Student defense classes combat stranger danger

By Katie Zeck

In light of the multiple attempted luring incidents that have occurred on campus in the last year, it’s no wonder two students felt that the female student population of Rider could use a few pointers on self-defense.

In conjunction with the Leadership Development Program (LDP) and Head of Public Safety Vickie Weaver, freshman accounting major Evan Gurman and senior behavioral neuroscience major Tina Forsythe developed the idea of organizing self-defense programs that any woman on campus could attend in order to acquire self-defense skills.

“The single most important thing that any self-defense trainee should know is that you are never incapable of defending yourself,” Forsythe said. “The bad situations that people find themselves in are often preventable, so right from the start, people’s actions and words are the first form of self-defense.”

Freshman Evan Gurman and senior Tina Forsythe demonstrate a common attack that will be taught in their self-defense class.

Gurman brought his idea to hold these programs to Associate Director of the LDP Laura Seplaki. From there, Gurman was put in touch with Weaver, who connected him to Forsythe, a resident advisor (RA) in Hill Hall. Forsythe had organized similar self-defense workshops for her residents.

“The past self-defense workshops I’ve held through Residence Life programs have been successful but small, so I was excited when Evan contacted me to expand the programs to the whole campus,” Forsythe said.

Gurman said the programs were started because he found a need for self-defense classes at Rider.

“I mainly got concerned after hearing about all the [luring] cases happening on and around Rider, so I feel that the best time is now,” he said.

In the past year, the University has experienced more than its fair share of intrusions. In March of 2011, Tony Kadyhrob allegedly grabbed and tried to coerce a 19-year-old female student into his car as she was walking toward Z lot. Last October, Jamar Square allegedly followed a female student into Ziegler Hall. Also last November, an unidentified Asian male allegedly attempted to verbally lure a student into his car as she was walking across R lot.

According to the website for Arming Women Against Rape and Endangerment (AWARE), women at the age of 21 have a 1 in 4 chance of experiencing a violent crime in their lives. All the more reason, Forsythe said, that the defense programs would be highly beneficial to the campus community.

Both Gurman and Forsythe are qualified to instruct the programs with a combined 24 years of martial arts training between the two of them. A student of Shito-Ryu Japanese Karate for 14 years, Forsythe has also been an instructor of the karate form for the past six years. Gurman has had three years of karate training and seven in Taekwondo.

Weaver has helped in supplying additional resources and handouts that provide self-defense strategies for the programs. She has helped Gurman and Forsythe coordinate all the logistics of launching a physical and interactive self-defense program on campus.

Forsythe, left, who has taught Shito-Ryu Japanese Karate for the past six years, has held prior defense programs in Hill Hall.

“I gave some recommendations on the format, but the credit goes to Evan and Tina for their hard work, commitment and desire to share their expertise with others in a well- structured and informative program,” Weaver said.

According to Forsythe, there will be four sections that make up one entire program.

“First, we will instruct women on ways to prevent ever even being in the situation to use forceful attacks — that’s half of self-defense,” Forsythe said. “The program then progresses to hands-on self-defense techniques against commonplace attacks.”

The next set of activities includes how to properly use body language and the correct tone of voice. Then women will learn how to pick up on environmental cues and realize that simple, everyday items can be used as makeshift weaponry if need be.

“Next, a ‘one-hit wonder’ activity will help our campus’ ladies identify sensitive targets to strike at before making a fast getaway from an attacker,” Forsythe explained. “Finally, Evan and I will demonstrate and guide partners in hands-on techniques against the most common forms of attack in a safe environment.”

Female students on campus are excited about the added security they will feel when walking around campus.

“I feel like it’s really great that someone is offering these types of classes here at Rider,” said sophomore Tiffany Morales. “My parents worry with me being a young girl away at school, but something like this would definitely put them more at ease.”

Seplaki is especially pleased with the goals of the programs and with the initiative the students took to make it happen.

“I hope that these workshops are a positive experience for all involved,” she said. “It is important for every woman on campus to be proactive — to become aware of strategies that promote personal safety and learn ways in which she can defend herself if a dangerous situation is unavoidable. This is also a wonderful opportunity for Evan and Tina to step up as student leaders and contribute their talents and knowledge to educate and enrich the lives of their peers.”

The women’s self-defense programs will be held on Feb. 29 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Fireside Lounge, on March 2 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Student Recreation Center (SRC) Seminar Room and on March 5 from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the SRC Aerobics Room.

Gurman and Forsythe are also planning on holding a men’s self-defense program sometime after spring break.

To sign up for the classes, email either gurmane@rider.edu or forsythet@rider.edu to let them know which day you would be interested in attending.

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