I chose to take self defense the semester before studying abroad, with the hopes that it would make me more prepared to handle dangerous situations in a foreign country. I signed up for the two hour class every Friday, led by Physical Activity Program instructor Anita Bendickson, a black belt in karate who started teaching self defense in 1979. Our other self defense instructors include Mary Brandl and Trung Le, who also both have backgrounds in karate.
Each class started with a short warm up to get our muscles ready to strike, kick and move around. Then we started learning different skills: how to make a ready stance with feet apart, how to grab an attacker in preparation for striking, how to yell from your stomach if you lose your voice due to fear. After the basics followed the more complex moves, such as blocking, releasing from choke holds, and defending against armed and multiple attackers. By the end of each class, I was sweaty, tired and ready to take on anything.
The instructors did a wonderful job of explaining different dangerous situations and how best to prepare yourself for them. Rather than making the students memorize exact body movements, the focus was always on keeping the student safe. The teachers frequently walked around the room to offer critique and suggestions to improve our positions and movements, with the sole purpose of making sure that any defense move we attempted would be sure to disable (and not just annoy) the attacker. In addition to the physical skills, we also learned psychological de-escalation skills such as body language and distance to help us act in crisis situations.
Self defense is just one of the many classes offered under the Physical Activity Program in the School of Kinesiology, which are designed to encourage a lifetime of involvement in physical activity. These 1-credit, 1xxx-level Physical Education courses are available to all UMN students. PAP courses utilize many of the University’s premiere athletic and recreational facilities, making them accessible to all students and providing them with an exciting learning environment. In addition, PAP instructors are skilled at creating fun and challenging educational opportunities and are proficient in working with students with a wide range of skill levels.