The Cambridge dojo ran a self defence course for charity on 27th November 2012. All profits went to Cambridge Cyrenians, an organization working with the needs of homeless people.
She is on her back, lying on the ground, her legs are parted. He is kneeling over her, holding her down and trying to scratch her face. They are fighting, she is struggling, and he nearly seems to get what he wants. But then she gains the upper hand by pushing him away with her legs and at the same time bringing his arms away. Two minutes later, everyone else in the room is imitating the same simulated attack.
It’s a very chilly Tuesday evening and it’s already dark outside. Here, in a small training room on the Cambridge University Press site, a bunch of 20 people have come together, eager to learn something about self defence. For half of them this is a new experience, the other half are wearing white suits and are a bit more experienced as they are used to doing karate in this room. The difference is that in karate no-one ever simulates the situation of being raped.
Martin Stockley, who is organising and running the self defence class together with his wife Louise, explains: “On the street no-one will attack you with a straight karate punch. Possible situations where self defence might be needed are – and these are a bit stereotyped though quite true – for men, it’s being in a pub full of drunk people and a guy is trying to punch you and for women, it’s often in a sexual context, when someone is trying to grab her.”
Martin demonstrates some possible defence techniques. As you look around the room, it’s strange/funny to see 20 people trying to fight invisible opponents. Hooking themselves out of invisible arms and lunging for invisible eyes, they look as if they’ve gone crazy! Many laughs are resounding in the room.
Though this self defence class is certainly great fun and interesting for the participants, it doesn’t just help them, but also some very different people. The homeless people of Cambridge. The class is actually a charity event and all the money from the participants goes to Cambridge Cyrenians, an organization housing homeless people. Why has this class been specially run for the Cyrenians then?
At first Martin and Louise, who usually just run a karate club teaching a traditional style of karate called Goju Ryu, wanted to do a charity event, not even clear about where the profits should go. “And then we remembered of course, that one of our students works for a charity. What could be more obvious than donating to her organization!” Anika Schiller is an 18 year old girl from Germany, taking a gap year between school and university and working as a full time volunteer for the Cambridge Cyrenians.
“Cyrenians provides accommodation in the form of small shared houses”, she explains later on. “They have different projects. For example I’m working and living in one of the short-stay houses. People are often referred to us from hostels like Jimmy’s Nightshelter and share a house with about eight other residents and two volunteers.” This support, and the freedom to influence their own surroundings, is aimed to encourage the residents to take responsibility for their own lives again. Anika adds: “The work is really interesting. You get to know so many great people. They’re like you and me, but if you live with them you gradually find out the hard things they’ve had to face in their lives.”
The people at the self-defence class hope that they’ll never have to face situations in which they need the skills they are learning at the moment, but nevertheless they listen carefully to what Martin is teaching. He shows three possibilities to get rid of someone holding your arms. “So first, I have to surprise my opponent with…”, Thea, a tall girl in a sporty outfit kicks her partner on the leg, murmuring to herself “and then the arms…” She pulls her arms upwards and is a bit surprised herself when her hands are free again all of a sudden!
After the lesson everyone agrees that it was great fun. “You are not normally that close to people you don’t know and never get the chance to practise situations like that. I have to admit it didn’t feel too good, having someone bending over you and having to struggle to get away. But we have learnt some good tricks”, sums up Clive, for whom the class was something completely new. He works for Cyrenians as well. Thea agrees: “It’s quite scary pretending to be attacked, but it feels good to learn some self defence techniques and support a charity like Cyrenians at the same time.”
Written by Anika Schiller, Cambridge. The event raised £180 for charity.
Chief Instructor OTGKA