KOKOMO, Ind. – A self-defense class was just the confidence booster Allacyn Rogers needed.
“I feel more capable about being able to take care of myself,” the Indiana University Kokomo sophomore said. “I like that when I go places, I feel that bit of security now.”
Rogers fulfills the exercise class requirement for health sciences majors in the once-a-week class in the Cole Fitness Center.
Students learn how to defend themselves against punches, holds, grabs, choking, kicks, and other attacks from an expert — Zhichao Ling, an adjunct instructor in physics. He is a 7th generation yang style taijii (tai chi) instructor, 5th degree black belt in Shorinryu Karate and Okinawa Kobudo (weapons), and 6th degree black belt in Keijutsukai Aikido.
“At the end, they should be able to handle several situations, like attacks on the street, weapons, and by multiple people,” said Ling. “Their body condition will be good, their awareness of their surroundings will be good, and they will understand some fundamentals of self-defense principles.”
As students arrive for class, Ling has traditional Chinese music playing in the background. They take off their shoes and line up on mats in front of the mirror, facing Ling. After exchanging bows and a thorough warm-up of stretches, jumping jacks, push-ups, sit ups, and spinning turns, they’re ready to learn new techniques.
They practice falling, to learn how to do it without getting hurt, and then work in pairs, switching between being the attacker and the victim, to practice defense against a kick.
As the attacker’s leg flies out, the potential victim grabs under the knee with one hand, grabs the attacker’s shoulder with the other, and pushes up, dropping the attacker to the ground.
As one student stops just short of dropping her partner, Ling encourages her to finish the technique, applauding when she does it successfully.
“Yes! That’s good!” he said, moving on to the next pair. Practicing these techniques over and over prepares them to react when they need to, and not have to think about what to do.
“They are prepared to be calm, be confident, and respond to the situation without panicking,” he said. “Mentally, physically, and with the techniques, they will be equipped to handle almost any situation.”
Junior Zeb Murray, Kokomo, said while he had some previous martial arts experience, he’s learned some new takedown techniques he’s found useful. He looks forward to learning how to defend against multiple attackers later in the semester.
“I think I could defend myself one-on-one now,” he said, adding that the class is also a good stress reliever.
Freshman Zack Nye said he thought he knew more than he did prior to the class, and it was eye-opening to see how easily someone could have hurt him. He appreciates the hands-on opportunities to practice the techniques repeatedly and build on them.
“I don’t have to stop and think about what I’ve learned previously,” he said. “You get in there, and it’s muscle memory.”
Addyson Kendall, a sophomore from Upland, finds the class empowering.
“Being a girl in this day and age, you have to know how to defend yourself,” she said. “You can’t always depend on someone being there to help you. Now, I could at least get away. I feel like I have power.”
She said the class is useful for everyone, not only to be able to take care of themselves, but to be able to help others, too.
“If you saw someone getting attacked, you would be able to help, and know what you are doing, rather than running in blindly.”