Students On The Offense: 5C Self-Defense Classes


A female student in a sports bra and yoga pants hits a wooden board in half
Elisabeth Lawton SC ‘21 breaks a board using a palm strike on Jaqua Quad on Jan. 27th. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

No matter how tall you are, what your background is, your race or ethnicity, the wealth you have, you can easily be a victim,” self-defense instructor Lauren Froehlich SC ’20 said.

Being a victim is something that nobody wants to think about, but in college settings where sexual assault and confrontations are a reality for many, the ability to defend oneself is essential. Luckily, a multitude of self-defense classes are offered across the 5Cs. From student-led sessions to P.E. classes offering credit, students can easily choose the class that is right for them.

Each class has a different structure or focus. Alex McDonald CM ’21 teaches a class that interlaces intensive cardio with self-defense tactics. Others focus on empowering students, such as a women’s self-defense class led by Emily McCabe SC ’21.

McCabe has assisted in women’s self-defense classes before and was excited to teach it to Scripps College first-years.

“I thought maybe self-defense could contribute to the culture of empowered awesome women,” McCabe said.

Her first class taught how to block, palm strike, and escape chokeholds. Besides these basic techniques, the participants learned that self-defense relies on a quick reaction time, being loud, and being both strong and intentional with their movements.

Class president Julia Kelly SC ’21 attended McCabe’s class and found it useful. Kelly believes Scripps students are individuals who feel “empowered intellectually and should also be met with that feeling of empowerment physically.” Self-defense skills give that sense of safety and capability.

In the future, McCabe is interested in expanding the class to upper grades and other schools.

“(Martial arts) tends to be a really positive force in people’s lives,” McCabe said. “It builds confidence, it’s really fun, and it’s a really valuable practical skill.”

Alex McDonald CM ’21 provides a different focus with his Mixed Martial Arts classes. What started as boxing classes quickly became MMA as more students started expressing interest. He believes that self-defense skills don’t just help in dangerous situations; they boost self-confidence, too.

“It was only a matter of time before I started to expand the boxing club to be more self-defense centered,” McDonald said.

McDonald’s classes are held at Roberts Pavilion on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. with the advanced classes on Saturdays 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. The classes are cardio intensive with drills involving practicing combos with partners and shadowboxing. McDonald said that all are welcome. MMA is his passion and he wants to see the club flourish at the 5Cs.

Self-defense P.E. classes are also being held at the colleges and can be found through the student portal. Women’s Empowerment Self-Defense (PE J 028) has been taught at the 5Cs since the 1980s and involves male instructors putting on 40-50 pounds of body armor, while the students practice self-defense tactics on them.

Froehlich said that the class “gives tools to women that can help them take their own biological advantages and use it against the attacker, and use it to live without fear.”

The class structure combines martial arts, military combat skills, criminology, and psychology, along with learning theories, including how the female and male brain work. It will be held on Feb. 3 and Feb. 10 as two ten-hour segments. The class costs $50 for 5C students and $475 for all other participants.  

Learning self-defense can seem intimidating, but it can save one’s life. These classes offered are practical, interactive, and empowering, providing 5C students with valuable skills.

That said, “the best kind of self-defense is the one you never have to use,” McCabe said.

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