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Sororities buff up on self-defense

By Machiko Yasuda

May 5, 2008 10:43 pm

For the first time in years, the Panhellenic Council is sponsoring self-defense sessions for the Greek community.

The training event will equip sorority women with attack-prevention skills and defense techniques for their college careers and beyond, said Julia Winfield, Panhellenic vice president of women’s wellness.

“At the beginning of the year, we really wanted to bring some kind of self-defense program to UCLA because we are really concerned with the safety of everyone, especially women,” she said.

Trainers from the Krav Maga Association of America, a group that promotes and teaches an Israeli self-defense system, will be teaching three sessions at different houses, restricted to Panhellenic sorority girls.

On Tuesday, two classes will be held at night at Kappa Alpha Theta and Delta Gamma.

On Wednesday, there will be a class at Alpha Phi.

Though this is the first event of its kind for the sororities, Krav Maga was first introduced to UCLA a year and a half ago through courses at the John Wooden Center, said Marcus Kowal, a Krav Maga trainer.

“Krav Maga is not your ordinary martial arts,” Kowal said. “It’s not trying to make you a fighter, but basically making sure you go home safe.”

Unlike other martial arts systems, the system does not require years of training and is not based on strength ““ characteristics that make it especially appealing for women, he said.

“The reason why it’s so popular is because it is an effective street self-defense based on instinctive movements. It is very simple to learn because of that,” he said.

The sessions this week will focus on practical skills for realistic situations, like how to prevent attacks, spot danger signs and how to handle opponents with weapons.

“The self-defense that we teach is the same for men and women,” Kowal said. “The only thing we do differently is that we focus on situations like rape or sexual assault.”

The system is not only for women, however, as it is also taught to the Israeli Defense Force, the U.S. military and law enforcement groups worldwide, including the Los Angeles Police Department, according to the Krav Maga association Web site.

Specifically in California, the Krav Maga association has taught similar sessions at Santa Monica College and University of Southern California sororities and fraternities.

The association also recently started a rape-prevention seminar at its center in Sherman Oaks, according to Jaime Allen, an intern at the Krav Maga headquarters.

Though these sessions will only be offered for sorority members, the council may open the classes up for the rest of the campus in the future.

“If we do have a lot of participation and everyone really likes the company, hopefully we can bring them back next year and eventually open it up to the rest of UCLA,” Winfield said.

Students can also take self-defense classes offered regularly at the Wooden Center or the Center for Women and Men.

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Machiko Yasuda
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