Self-Defense Empowering T-Bird Women

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By Alex Marino, Staff Writer

As Thunderbirds, we are constantly exposed to cultural etiquettes and idiosyncrasies that reflect our fellow students’ authentic traditions and perceptions. We are innately wired and professionally trained to embrace diversity while always maintaining an adaptive mentality. Seeking to understand before questioning is a principle that makes the Thunderbird mindset unique, and “to respect the rights and dignity of all people” is the over-arching oath that defines our character. Consequently, Thunderbirds develop the courage and global mindset to go places no one else will go, making them innovators of change. When considering these defining characteristics and challenging responsibilities, it’s important to acknowledge the obstacles T-bird women face as they set out to work in potentially hostile environments with less progressive standards concerning both equality in the workplace and status in the street.

We have a responsibility to lead the way with an enlightened mindset, but more so our responsibility is to supply one another with the tools necessary to create the change we wish to see in the world. In response to this belief, the Thunderbird Women’s International Business Club kicked off its first self-defense training class today in the campus Chapel. The self-defense program intends to empower T-bird women not only to defend themselves in a dangerous real-world situation, but also to walk with confidence as they take on the challenges facing global business leaders.

Allison Leah practices a standing guillotine choke on Alina Buzgar
Allison Leah practices a standing guillotine choke on Alina Buzgar (All photos in this article courtesy of Lauren Herber)

The ability to project a confident persona significantly reduces the likelihood of being targeted and victimized, so the question is how do we create such a persona? T-bird women notoriously carry themselves with a certain charisma and confident demeanor that makes them successful in the business environment, but repetitious self-defense training that creates an instinctive response when confronted with a hostile situation is critical to minimizing the threat of physical abuse. The Gladiator’s Academy martial arts school defines these combat principles as “just as much about work on who we are inside as it is about the individual techniques and skills…every area of your life will see improvement. You’ll gain focus, determination and confidence that will seep into everything you do.”

Following the first class, T-bird participants were asked the following questions to gauge their reaction to the new training experience: 1) As a Thunderbird businesswoman operating in a global environment, do you think it’s important to learn self-defense skills? Why? 2) Do you feel the techniques and/or concepts taught during the self-defense class will help you protect yourself in a real-life situation?

“I think it is definitely important as a woman in general to know how to defend ourselves, but especially a businesswoman operating in a global setting… the flip and the choke were my favorite moves we did. I think those could really help in a real life situation…The class was a lot of fun and well structured. I wouldn’t change anything and look forward to the future classes.” -Salma Kemmou (MAGAM ’17, Morocco)

Salma Kemmou demonstrates a push sweep on Patrick Shields.
Salma Kemmou demonstrates a push sweep on Patrick Shields.

“I think it is always important to learn self-defense skills because it increases confidence and familiarity with the movements, quick-thinking, and defensive plans needed in an emergency situation. The techniques that focused on creating space and leveraging our strengths really stuck with me from today’s class. Also, learning how certain moves can effectively neutralize an attacker of any size, no matter how big or strong I am.” -Ellen Alexander (MAGAM ’17, USA)

“I also think it’s crucial for a woman to learn self-defense skills because it’s empowering. Especially in a global business setting because women are treated differently around the world…Sometimes keeping your attacker close is useful because you can have better control of them, which gives you the opportunity to neutralize them and get away. It’s also important to practice these techniques often so if you are put in an uncomfortable situation, you use them automatically.” -Melissa Gaylord (MAGAM ’16, Madagascar)

Alex Marino and Patrick Shields demonstrate a standing guillotine choke.
Alex Marino and Patrick Shields demonstrate a standing guillotine choke.

In any real-life self-defense scenario, heightened situational awareness and a quick instinctual response can be the difference between ending up a victim and teaching a cowardice attacker a lesson. Knowledge of basic self-defense techniques empowers women to carry themselves with a confident persona, and such a quality is indispensable for T-bird women entering a global business environment full of uncertain circumstances. On a softer note, learning mixed martial arts skills and disciplines is a fun as well as energetic activity that builds comradery and respect between participants, while also experiencing a cultural art developed from every corner of the earth. The Women’s International Business Club welcomes all T-bird woman to share in this experience and lead the way to empowering women all over the world.

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