Walking around North Portland at night can feel equivalent to the opening sequence in a horror film. According to the , just in the last week, there have been four burglaries, two assaults and one threat with a weapon in the Portsmouth/St John's neighborhood. So those hairs sticking up in the back of your neck as you're walking home from the library at night are legit. But Monday, students can participate in something that might put a little more confidence in their step. ASUP and Beauchamp Recreation Center have organized a self defense class for students interested in learning how to stay aware and safe in potentially dangerous environments.
The first of two “Personal Safety and Awareness” classes will take place on Monday, Nov. 13, at 7:00 p.m. in Beauchamp Recreation Center studio 30. The classes, which were organized by ASUP and the Beauchamp Recreation Center, will be led by Public Safety Sergeant Michael Kranyak and are free for all community members to attend.
The classes, which will each last an hour, will include a presentation covering personal awareness of surroundings. The second half will cover physical moves to escape dangerous situations, followed by optional time to practice moves and ask about personal safety.
“The class is largely about being more aware of your surroundings,” Recreation Operations Program Manager at Beauchamp Kaitlin Bourne said, “It’s not as much physical as much as it is helpful tips on things to caution yourself about and be aware of. There’s advice as far as how to walk to your car in the dark, taking different routes to campus in case you’re being followed, protecting yourself while your in your car, home and dorm.”
The class also has a heavy focus on prevention of attacks and will give tips on awareness such as simply looking over your shoulder or changing your walking route to class.
“I think a lot of times students, when they have their headphones in, and they’re focused or walking to class, they are very unaware of their surroundings—especially at night,” Bourne said. “It’ll open their eyes to things that could happen and build their confidence to defend themselves, and most importantly prevent any attacks or altercations.”
As for physical self-defense, Kranyak will teach self defense moves that will be practiced on a rubber self defense dummy.
“Physically, I’ll teach 7 striking points on the human body,” Kranyak said. “These are strike points that you can use with little to no strength and be able to escape the hold or person. They don't require you to have any martial arts experience or be super strong.”
The inspiration for this event came from the self-defense classes held during last year’s Women’s Empowerment week.
“Last year, myself, Molly Rausch and Carrie FitzGerald put together a Women's Empowerment week,” Junior and College of Arts and Sciences senator Katie Coughlin said. “Each day had a different event, and self-defense was one of them. It focused on a lot of the issues women face.”
This year’s self-defense class is open to people of all genders.
“This is different in that it's a little more inclusive,” Coughlin said. “Anyone could have come to the one last year, but now it's in the title that it's open for everybody.”
Though only two classes are planned so far, organizers hope to make the self-defense classes a monthly occurrence.
“We’re looking at how many turn out to the first two,” Bourne said. “Right now, they’re being advertised in Beauchamp and they are connected with ASUP, so hopefully there’s advertisement on-campus and in residence halls.”
Though they would hope to make the classes recurring, Kranyak and Bourne stress that even attending just one self-defense class can broaden one's awareness forever.
“If you can mentally prepare your mind for the surprise, you’re seconds more prepared to deal with the situation,” Kranyak said. “Those seconds could be life and death. Any student that has this awareness and knows some of these physical strike points will make them less of a target for the rest of their life.”
The second part of this personal safety class will take place on Nov. 30.