Hidden among the physical education classes is Self-Defense for Women, a class unlike anything else on campus.
Denison allots students 18 credits each semester, and most elect to take four four-credit classes. So what happens to the leftover two classes?
Ladies on the Hill, I would advise you to get the most out of your tuition and education by taking one of the women’s self-defense classes offered on campus. Self-Defense for Women is a one-credit class that runs for three hours a night, one night a week, for about half a semester. This means it takes up minimal time and no extra money. The class is actually not taught by Denison professors; the school brings in highly trained experts to teach Self-Defense for Women. The class is a bit underground, and most information about it is spread by word of mouth, so I decided to do a little publicity for what was many participants, myself included, consider a life-changing experience.
As you may have gathered, Women’s Self-Defense teaches college-age women how to physically defend themselves. This in and of itself would make the class worth taking, as nothing beats the feeling I had on the last day of class after taking down a full-grown man. However, the class is about so much more than basic protection.
Every woman I know has a story about a time she felt uncomfortable, powerless, or taken advantage of. It’s been ingrained in our minds to lock our car doors when sitting in a parking lot and never walk alone at night. Men joke about women going to the bathroom in groups, but it’s the only way to ensure our safety.
A major focus of Women’s Self-Defense is not just physical strength, but mental. The first thing participants learn is how to say “No!” firmly and convincingly. This “No!” is a refrain repeated throughout every class and exercise, and in many ways is the basis of the class.
As women, we are taught to be polite, demure, and agreeable. We’re told to hide our emotions and not cause problems. Women’s Self-Defense disregards this antiquated notion, empowering women to speak up for themselves and acknowledge when they feel unsafe or uncomfortable. The class covers every type of confrontational situation, from telling an obnoxious guy at a party to leave you alone to landing the perfect knee or elbow jab.
While taking a break from fighting men in padded suits, participants discuss current issues such as sexism in the media, rape culture, and why it is that rap music can simultaneously be so entertaining and degrading. Open and honest discussions like these are a huge part of what makes the class so rewarding.
Preventatively learning defensive moves and mechanisms is so important, but one of the most memorable parts of Women’s Self-Defense is one class in which participants are able to reenact a situation from their past and get to change the ending. For me, this was the most emotional and important part of the semester, because it gave myself and the other women in the class a chance to reclaim and retell a chapter of our lives.
Understandably, this is a class where emotions run high, but we had plenty of fun as well. You can feel the encouraging and supportive atmosphere of the class the second you walk through the door. Needless to say, you form very close bonds with classmates as you cheer each other on to kick an attacker in the head. I met Denison students from a wide variety of hometowns, majors, and class years; amazingly inspirational women I would have never met if I hadn’t taken this class.
I left Women’s Self-Defense with new fighting skills and friends, but most importantly a new mindset. Since taking this class, I’ve felt empowered to freely speak my mind, encourage other women, and question any and all societal norms.
That kind of education lasts a lifetime.
Nina Cosdon ‘21 is a communication and anthropology/sociology double major from Meadville, Pennsylvania.