The benefits of self-defense courses are particularly pertinent in light of recent sexual assaults on Brigham Young University’s campus.
According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, almost 40 percent of female assault and rape victims first experienced rape and violence between the ages of 18 and 24. Another study, focused primarily on undergraduate women, showed that 19 percent experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college.
That’s roughly a fifth of all female undergraduate students.
Fortunately for BYU students, there are many options to learn about and be prepared for a potential assault. BYU itself offers self-defense courses through the Student Wellness Activities Classes, as well as a wide range of martial arts clubs. In addition to on-campus options, Douglas Haskins, director of Tigress Women’s Self-Defense program, offers a complimentary and professional women’s self-defense course to BYU students.
“We wanted to reach out so women felt comfortable walking around campus,” Haskins said. “It’s the same reason why we do everything, to make women feel safe. It doesn’t take a lot of strength or size to defend yourself; it takes knowledge and confidence.”
According to Haskins, a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, traditional women’s self-defense seminars may not be doing much good for real-life situations. Most women’s self-defense courses usually occur annually or semiannually, and that amount of training is not substantial enough to keep someone safe.
“It’s like practicing reading every six months,” Haskins said. “You don’t really learn to read that way.”
Haskins believes many women in Utah Valley have a desire to be “Christlike,” which he finds admirable; however, it can cause lots of women to wait too long to get angry, aggressive or even be willing to defend themselves.
“A person needs to be kind, charitable and protective of themselves, or else they won’t be able to do it for others,” Haskins said.
Haskins has been running the complementary women’s self-defense course for three years now. The class meets every Saturday and is designed to build confidence, awareness and, most importantly, muscle memory.
“With muscle memory it’s an automatic response. You don’t think about walking, you just do it,” Haskins said. “Muscle memory in self-defense is the same; you don’t want to have to think; you should just do it and get out of any situation.”
Andrew Martin Del Campo, a special education major at The University of Utah with 15 year of martial arts experience, concurred with Haskins’ thoughts on the importance of building muscle memory.
“All of us naturally will freeze when we’re attacked,” Del Campo said. “The key is consistency and constantly practicing those moves so that when you’re in that stressful situation your body calls on that familiar muscle memory.”
Both Haskins and Del Campo agree that for optimum personal safety one should be practicing some form of martial arts a minimum of once a week.