Self defense class empowers young women at HHS on Community Day


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By Cara McErlean

It’s all about security.

In their “Ladies, Can You Defend Yourself?” self defense class, part of Hershey High School’s first Community Day, taekwondo black belts, Susan VanBlargan and Dean Pham, instructed students in what to do in the case of a violent attack.

Freshmen, Elaina Lamb and Heather Marra, practice their self defense moves during the “Ladies, Can You Defend Yourself?” session on Community Day. (Broadcaster/Cara McErlean)

Freshmen, Elaina Lamb and Heather Marra, practice their self defense moves during the “Ladies, Can You Defend Yourself?” session on Community Day. (Broadcaster/Cara McErlean)

VanBlargan, a taekwondo student of over 12 years at Kim’s Institute of Martial Arts, stresses that it is extremely important for young ladies to be able to protect themselves if their are faced with a threat. With the current rates of assault against women, particularly on college campuses, an education in self defense is crucial for young women,VanBlargan believes.

The four most important things to remember in the event of an attack,VanBlargan said, are the four A’s: awareness, avoidance, attitude, action. These four components of self defense allow for a woman (or man) to avoid a violent attack whenever possible, but also allow them to be prepared if they must defend themselves.

The class aimed to provide young girls with tools to utilize if they ever find themselves in the hands of an attacker.

“The initial goal is just to get out of the situation,”VanBlargan said.

Instructor Dean Pham explains the proper escape technique on April 29, 2016. The style of self defense taught by Pham focused more on smart moves than strength. (Broadcaster/Cara McErlean)

VanBlargan and Pham incorporated their knowledge of taekwondo into the self defense instruction. AsVanBlargan explained, self defense is not about strength, it’s about having the proper skills.

For a violent attack to occur, the attacker must have three components in their favor: the ability, desire, and opportunity to overpower their victim. Although the victim is unable to control their attacker’s ability or desire to hurt them,VanBlargan said that the ladies in the class still have the power to stop an assault.

“You have control of the opportunity,”VanBlargan said. “Don’t give someone the opportunity to harm you.”

HHS teacher, Mark Painter, helps students practice their self defense skills. (Broadcaster/Cara McErlean)

VanBlargan and Pham first explained the importance of self defense, then allowed the girls to practice their self defense techniques. The girls worked on skills such as punches, swift kicks, wrist grabs, and choke escapes.

The girls decided to participate in the class for a number of reasons. HHS student,. Shakira Calderon, was interested in learning self defense in order to be equipped with the skills to protect herself when she goes off to college. Katarina Ecker chose the class because of her interest in taekwondo.

“I want to be able to feel safe,” freshman Miah Cassidy said.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in 5 women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. This type of alarming statistic is why VanBlargan believes girls should have basic self defense skills at a young age.

Students were taught how to target weak spots, make quick decisions, and have the confidence to attack.

“It’s not about starting a fight,” VanBlargan said, “it’s about being able to protect yourself.”