Wax On, Wax Off

Aiming to educate students about self-defense, IMPACT, a Boston non-profit organization, held a two-hour session last Friday for all Andover students. Despite attempts to be all-inclusive, the attendees of last week’s session were all female except for one. The biases that caused this skewed turnout need to be addressed, because everyone, no matter their gender or background, should learn self-defense. First and foremost, taking self-defense is neither “girly” nor “manly.” While cautionary advice about walking alone or staying out late is more often directed towards women, men are not immune to the dangers of assault. As Abigail Czito ’15, an event organizer, said in the September 26, 2014 issue of The Phillipian, “People don’t really consider that males can be in danger as well or that males can serve to benefit from something like [the IMPACT program]. I think there’s an expectation that men aren’t going to need to go to these kinds of things.” Of course, the conception that men are somehow impervious to attacks or muggings due to their gender is simply untrue. Furthermore, disregarding the risk that men face would be completely marginalizing the male victims of sexual assault and reinforcing the detrimental stereotype that men should be strong by definition. Men should have the same access and opportunities to self-defense training as women — without the social stigma. Honestly, I regret not taking advantage of such a great opportunity to learn how to protect myself. Without any proper training, I would be more or less defenseless against an assailant; knowing what to expect and how to act in a dangerous situation would put me at ease. The IMPACT session included several assault simulations, where students could practice their newly learned escape tactics against a padded IMPACT instructor. By providing a place to prepare for a potential attack, IMPACT gives students pragmatic, real-world experience. In light of recent sexual assault exposés at several colleges and universities, Andover should be doing its best to incorporate this self-defense training into our community. The school has a responsibility to protect its students by developing a more comprehensive self-defense program. A Wellness Week class would be the perfect start: as Philippine Kugener ’15, an event organizer, aptly noted in last week’s Phillipian, “During Wellness Week you can take Salsa classes. So why can’t you take a self-defense class?” Physical Education (PE) classes would be another appropriate place to teach self-defense. With PE already covering wellness-related topics like basic fitness, nutrition and sexual health, self-defense would fit right in. Students would then have the change to learn the essential tactics to escape a potential aggressor. Maybe one day, Andover could include martial arts such as karate as a sport. Last week’s IMPACT session was just the beginning. Andover should continue in the organization’s footsteps to provide all students with the proper techniques to protect themselves.