Sykes Wellness Center Hosts Annual Self Defense Class Featuring Counter-Attacks and Escaping Physical Holds

Nori Greer ’19 holds a martial arts target in position while Mary Muromcew ’22 practices a punching technique.

Last week, Sykes Wellness Center hosted an annual self-defense class, which covered lessons on countering attacks and escaping physical holds. Hosted by Chris Fazzio, Kung Fu Program Director at Yang’s Martial Arts, this year’s self-defense class took place on Sunday, February 17.

Fazzio, who has been working with students at Andover for the past few years, hopes that students who attend the class learn to be more aware of their surroundings, especially in more dangerous situations such as walking alone late at night.

“Awareness…just paying attention to what’s going on around you. If you’re aware, you know what’s going on, you can set yourself up to defend yourself better. It’s all about knowing your surroundings and knowing what to do in case something bad happens,” said Fazzio.

Fazzio has been teaching self-defense and Kung Fu since 1993. He thinks that self-defense is becoming increasingly more important now that people are more reliant on smartphones and other devices.

“I think self-defense has always been important. I think now with people having more independence, especially kids having more independence, it becomes more important, and the reliance on devices, phones and things like that, make people have that false sense of security,” said Fazzio.

Jill Winnett, Wellness Center Program Coordinator, included this class as part of a series of Weekend Wellness events that take place each term. According to Winnett, because student safety is one of the biggest priorities to the Sykes Wellness Center staff, Winnett makes an effort to schedule events at Sykes that will help teach students how to be safer in their everyday lives.

“At Sykes, we have been fortunate enough to run Weekend Wellness events during the academic year, including Self-Defense, Yoga, Zumba, and Meditation classes. The overall safety and well-being of one another on campus is one of our top priorities. Personal safety education is a critical life skill that we hope all students participate in when offered. The benefits to experiencing a self-defense class are not only the physical skills you learn to defend yourself, but more so how to recognize and avoid potential violence through mental awareness,” said Winnett.

Winnett adds that she hopes students will view the class as a tool of empowerment.

“This class serves as an opportunity for students to build confidence in themselves, which allows them to be better equipped to handle difficult situations that may arise. In a way, it is almost a self-empowerment class. We stand behind the idea of each of our students having the ability to take control of their own lives in a healthy and safe manner, while making positive choices along the way. Classes like these provide a safe, fun, and interactive way for students to explore ways to defend themselves if they feel they may be in danger, without having to engage in physical harm,” said Winnett.

For some, the class was not only informative but also a fun way to bond with friends. Sophie Glaser ’22 brought several of her friends to the class, and most enjoyed learning the different escape moves from wrist grips.

“I decided to go to the class because I thought it would be great to learn self-defense skills and to learn how to protect myself… I really enjoyed the class. The instructor was fun, engaging, and made great points. It was fun to be there with my friends and learn the movements together,” said Glaser.

Sima Shmuylovich ’21 attended last year’s session, and decided to come back with her friends because of how much she enjoyed the class the first year. While she had already learned many of the self-defense moves taught in the class, Shmuylovich still found the class to be helpful.

“I guess the time when we learned that it takes a long time to take out your phone and call 911 was really interesting for me. Also that you often don’t think very well when someone grabs you unexpectedly,” said Shmuylovich.

“Some takeaways I have from this class are to be aware and to be resourceful. Knowing how to defend yourself is really important, and it is crucial to understand self-defense,” added Glaser.