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Self Defense Classes Teach Women To Fight Back

Kaz Rhoads (left) of Train Like You Mean It. Photo courtesy of Train Like You Mean It.
Kaz Rhoads (left) of Train Like You Mean It. Photo courtesy of Train Like You Mean It.

The University of Oregon community has erupted in the past weeks with outrage over the sexual assault case involving three male student-athletes and a young woman. Students have protested at Johnson Hall, holding signs reading “We demand justice” and “I live in a rape culture,” while chanting “Survivors over sports.” The chant refers to what protesters say is the school’s mishandling of the case by allowing three basketball players to continue playing during March Madness while the sexual assault investigation was already under way.   

While the focus has been on educating women on safety and responsibility (don’t go out at night by yourself, don’t wear skimpy clothing), groups are now confronting the rape culture that allows victim blaming or “slut shaming,” as well as permits sexual assaults to happen with little or no repercussions to the perpetrators.

But while that fight goes on, a shorter-term solution is necessary, and many women are trying self-defense. Krav Maga is a popular self-defense training system that uses reflexive responses and intuitive defense when dealing with threatening situations. It focuses specifically on defense from open-hand techniques, such as punches and chokeholds, armed attacks with a knife or a gun and reading into the opponent’s movements to anticipate an attack, according to local Haganah instructor Kaz Rhoads. Haganah is a self-defense system similar to Krav Maga.

Three local groups that teach Krav Maga self-defense classes include the Warrior Sisters Society, Right Mental Attitude (RMA) Martial Arts & Fitness and Train Like You Mean It. 

Warrior Sisters Society is a nonprofit that focuses specifically on empowering women and giving them the tools they need to defend themselves from sexual violence. The sessions are a female-only space, the Warrior Sisters website says, and “are sensitive to the needs of battered, abused and assaulted women who require trainings without the presence of male-bodied people.”

Warrior Sisters is donation-based and offers free trainings to high school students at the Academy of Arts and Academics, as well as for women staying in the Eugene Mission. They also offer free trainings at the Petersen Barn Community Center most Saturdays at 10:30 am. For private trainings, contact the group at warriorsisters@riseup.net.

RMA is family oriented and all ages and it offers CT707 Krav Maga, developed from the counter-terror unit in the Israeli Special Forces. RMA’s course focuses on learning techniques in a very short amount of time, which is ideal for those who want to learn self-defense quickly, according to its website. This course also covers multiple-attacker survival, ground survival and impact-weapon defense. For more information go to rightmentalattitude.com.

Train Like You Mean It in Springfield is for adults who take Krav Maga-type training seriously and are willing to make the time commitment and come to sessions regularly, according to Rhoads, the lead instructor. Train Like You Mean It teaches Haganah fighting and appeals to both men and women, since they believe it’s important to experience situations with both sexes. 

“Come to us once you’re ready to train, rather than when you’re still healing after a traumatic situation,” Rhoads says. “You want to come to us and be comfortable working with both male and female clientele.”

Classes are taught Monday, Wednesday and Friday and focus on open-hand technique, armed attacks and pad-work classes where you learn to read your opponent’s moves. The first week of classes is free, and the first month is discounted. For more information go to train-like-you-mean-it.com.