Fight, flight, or freeze: Bulldogs fight back in self-defense workshop

Sgt. Chris Shovein with the UMDPD demonstrates self-defense techniques. Photo by: Morgan Pint

Sgt. Chris Shovein with the UMDPD demonstrates self-defense techniques. Photo by: Morgan Pint

On Oct. 7, Sgt. Chris Shovein, with the UMDPD, led a self-defense class to help students learn basic techniques in defending oneself against an attacker.

At 7:30 p.m., 15 students filed in the Griggs conference room. Most of the students in attendance were resident advisors and only four of the 15 students were male.

To start, Sgt. Shovein, a police officer for 20 years, discussed key aspects of self-defense, such as awareness and the importance of practicing tactics. He compares practicing self-defense mechanisms to practicing a sport: You have to continuously practice moves in order to be good at them.

Not only is it important to practice techniques, as emphasized by Sgt. Shovein, but it is also important to practice drawing the weapon of choice, whether that is pepper spray, keys, or any other common objects used to defend oneself. Likewise, he explained how what is right for one person is not always right for another when it comes to techniques used in self-defense.

“I think it is important to be aware of your surroundings,” Sgt. Shovein said. “Be aware of what’s going on around us, recognizing something that could be or would be a threat before it actually gets to that point.”

Sgt. Shovein demonstrated many ways to escape single- or double-handed wrist grabs, choking, being grabbed from behind, and even hair-grabbing.

“Nobody has any right to hurt you,” Sgt. Shovein said multiple times throughout the class.

Throughout the demonstration, Sgt. Shovein provided tips for effective self-defense:

  • If you need to punch, lead with the first two knuckles, have a tight fist, no air, and drive straight. All these aspects will avoid severe damage to your hand.

  • If you need to use your elbow, go straight back by brushing your upper arm and elbow against your side, and not at an angle because that can slow down your blow.

  • If someone is picking you up from behind and has your arms trapped down, you can hook your leg around their leg, which will make it more difficult for them to hold you up.

  • If someone is grabbing your hair from behind, it is helpful to try to pull their hand down close to your skull in order to help you turn around and face them to defend yourself.

  • You can use a distraction or anything to take the attacker’s balance away in order to escape their hold.

  • Sgt. Shovein emphasized on not assuming that a strike to the groin will always work, but in most cases, it can be effective. As well, the aspect training and practicing techniques will help avoid your body’s freeze response.

“Believe you can survive,” Sgt. Shovein said, “and that’ll make a difference.”

On average, there are about three of these self-defense classes per semester with the Women’s Resource and Action Center and UMD Housing, who are partners with UMDPD for setting up the classes.

For students interested in further teaching, ITSS Director Jason Davis teaches a one-credit self-defense class through UMD.

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