At 24 years old, I’ve already experienced two flashers in my life, and I’d consider myself pretty lucky given today’s climate. If either of those situations had escalated, I’m not confident that I would’ve been able to protect myself—a very scary thought in hindsight. But after just one class with the Columbus State Self Defense Training Program, I’m sure I gleaned enough knowledge and skills to give attackers a run for their money.
The program was first established in 2017 as a grassroots movement to empower men and women to trust their guts, use their voices, and employ a takedown if necessary. It combines fitness training and martial arts for a 90-minute class offered three times a week that Columbus State faculty, staff, students, and community members can advance through completely free of charge.
I was handed a gray shirt upon arrival, indicating my beginner status. Also in the class were a few fellow gray shirts, some yellow, and one blue (the highest rank). We warmed up our bodies with some stretching and a fun and challenging HIIT game. I tried to keep my composure during this, but I was sweating through my Columbus State-issued gi pants. To my relief, we were instructed to take a seat afterwards.
“What are some tips on how to minimize your chances of being attacked?” coach Devan Quitter asked the class. Quitter, along with Coach Sean Foster and Coach Jason Apt, spearheaded the program. All three are employed through Columbus State Community College and have extensive backgrounds in Jiu-Jitsu, among other disciplines.
“Scan the crowd often,” one student said.
“Ask for an escort,” said another.
“Trust your gut,” said one student who went on to tell a story about surviving an attack using her self-defense training (“I was prepared to hip toss [my attacker],” she said).
Nodding in agreement, Quitter affirmed her students. “Your first line of defense is always going to be your fitness level and your self-defense awareness. Second line is your body and your voice.”
This part of the lesson I found particularly compelling. As a young woman, I’ve never felt entitled to announce when someone is making me feel uncomfortable. To avoid making a scene, I’ll sit back and stomach inappropriate comments or even contact. Turns out, that’s the stark opposite of what you should do in those instances.
“Don’t shell up, that’s what the predator wants you to do,” Foster enforced.
Instead, the coaches encourage their students to correct their posture, make eye contact, and be vocal when they sense somebody getting a little too close.
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“F*ck politeness,” as guest coach Sarah Mase likes to put it.
Letting a predator know that you see them and that you’re not afraid will significantly diminish the likelihood of you being attacked. However, if the predator continues to advance, Columbus State Self Defense students won’t be going down without a fight.
The first step of hand-to-hand self defense is leaning into the situation, literally. Quitter and Foster demonstrated how to throw your arms up in front of your face, put your hand on top of your head, and crash into your attacker’s chest—taking them off guard while also putting yourself in a more competitive position. Next, they showed how to establish power with both body position and grip. And then, my favorite part: the takedown. I was equally surprised and proud when I was able to hike Foster’s muscle-y body up on my hip and launch him back-first into the mat below with shockingly little effort (not a brag on my strength, just a testament to the power of leverage and the excellent instructors at CSCC). Ah, baby’s first hip throw.
“Too often we allow ourselves this idea that bad things are just things you hear on the news or on Facebook,” said Foster. “I think people should be more proactive in their own safety.”
He’s right. We see the worst being shared on social media and being reported on the nightly news, but we never think it’s going to happen to us. Columbus State Self Defense Training Program challenges participants to not only put themselves in those unimaginable situations mentally, but how to escape them physically, too.
“I believe having a self-defense knowledge base is important at all points of life,” said Quitter. “We tend to unknowingly put ourselves in dangerous positions. Learning and maintaining the ability to keep yourself safer can literally make the difference in a life or death situation.
Columbus State Self Defense Training Program meets Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays in Delaware hall on the Columbus State campus. For more information, visit cscc.edu/selfdefense.