'Fight, fight, fight:' teaching girls to protect themselves

Apr 7, 2016

To protect yourself from assault, be aware of your surroundings. That’s what twelve women and girls learned last weekend at a self-defense class at The Rock of Kingsley. 

The class was in direct response to sexual assault statistics.

The Center for Disease Control says nearly one in five women report being raped. That number is even higher for women in college. According to Denise Schmuckal, the crime victim rights coordinator in Grand Traverse County, there were 38 criminal sexual assault cases in the county in 2015. Just one more than in 2014.


Amalie Wack is sixteen.

Her mom, Jennifer Wack, heard about the class and brought her daughter. Jennifer says for her and her two daughters, "being confident in some easy moves that we could make to protect ourselves is something that I want for them.”

Leah Wachlin (left) and Marie Drogt (right) practice defense moves while assistant instructor, Ben Sexton, looks on.
Credit Morgan Springer

She and Amalie are learning just that from Colby Taylor from Covenant Defense in Traverse City.

Amalie says she was nervous to come to the class but now she’s having fun. She says she worries about "being attacked and not being able to do anything about it, and just being so vulnerable."

Colby Taylor teaches the class a defense system called Krav Maga. It's what Israeli forces learn. He shows the girls a number of different techniques - from a simple way to deflect an approach to lethal moves to how to get away when someone grabs your wrists.

Amalie practices getting free from her mom’s tight grip on her wrists. She's strong. She laughs a lot.

Colby says if they can't get out of the tight grip at first, they can use other tactics to loosen the grip. Tactics like

"You've always got something; you've always got an option. Fight, fight, fight." - Colby Taylor

   an open-palmed punch to the nose, a knee to the groin or a slap to the neck.

"Again, why are we doing this?" asks Taylor. "You’ve always got something; you’ve always got an option. Fight, fight, fight."

Fight if you need to. But he also reminds them that their most important weapon is not their body; it’s their mind. So always be aware.

Amalie says she already feels like she’s learned a lot.

"I'm not excited to use these [defense techniques]," says Wack, "but I’m happy to be prepared for it."


Amalie Wack (left) faces off against assistant instructor, Ben Sexton, while Marie Drogt (right) pushes instructor, Colby Taylor, to the mat.
Credit Morgan Springer