Self-Defense Classes Arm and Empower Students

Standing in a fighting stance and being prepped for combat situations, a group of 20 eager students participated in the first self-defense lesson held at Andover this past Sunday. The class was held by two instructors from the Combat Objective Battle Ready Applications (C.O.B.R.A.) organization on Sunday afternoon. The instructors, Chris Fazzio and his assistant Marissa Haddid, placed an emphasis on reality-based attack scenario training and on both the mental and physical aspects of self-defense.

“It’s a crazy world, and there’s just so much bad stuff. In [the town of ] Andover, you don’t see a lot. At Phillips [Academy], you’re probably even more isolated. But when [bad stuff ] happens, it’s terrible. If you can take a 45 minute class that protects you, and makes sure that [an attack] never happens to you, then [the class is] a good thing,” said Fazzio.

In the class, students learned how to adapt a fighting stance and to break free from an attacker’s grip by twisting and pulling away. They received advice about fighting and practiced ways to hold off against an attacker.

“I learned the basics of physically defending yourself from getting hurt, and how to fight back with the minimal risk of hurting yourself, but the main thing that I learned is about being a soft target and a hard target,” said Evelyn Wu ’18.

A soft target was described by Fazzio as a person that an attacker would aim for usually determined by age, gender, or background. Fazzio acknowledged that these characteristics can often not be changed, so emphasized the importance of being able to hold off attackers and increase protection.

“We didn’t get to do a whole lot, but from [what] we did do, I feel more confident in myself, which is very important because that confidence will make [me] less of a soft target,” said Kamsi Oramasionwu ’19.

“I think that we have to realize that it is a very possible situation that we can find ourselves in, and it’s best to be prepared,” explained Emily Ortiz ’19.

McKenna Montenegro, Administrative Assistant and Wellness Programing Coordinator, took initiative by inviting C.O.B.R.A. to host the class after students expressed an interest in safety and self-defense.

“I don’t think your gender or your background should make you fearful. I think you should just gain the skills to have that level of confidence to interact with your community and not be afraid,” said Montenegro.

The class provided a safe area to learn about fighting with a minimal risk of injury. Students would pair up and reenact a scene, in which one group of students would display aggression, and the others would defend themselves. Sydney Mercado ’19 said, “I feel a lot more confident and secure about defending myself. It’s reassuring to know that I can fight back if the need ever arises.”

This lesson is a part an ongoing Weekend Wellness series, which consist of PSPA-funded (Parents of Students of Phillips Academy) events that occur every Sunday in the Sykes Wellness Center. Zumba classes, yoga, and mindfulness activities are also hosted.

“We were just trying to add in a new option to increase the variety of this program, so we decided to bring in self-defense. We think it’s an essential skill that everyone should have a chance to practice,” said Montenegro.

“We need 20 students to make up each class, which is limited, but it’s a commitment for the students too. It looks like there’s good interest, which is really encouraging to me,” she continued.