The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

Protect with confidence: WHS students learn self-defense

Officer Beal and Officer Saunders
demonstrating a self-defense technique
Photo by Cate Weinstein
Officer Beal and Officer Saunders demonstrating a self-defense technique

Imagine this: It’s a late night studying in college, few lights are on and suddenly you hear footsteps behind you as you walk back to your dorm room from the library. Your heart rate begins to speed up and chills radiate down your spine as you realize you are no longer alone. It is essential to have self-defense skills and be able to understand your own strength and resilience in moments like this. It’s about knowing that nothing — not even pepper spray— can protect you as well as knowing that your most powerful weapon is your confidence and mindset.

On April 30, the Westfield Police Department partnered with the Speaking Out Support Club to host an interactive self-defense class for WHS students after school. Run by Officer Brandon Beal and Officer Joseph Saunders, the two-hour class was held in the WHS wrestling gym and gave students the opportunity to learn new skills, or develop previous ones.

While the class focused on striking and self-defense moves, its overall intention was to instill a greater sense of confidence in the attendees. The officers reiterated throughout the class that the greatest value in learning self-defense is the power of self-confidence and security.

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, The SOSC partnered with the WPD to bring this event to WHS to help educate students on self-defense and safety. Club founder junior Olivia Marino said, “We wanted to raise awareness and give resources for people to feel more confident in themselves.”

When looking for ways to make these self-defense skills accessible to students, Marino worked with Club Advisor Kimberly Leegan who reiterated why self-defense is essential, especially to high schoolers. “Self-defense is especially important for young adult high schoolers who are going off to college soon as they are going to find themselves in more situations of independence. You can’t always avoid those situations,” Leegan said.

The clinic started with learning how to strike purposefully. Officers Beal and Saunders explained that striking with your hands and striking randomly, especially against a larger attacker, will put you at a disadvantage. Keeping a clear headspace and using your body to deter the attack is the main goal in a threatening situation.

The officers demonstrated three separate escape moves in case you are being held by an attacker. Each had just a few effective steps to escape a chokehold or escape being grabbed from behind. Using your full body and momentum, each skill works to create space between you and the attacker so you can find help or escape the dangerous situation.

Both officers have been teaching self-defense for years and the most important things according to Officer Saunders are: “Confidence, the way to carry yourself, your outlook on life, what you’re able to achieve, it just builds off of itself.”

The clinic had a tremendous impact on the participants, noting both physical and mental improvements in resilience and strength. Junior Danae Murphy said, “I think [self-defense] is almost like a form of self-care to know how to defend yourself and be strong on your own. I think it’s really important.”

This recurring program at WHS takes place every year and has a growing list of participants looking to gain that sense of autonomy and reassurance that everyone had walking out of the gym.

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