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GEM offers campus safety tips in self-defense course

by Katherine Fernandez - Copy Editor
Wed, Apr 3rd 2019 11:00 am
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According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), one in three women are sexually assaulted at some point in their life. With the prevalence of the #MeToo movement, sexual assault is more visible in the press than ever before. The College at Brockport’s Gender Equity Movement (GEM) club held a free self-defense course on Tuesday, March 26, in hopes of educating students on safety tips and demonstrating beginner defensive moves.

Certified United Martial Arts instructors John Ingallina and Chris Otero started the class by encouraging attendees to discuss what their safety concerns were. One person shared that they were feeling unsafe after rumors of mysterious characters approaching groups of young women on campus had emerged. Another cited lack of street lights throughout the village as a cause for safety concerns.

Ingallina and Otero broke down a few principles of self-defense before showing attendees physical techniques. Rule number one, they explained, is to resist immediately, decisively and explosively. The sooner you defend yourself, the better your chances are to free yourself of the perpetrator. Many people freeze in intense situations such as these, so training ourselves to make a split-second decision and act right away is vital in self-defense. The instructors urged those in attendance to summon their loudest screams in these situations as well. Screaming not only attracts attention and distracts the perpetrator, but also releases adrenaline that could help kickstart your body and avoid freezing up. 

The next rule is to attack a vulnerable target. Ingallina insisted that despite what we may think, people don’t have to perform on the level of Bruce Lee in order to physically defend themselves. The instructors posed a question to the crowd, asking if they think they could shove their thumbs in someone’s eye sockets if that was the only way to save themselves. The imagery alone made some audience members groan, a response Otero said was typical. The eyes, ears, nose, throat and groin are easiest to attack, but the key to inflicting sufficient damage is to obey the next rule: always have 100 percent conviction. The final rule is to never, under any circumstances, allow the assailant to take you to a second location. 

After a run down on the fundamentals, the technique demonstrations began. The duo came up with possible scenarios and showed the audience some moves it could use to counter an aggressor. Not only did audience members interact with the instructors, they also paired up with each other to practice. Some of the moves included knee and palm strikes and evasion techniques for when an attacker grabs your wrist with one or two hands, or if you’re grabbed by the shoulders, among other situations. 

Bjs.gov states only 10 to 16 percent of sexual assaults are reported. Ingallina addressed some of the reasons why assault victims choose not to report.

“[People don’t report] for fear of not being believed, having to relive it, [and] fear of retaliation,” Ingallina said. 

He went on to explain that he would never try to force a survivor to report, but he will always encourage them to seek out forms of healing, whether it be through advocacy groups or therapy.

Ingallina shared that after he learned his first wife was a survivor of an attempted assault, more of his loved ones opened up to him and ignited a fire within him that fueled his activism. 

“I called up my mother the next day, found out my mother was the victim of an assault when she was younger,” Ingallina said. “I called my sisters, I have two sisters, and one of them was assaulted… it really opened my eyes and changed the trajectory of how I educate myself and who I started to hang around.” 

Ingallina and Otero have been working to empower women for years, traveling to various schools to teach courses similar to the one they presented here on campus. The instructors offered any interested students a free 10-day trial for their beginner classes at the United Martial Arts Center in Victor, NY. Those interested can visit selfdefensecenter.com for more information.



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