SBCC women’s self-defense class protects against sexual attack and harassment

SAMI SOTO and LORENZO MORAN

A women’s self-defense class at city college teaches basic street fighting and ground attack techniques to empower students against sexual harassment and assault.

The class has been taught by Kathleen O’Connor, the Physical Education Department Chair, for over 30 years.

Sarah Nichols: “I think just knowing that if someone ever tries to attack you or do anything, you can just flip around so quick and beat them up instead of anything happening to you.”

Students condition to build endurance by stretching, and then running or walking around a track. In addition to fighting skills, students learn safety awareness and how to prevent attacks.

Kathleen O’Connor: “When one in four – one in five college women are being sexually assaulted while they’re in college… that’s a very scary number. And when you look around your classes and you start counting, you realize that this is going to happen to your students.”

Sarah Nichols: “A lot of girls have expressed there’s a lot of catcalling that happens just walking between classes or on the street. A majority of the class has been catcalled…that’s a reason why they’re in this class. Personally, for me, that’s why I don’t walk to school anymore. I drive. That’s why I wanted to take that class. I’m over it. It’s a strange feeling when you’re walking out of your house and you’re scared to walk down the street.”

Learning to recover in a proper stance after being attacked is vital to successful defense.

Sarah Nichols: “We have what’s called a ready stance. You have your feet together and you put [your feet] really close, and spread them out a certain distance. You have to stand with your knees bent and hands up. I notice myself doing that at the grocery store. Where I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m ready!’”

Safety ideas such as checking underneath cars, leaving lights on when leaving home, and walking in two’s at night, are also taught in the course to prevent an attack before it ever happens.

Kathleen O’Connor: “I don’t recommend pepper spray. I don’t recommend carrying weapons. I don’t recommend people to depend on anything except what they have with them; their brains first and then their hands, their feet, their legs…what you have with you is the most effective weapon.”

Twice during the semester students spar one on one with a black-belt to simulate a real attack.

Kathleen O’Connor: “And when they walk out of there and when they’re done, their self confidence, their self esteem, goes up a 1000 percent.”

Holly Myrick: “I know a girl. She lives in San Luis Obispo and when she was younger she was molested, and it happened again when she was high school age. I wish I could have told her before so she could’ve spoken out against it. Or fought against him. I would definitely recommend it to anyone now…boys and girls.”