GWPD Program Teaches Self-Defense

October 10, 2011

Series of free classes aimed at keeping community members safe.

By Magdalena Stuehrmann, Class of 2015, and Jennifer Eder

Keep your elbows up and your hands out in front. Use the strength of your lower body. And be in your “ready stance.”

These are just some of the instructions members of the GW community can expect to hear during self-defense classes offered through the George Washington Police Department.

The free classes offer a basic self-defense program to help GW students, faculty and staff become more aware of personal safety risks both on and off campus.

“I can’t turn you into ninjas, but I can make you feel more comfortable,” said Michael P. Glaubach, a GWPD captain. “Your confidence will affect how people respond to you. When it’s time for you to fight, you only fight one way – to win – and your ultimate goal is to be able to run away.”

The classes are also designed to teach the GW community how to remove themselves from dangerous situations or how to avoid them entirely. Though most of the classes are focused on sexual assault prevention for women, the classes are open to both men and women. GWPD will be offering a session of classes that will be offered today and Oct. 18. An all-day session will be offered on Nov. 5. And another two-day session will be offered on Nov. 14 and 21.

Using mats and strike pads, participants will learn how to strike various joints and nerves throughout the body including the chin, upper pectoral region, neck and shoulder.

“It’s not about size and strength. It’s about technique,” said Mr. Glaubach. “And your footwork is the most important thing I can teach you. Your legs are stronger than any man’s arms, even the ones that lift weights all the time.”

The self-defense instruction provided in the program is based on techniques from several martial arts disciplines. The instructors are SHARP (Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention) certified and the SHARP curriculum is the basis for the classes. Each class is six hours in total, though the Tuesday and Oct. 18 classes and the Nov. 14 and 21 are broken into two three-hour sessions each while the Nov. 5 session is a full six-hour session.

“Self-defense classes provide participants the skills to help defend against sexual assault and information to increase general safety and situational awareness,” said Erin Harpine, GWPD’s coordinator for victim services and educational initiatives.

Each class is designed to be highly interactive and to provide a basic overview for participants. The goals of the course include providing women with multiple response options in the event of an attack and training them to become more aware of their surroundings which helps reduce the risk of being attacked.

One in four women is sexually assaulted. And 75 to 90 percent of attacks occur with someone the victim knows, especially when alcohol is involved.

The classes cover basic strikes, stances and blocks, techniques such as finger peels and wrist releases as well as basic Metro safety, including seated defense. Additionally, ground defense techniques are taught, as well as how to use verbal defense and how to practice risk reduction, such as walking in lit areas and listening to only one ear bud while walking. For training in some of the defense techniques, the instructors use strike pads so that the participants are able to use almost full force to practice the techniques.

“The class format helps you get a sense of what using the techniques would feel like in a real-life situation. One of the nice things about the classes is that they are very interactive,” said Ms. Harpine.

GW student Susan Reamer said she felt more confident after the class.

“I feel I have more general knowledge about what I could do if I found myself in a situation that required self-defense,” she said.

For more information or to register for classes, click here