By Kendall Webber
“Self-defense is also a mindset: being aware of your surroundings, making eye contact with people around you, etc. You should avoid getting into a situation that requires you to defend yourself if you can,” said Amy Schepers, a Jenks High School teacher. Not only does Schepers teach AP Biology, she also takes part in judo classes.
“I actually didn’t join voluntarily. My husband and I made a deal that if he did ballroom dancing with me for a year that I would do Judo classes for a year with him,” said Schepers.
Schepers ended up enjoying the Judo classes and stayed. She has now been in the classes for 8 years and does not plan on quitting anytime soon. Schepers said she did try to make a self-defense club, however, when the board agreed, COVID-19 had been introduced into our lives. She had found people and a place for the classes, then quarantine happened so her plans were canceled. Schepers is planning to start a self defense club for the students of Jenks, once she gets a high enough belt.
“Judo is different from other martial arts because instead of kicking, punching, or hitting; you’re throwing. So you’re lifting and you should use gravity and your momentum against them,” said Schepers.
When sparring in Judo, a combatant wins by throwing their opponent to the ground. To sum it up, whoever puts the opponent on their back first or whoever is held down for a certain amount of time wins the match.
Schepers said the age group of people who join range from toddlers up to an 83-year-old Judo instructor. Mainly men have only joined Schepers Judo classes and that she was the only girl for 6 years as a participant. The benefits of judo include fitness, confidence, and strength.
“They teach you more than just to fight,” said Jenks High School junior, “they also teach you how to defend and that’s really important. If someone grabs your shoulder, you have to know what to do. But, if they are much larger than you, you’ll need to know how to counteract and use your body weight against them to get out of that situation.”
The student also said that these classes aren’t just for defense, “they also teach you self-worth, respect for others and yourself, how to make yourself feel more secure, and show you’re meant to do more in life”.
Sazel Pokharel, 11, is another Jenks High School student who participates in Judo.
“People, especially parents, would probably not like it being taught at schools,” Pokharel explained. “It can also be tricky as to what to teach and what not to teach because it’s not realistic to have a full-on course for self-defense.”
Sazel practicing breaking boards before upgrading to a new belt (photo credit to Hillary Speer)
Sazel went on telling me how people would think it’s a hazard because some teens might not use their training in the right way, but she still thinks it’s very important that we should know some self-defense in any way.
“Self defense is important for everyone, but it also really helps targeted groups of people, like women and racial minorities. Even knowing simple things, like your elbow is the strongest point in your body, can help when you are being attacked by someone,” said Pokharel
Pokharel then brought up some very good points as to why we don’t require self-defense classes like we do CPR classes.
“With CPR it’s a few simple steps that could save someone’s life while self-defense is more complicated. It can also be dangerous if the people practicing it are not serious, especially whenever we learn how to escape a chokehold or other life-threatening situation” said Pokharel.
“Usually it’s not particularly easy to find classes, it is more expensive than it should be though,” said an anonymous Jenks High school junior.
Schepers’ Judo classes are an entirely nonprofit organization and they have multiple classes a week for different martial arts, including Jujitsu. you can find their website here. My other sources attend classes at Golden Dragon Taekwondo (costs $49+). There are many options though for martial arts, like Aikido, Karate, Kung Fu, Muay Thai, Etc.