Last Wednesday evening I was standing in Copley Square screaming NO at the top of my lungs. But I wasn’t alone. I was one of many women who had turned out for Healthworks’ 2nd Free Self Defense Workshop. As one of the largest communities of women in Boston, Healthworks has taken the lead in being a great resource for learning self-defense techniques by offering free workshops like this to their members and the public. After a tragedy last year in which a member was killed on her way to an early workout, I greatly appreciate that Healthworks is taking charge to empower women to be more informed about what they can do to defend themselves from potentially violent situations.
I have lived in the city now for 9 years, and had never taken a self-defense course. I had always thought about taking one, but there was always an excuse or reason not to. So when I saw the email about this workshop I signed up right away and got my friends Aki and Christine to join me. While I try to be alert in my surroundings at all times, it’s simply impossible to know when a potential threat may arise. I tend to get up very early to head to the gym in the mornings, and except for one blissful month in the summer, it is DARK when I leave the house. It simply is common sense to get some training in how to protect myself should I find myself in a dangerous situation.
The event in Copley was run by IMPACT Boston, which teaches personal safety, assertiveness and self-defense training at their location in Malden. Two trainers were on hand to show us the ropes, one woman to represent a potential victim, and a man acting as an assailant. The man was dressed in full protective gear which made him look like a cross between a robot and a linebacker. They took the time to explain this gear, and show how he couldn’t get hurt even when executing self-defense techniques such as jabs to the eye, or knees to the groin.
The first and most important technique that the trainers encouraged was trying to end a confrontation without getting violent. By holding a defensive stance and loudly stating that you would like the person to “stay back” and “leave me alone”, you may be able to prevent a dangerous encounter from happening. Chances are an attacker is looking for an easy victim. Don’t be one, and he may move on to his next target.
Over the next hour and a half we learned various techniques for disabling an attacker, such as eye jabs, knees to the groin, elbows to the nose and how to free yourself is someone grabs you from behind. It may have looked and felt funny to be practicing these moves against the air in the middle of Copley, but as the trainers explained, practice makes perfect. One of the ways to be sure your body will react in a useful manner if attacked is to make these movements part of your muscle memory.
The workshop covered the basics of self-defense, but courses at IMPACT go on to include even more techniques and muscle memory practice on the air and on a well-padded trainer. They also have advanced courses including defense against attacks with weapons. In their classes they also focus on defense from the most common attacker, someone you know.
I feel like it’s incredibly unfortunately that we live in a world where we need to take an evening, or a course to learn about defending ourselves from attacks. But while attacks and violence are still potential dangers, I am happy that groups like Healthworks and IMPACT are around to be sure to get the message out about how to advocate for and protect yourself.