Students should have opportunity to learn self-defense

As students prepare to lead their independent lives, learning how to properly protect themselves and manage dangerous situations is imperative.


E. Armstrong

Senior Breanna Westberg takes a defensive stance in one of her martial arts classes. There, she learned how to protect and prevent herself from getting into danger.

By Lauren Courtney

Cases of homicide, sexual assault, domestic abuse, and human trafficking among young adults is anything but unheard of. Yet, as high school students prepare to start their independent lives after graduation, they know little to nothing about how to prevent, handle, or defend themselves in harmful or sometimes life-threatening situations.

While health classes cover topics of abusive relationships, no longer than a week or two is spent reviewing this topic, as other content is crammed into a semester, burying information over time. Because of this, students feel that the content is lost among the other units and that not enough is covered to help students to understand what to do in given situations.

“I kind of remember vaguely about the unit, but I feel like it doesn’t go that in-depth if I don’t remember a lot of stuff from health class,” senior Breanna Westberg said. “So I don’t think that health class did a whole lot with [preparing us].”

Students also feel that a self-defense class would be a more useful alternative compared to gym classes that are currently offered. The class would not only have the opportunity to better prepare students for the future, but it would also fulfill a gym credit. While current gym classes occasionally cover nutrition or other content that pertains to personal health, most students blow off the class since they feel it is not worthwhile.

“The whole reason why me and my friends in gym were talking about [self-defense classes] was because we wanted something that would be worth our time because, you know, playing volleyball isn’t as useful as self-defense,” sophomore Emma Overmyer said.

Some would argue that students could simply take martial arts or another form of self-defense outside of school through a private studio or class, but some families can not afford to spend the money on these lessons, nor do some students have time after school due to a job, sport, or schoolwork.

“I think it’d be great [to have self-defense as an option] because gym classes are free, you wouldn’t have to pay for any lessons, and then it’s available to everyone. Maybe someone who doesn’t have the time now can fit it in their schedule,” Overmyer said.

Some parents of current students even had self-defense classes built into their traditional gym classes back when they were teens. Yet, Huntley does not go through defensive tactics at all when it comes to dangerous encounters. Upon the thought of even having self-defense as an option, many were surprised to find this was not an option for students.

“You just have this sense of fear drilled into you from a very early age, but yet nobody’s formally taught you or trained you or prepared you to go out in the world,” AP Psychology teacher Shannon Phillips said. “I’m like, holy moly, why haven’t we mandated this in school?”

Many also feel strongly that a class like this would be useful for young females, as they are statistically more probable to encounter some sort of harassment or assault, especially before they leave on their own. Additionally, current education is always changing so there should be no reason as to why gym classes would not be able to step off of the traditional route as well.

 “I think as education changes, I would imagine PE is just like: things can be different but still be a class and still be worthy of a credit,” Phillips said. 

In the class, students would be able to go through different techniques like karate, kickboxing, Krav Maga (which focuses on defending against guns and knives), and jujitsu. They would also learn situational awareness, learn how to handle domestic violence, and just become more prepared should they need to protect themselves.

“If this course ever happens for PE, I think it should be taught the same way [as marital arts] to where you shouldn’t first start a fight; only protect yourself if that fight has already started and do all necessary precautions to get out of that before even fighting your way out,” Westberg said. “That way, no one’s really going out trying to start a fight and just keeping it more safe for yourself because you want to make sure that you’re in all aspects out of danger before danger even happens.”