Students learn self-defense

St. Thomas Neighborhood Student Adviser David Brand began a self-defense course to promote campus safety and to spread awareness about the importance of personal protection.

The self-defense course was offered on October 19 at McCarthy Gym. The course was designed specifically for people who live near campus.

“As neighborhood student advisers, we are always trying to do what we can to make student life easier, especially for students that live in the neighborhood,” Brand said. “I decided to do a self-defense program because there are a lot of people that are walking to and from campus.”

Public Safety Crime Prevention Sargent Wells Farnham has been a self-defense instructor for several years and was approached by Brand to conduct the class.

“People who live off campus have a greater investment in their personal safety in that they are often walking on a street where there are not a huge number of students walking with them,” Farnham said. “Streets aren’t always well lit and there are no RA’s or Public Safety walking by to check on you.”

The hands-on class consisted of self-defense tactics such as pressure point testing, physical activities and the application of safety strategies.

“Regardless of whether you’re on campus or off campus, ultimately, the class stresses making healthy and safe choices, trusting instincts, and being aware of your surroundings,” Farnham said.

Junior Megan Kelley has experienced situations where having knowledge of self-defense would have been helpful.

“At that moment when you are caught off-guard, you freeze up and don’t know how to react to the situation,” she said. “If I had knowledge of self-defense techniques, then I wouldn’t be as scared during these moments because I would know how to react to them.”

Dean of Students Karen Lange thinks that self-defense is about making the best decisions that a person can make about personal safety.

“I think it really helps build your confidence. If you are in a situation in which you may be a victim of a crime, having knowledge about self-defense will help you think through the situation ahead of time,” she said.

Lange advises students to always be alert, to stay in groups and to use the Public Safety escort service when they are on or near campus.

The Public Safety escort service is available for St. Thomas students 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A Public Safety officer will escort students to and from locations on campus and within six blocks of campus.

Farnham hopes that students came out of the course with more awareness.

“They need to have a radar and start thinking about emergency situations,” he said. “They should come out of the course with an expanded awareness, more confidence, some self-defense skills and a little more knowledge.”

Freshman Garen David learned how to protect his personal space after taking this course.

“You never know when you need to defend yourself. You can never control every single situation that you are in,” David said.

Sophomore Mckenzie Polacheck felt that she learned strategies that would help her defend herself in situations in which she might feel threatened.

“It is important to know these skills because someone might attack you when you least expect it,” she said. “If you have self-defense skills, you will be able to have instincts that will help you protect yourself when you need it.”

Anna Tu can be reached at

2 Replies to “Students learn self-defense”

  1. I would suggest the book/video “Scenarios in Self-Defense” be part of the library & even curriculum. The two authors are local women*, and it handles more of the psychological & situational, along with the technical, aspects of attacks. It also gains more credibility for women to be taught by women.

    *[Mary Brandl & Anita Bendickson, Minneapolis & Saint Paul, respectively.]

  2. One time classes like this one may have some value but the skills presented are volatile and, left unpracticed, will fade. Are there on-campus martial arts clubs where they can continue their study? Alternatively, several local off-campus clubs have good deals for students and might be persuaded to help starting a college organization. It’s great exercise, with good people, practicing skills no one hopes they’ll ever need!

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