’05), the club’s lead instructor. “Before this happens, many other things have already gone wrong, so make sure when you go about your daily business, you try to look strong.”

The course was largely well-received by those who attended.

Melissa Reed, a senior criminology and African American studies double major, said she found great value in the course because of her own experiences with harassment.

Zéna Merhi, a junior early childhood education and music double major, expressed similar thoughts.

“I do want to work in an urban district,” Merhi said. “So this will be useful.”

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