North Texas Daily

Column: Self-defense classes offer skills against attacks

Column: Self-defense classes offer skills against attacks

Column: Self-defense classes offer skills against attacks
February 24
23:19 2014

Ali West // Staff Writer

Just last week, I received a crime alert from the UNT Police Department reporting a sexual assault a block away from my apartment. I am 5 feet 2 inches tall, petite, and just the sort of person who might be targeted as I walk home from class after dark. It’s not a comforting thought.

It wasn’t until last weekend I learned that I could throw a hard punch. And that insight came from a police officer.

The Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention (SHARP) course is a free five-hour program designed to teach participants a few key moves that can help them in defensive situations. Although the program is geared toward women, anyone can come to learn basic self-defense tactics in an educational setting from trained police professionals.

The group of about 15 female UNT students and faculty, led by Cpl. Ramona Rosborough and Cpl. Pete Uranga with the UNT Police Department met from  noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday at Chestnut Hall Room 324.

The beginning of the course was primarily instructional. We went over the four broad personality types of women: confrontational, assertive, defensive and passive. A woman’s personality often defines what she would do in a situation that calls for self-defense. This class is especially valuable to those with passive personalities, Rosborough said.

“It helps them get that extra spunk they need to get out there, to be able to be assertive, to be able to be confrontational,” Rosborough said. “It’s a setting like this that’s going to help them tap into that.”

In addition to teaching how to handle an attack, Rosborough and Uranga emphasized preventative safety to keep out of danger. Some of the advice was common sense, like not walking in the dark alone at night. However, there was also practical advice like always backing a car into a garage or parking space so that you can thoroughly assess the surroundings before exiting.

“You learn a lot. Not just from us, but from people who have experienced bad situations and what they did to overcome it,” Uranga said.

Rosborough and Uranga actually encouraged challenging an assailant by acting confrontational and using obscenities. Theater arts sophomore Piper Johnson said she learned from SHARP that you can “polite yourself” into a bad situation.

“I try to be very ladylike and polite,” Johnson said. “But in that situation, I don’t need to worry about presenting myself in a good light.”

The second part of the course was more interactive. We first partnered up and learned to control aggressors from a seated position. Then, we learned how to block punches, throw an attacker off balance, pull out of a strong grip and administer blows to pressure points.

We learned about six key moves in this part, which Rosborough said are designed to be easy to refer back to if the need arises.

“[The idea is] keeping your options limited so that you don’t have so many things to think about that you can’t come up with something when you need to,” Rosborough said.

With a couple of hours to go, Rosborough and Uranga set out helmets, kneepads, elbow pads and gloves. Uranga put on a full-body padded suit with a helmet that would protect him from the blows he was about to receive. He was simulating an attacker, and participants individually defended against him.

I was the first one up.

I took my place in front of Uranga and we began sparring. He went for my arm and I pulled out of his grip. He grabbed me by the helmet and I struggled to get back to a standing position. He tried “bear-hugging” me from behind, grabbing my entire body, and I was able to break away after a struggle. When he wasn’t grabbing me, I was punching, kicking, screaming.

Meanwhile, the women in the room yelled encouragement and suggestions.

By the end of the minute-long match, I was sweating, out of breath and shaking with adrenaline, with red marks on my arms and a stubbed toe courtesy of the kick I administered to his shin just before time was up. It may seem like Uranga was being rough with me, but I believe it would be unfair of him not to be – it made the situation feel more authentic.

Broadcast journalism junior Nicole Harberson said she was surprised at how real it felt to fight Uranga off.

“You do lose some of your knowledge because your adrenaline gets to your head,” Harberson said. “It’s good to have these simple moves to revert back to.”

SHARP gives participants self-confidence to deal with stressful situations and helps people learn about themselves, Uranga said.

“I don’t know if you knew this about yourself,” Uranga said, after our fight. “But did you know you could punch that hard?”

I didn’t. But now I don’t feel quite so scared walking home alone at night. I have a better idea of how I would react to being attacked. I know a few tactics that will keep me safe and I have the confidence to perform them.

The next training sessions are March 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and April 19 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Anyone can sign up for no cost by e-mailing Cpl. John DeLong at the UNT Police Department at

Feature photo: Pre-hospitality management junior Gabrielle Orozco (right) fights with UNT Police Department Corporal Pete Urange (left) to practice self-defense skills she just learned in the sexual harassment and rape prevention self-defense course on Saturday afternoon in Chestnut Hall. Photo by Zixian Chen / Senior Staff Photographer 

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