The statistics are overwhelming, says Andrew Faupel, sensei-owner of Kenkojuku Karate: Women are far more likely than men to be the victims of violent crime.
As his grandmother, mother, wife and daughter all live in the same town, he doesn’t like those odds. But Faupel knows how to take care of himself—and how to teach other people how to do the same.
That’s why Kenkojuku hosted a free women’s self-defense class Feb. 1. Together with the Collingswood Junior Women’s Club, the studio welcomed some 22 female students of all ages and levels of fitness for an evening of rudimentary instruction.
“I know 84 percent of those attacks are committed without a weapon,” Faupel said, “so if you have some basic knowledge of self-defense, you can often be very successful in fending off an attacker.
"An attacker just wants to get what they want and then they’re going to go,” he said.
In only a couple hours, Faupel demonstrated some elementary principles of self-defense, from palm-heel strikes to elbows, knees, counter-attacks and grabs.
He doesn’t expect his students to remember all of it, but if they walk away knowing even a little bit of how to assert themselves in a dangerous situation, Faupel considers the night a success.
“It’s limited [retention],” Faupel said. “You’re not martial artists. This is a one-night class. You take from it some basic confidence that you can react.”
In a dangerous circumstance, Faupel said, it’s hard for women to “let go of the social conditioning” that tells them to ignore someone who may mean them harm.
“There was a woman, a teenager, last year,” he said. “A man walked her to the car and she walked with him. And the duct tape was in the car. If she’d done some simple escape and ran, she’d have gotten away.
“There’s nothing of the programs I do that’s more important to me than making sure that women focus on their own safety,” Faupel said.
Jennifer Cokl of the Collingswood Juniors said that the class was an “empowering” experience that took “a serious issue” and turned it into “a fun night.”
“It is wonderful that the Collingswood Juniors and [Kenkojuku] are able to partner together to provide awareness to the issue of violence in women, and at the same time teach women in the community how to fight back if ever needed,” Cokl told Patch in an email. “I am pretty sure everybody left there feeling more confident.”
With a 15-person waiting list from the February event, Faupel said he’s eager to run the class again. The next opportunity: . Women should RSVP to Cokl at: email@example.com.
Quick Tips for Women’s Self-Defense
1. Trust your gut.
Women are so conditioned to ignore someone who makes them uncomfortable, Faupel says, that it can be dangerous to suppress the instinct to tell someone to back off.
“Somebody asks for directions—can you spare some food, can you spare some money—that really casual approach is how some of these attacks happen,” he said.
2. Make direct eye contact and speak in a loud, clear voice.
Looking someone in the eye not only alerts them that you’re no pushover, Faupel said, but also allows you to gather information that could provide a description of someone dangerous to authorities.
“If someone invades your space, makes you uncomfortable, direct your eye contact, look at them,” Faupel said. “Tell them, ‘You need to back up.’ Use a loud voice, directed eye contact, posture, confidence. It comes through in your body contact that ‘if you get any closer, I’m going to hit you’.”
3. Don’t be an easy victim.
Most attackers want an easy victim, Faupel said. If you’re loud, confrontational and look like you might be trouble, you are more likely to send them packing.
"My grandmother came to the self-defense class at 70," he said. "I have a picture of me grabbing her wrist for her to break the grip."