The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Campus club teaches self-defense skills

    Aaron Vehling

    A few years ago, a self-defense class typically was a group of women kicking an assistant dressed like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man in that “special place” while screaming, “No!”

    A more updated self-defense workshop offered by the martial arts club Hwa Rang Do/Tae Soo Do took place Thursday night in McPhee’s wrestling room.

    Hwa Rang Do/Tae Soo Do member Reuben Van Hemert, a junior, heard about a martial arts club in Madison that offered self-defense workshops and began working to develop a program at UW-Eau Claire.

    While going through serious self-defense strategies, instructors try to keep things fun for students.

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    “It takes five pounds of pressure to rip an ear off.”
    Reuben Van Hemert
    Junior self-defense instructor

    “(Self-defense) is a very serious topic,” Van Hemert said, “but we do try to keep it very light.”

    The club has been able to use the workshops as a way to fulfill its community service requirement. All proceeds from donations go to the Bolton Refuge House, an organization that helps abused women.

    Club members who lead the workshops are able to fulfill their service-learning requirements for the university.

    Van Hemert and other instructors work through real-life scenarios with students, such as escaping from a variety of holds that attackers might use on victims.

    In the one-hour workshop, students learn techniques ranging from how to break free from grabs to pinpointing vulnerable areas, such as wrists, arms and neck.

    “We do realize that these are very dangerous techniques that we are going through, but at the same time, (students) need to have good feelings about themselves,” Van Hemert said. “(Students) don’t need to be scared walking through Eau Claire.”

    Instructors teach students specific moves for fighting off attackers as well as general techniques. Using leverage when fighting off an attacker, for example, allows you to have more strength when you use your legs and lower body. Another tip is to retaliate by striking soft spots on the attacker’s body, such as the clavicle, or areas of the attacker’s head.

    “It takes five pounds of pressure to rip an ear off,” Van Hemert said during the workshop.

    Students can ask during the session how to escape from scenarios they have questions about.

    Tips also were given on how to avoid attacks. Some hints included checking inside your car before entering and walking in groups.

    Instructors reminded students that they could use items they might have with them every day to help escape from an attack. A purse or high-heeled shoes can be good escape tools.

    The stereotype of self-defense classes consisting of mainly women doesn’t prove to be true at the Eau Claire workshops as a mix of both sexes are often in attendance.

    “Sometimes we get guys in here who want to show us up, and then they usually go away with a positive experience, but their egos hurt a little bit,” senior instructor Chris Johnson said.

    The ratio of men to women used to be more lopsided, Van Hemert said.

    “When we first started, it was mostly (women), then we started getting your normal guys that were maybe a little smaller, a little shyer,” he said.

    Now men of all shapes and sizes are attending the classes. Before, people might have looked at victims as women, but guys now are saying, “No, so am I,” Van Hemert said.

    After attending the workshop, freshman Leslie Klatt said she found it useful because there are many situations that could lead to an attack.

    “I’m not a bar person, but that doesn’t mean (an attack) can’t happen in a dorm room, or can’t happen when you’re walking,” she said. “So you can’t say, ‘It’s never going to happen to me,’ because it could.”

    Van Hemert said he hopes students can walk away from the workshop with more confidence.

    Students need to know that if something were to happen to them while walking through the generally safe city of Eau Claire, they would be OK, he said.

    Johnson agreed that there is a need to know how to protect oneself, even in a city like Eau Claire.

    “Eau Claire is safe, by and large,” Johnson said, “but you’re always going to have the weirdos and the bullies.”

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