By Kathryn Kelman/ ne news editor

NE instructional associate Shane Whitehead teaches a participant a physical self-defense skill. He will lead a self-defense session March 22 on NE Campus.
Collegian file photo

Self-defense workshops can empower women and save lives, and NE Campus will host one March 22. 

Instructional associate Shane Whitehead will present the session 10 a.m.-noon in the Darlage Center Corner (NSTU 1615A) as part of Women’s History Month on NE.

Student development associate Karen Raulerson sought out Whitehead, who is a fourth-degree black belt in Gasan Ryu Kenpo, to teach the class for the first time two years ago. They have partnered to hold a self-defense workshop every semester since.

“We’ve been doing it [the class] for a while now, and so each time we tweak it,” Raulerson said. “We try to pay attention to what they [participants] put on the evaluations and make it better for them.”

Raulerson said she put the class together because she thinks it’s important for women to know how to protect themselves at any given time.

“We are put into positions that, you know, we’re out at night or even it’s just running to the grocery store,” she said.

The class will focus on three key components of self-defense: verbal skills, physical defense skills and awareness, Whitehead said.

“In a stressful situation, you’re not going to have the opportunity to bust out crazy fancy black belt techniques,” he said. “Simple works, and that’s one of the main things we’ll address.”

Whitehead is the head instructor for the North Richland Hills dojo for the Chamberlain Studios of Self Defense and doesn’t mind saying the actions he teaches in these classes are actions he would use.

“I’ve got no problem admitting that it’s titled Women’s Self Defense mainly just to make them comfortable,” he said. “The technical skills themselves are valid for anybody.”

One of the things Whitehead said he likes about Gasan Ryu Kenpo, the martial arts style used in the class, is it’s a fundamental striking or self-defense system that someone can learn relatively quickly.

“Kenpo doesn’t always look pretty, and we mention that it’s not meant to be,” he said. “It’s meant to be effective and straightforward.”

In addition to the physical defense skills, the class will work with participants on verbal skills and situational awareness.

“You can say ‘Stop’ to somebody. It’s OK,” he said. “You can stick your hand out and be loud, and if you’re loud, you attract attention.”

To an extent, situational awareness can be more important than the physical and verbal skills, Whitehead said.

The class will teach participants how to avoid putting themselves in bad situations when possible and to be more aware of their environment to take out some of the risk factors, he said.

“Running at night by yourself with your earbuds in, stereo cranked up, that’s pretty much a victim situation depending on where you’re at,” he said. “You can’t hear anybody coming, and that could put you potentially at risk.”

Whitehead tells his assistants when they’re training for the workshop that they will probably never know the impact the workshop has had, but if they can help one woman avoid being raped or attacked or help her survive an assault, the years of blood, sweat, tears and training will have paid off, he said.

Participants should dress appropriately and come with an open mind, Raulerson said.

“Think of this as something fun,” she said. “You’re going out there, you’re learning something that’s going to be very beneficial to you but, on the same token, have fun doing it.”

Whitehead and his assistants create a safe environment for participants, but the hardest part for many is walking through the door, he said.

“Once they step in the door, step on the mats, all the myths and fears can just melt away,” he said. “And people really do have fun and hopefully walk away with a valuable skill.”

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