Ways to stay safe

Kelsey Meszaros

After being named the 11th safest campus in the nation by the National Council for Home Safety and Security, Kent State is still promoting self-defense education opportunities and encouraging students, faculty and staff to take measures to increase individual safety.

Kent State features self-defense programs and classes on campus, which teach participants defense in the chance of an attack. There are also multiple off-campus opportunities for those interested in learning self-defense.

On Campus

One self-defense opportunity is the Kent State Golden Gloves, a club with a purpose to “have a collection of students who share the interest of learning and sharing forms of mixed martial arts, combative exercise and self-defense and the different benefits of being educated and experienced in these categories,” according to the club’s website.

Founded in Spring 2015 by Emily Niemi, a senior computer science major, the club is open to all students of any athletic level who want to practice self-defense techniques or blow off steam, all free of charge.

“A lot of people are worried that they’ve never done any type of martial arts before,” Niemi said. “We have people from square one who have never gone to the gym before to people who have participated in fights. I think that my officers and I do a great job of developing between the two and work with all different skill levels.”

The club meets Mondays and Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at the blue track near the Ice Arena and Saturdays at 2 p.m. in a combat studio in the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

“If nothing else, (self-defense) is a good and handy skill to know even if you don’t think you’re ever going to need it,” Niemi said. “Think of it as a hobby, and you have those skills in your back pocket.”

To personalize the lessons for each attendee, Niemi asks participants tell her what they hope to get out of the club. Niemi encourages every student to try a Golden Gloves session.

“We’re fortunate to have such a safe campus, but the fact of the matter is that we’re not always on campus,” Niemi said. “Members of the Kent community and other people come into our town. I’d rather know how to defend myself and never have to use it than be stuck in a situation that could be potentially dangerous and not know what to do.”

The Rec also offers a group self-defense class on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. A semester of classes costs $55.

The class, led by Deborah White, a karate and self-defense instructor, focuses mostly on methods of self-defense. 

“What I like to focus on is getting rid of the fear that people have when they’re approached or grabbed,” White said. “In order to do that, we have to go through techniques continually and do the same exercises to build up muscle memory so that if you’re approached, or the situation arises, you don’t have to think about what you’re doing, and you just do it.”

Students in the self-defense class go over different grabs and maneuvers to get out of a range of threatening situations.

“I think it’s vital to every student,” White said. “With everything going on in the world and the attacks at college campuses, everybody thinks that it’s not going to happen to them, but it does.”

White points out learning some aspect of self-defense carries benefits aside from the ability to protect oneself.

“There are physical and mental benefits,” White said. “You learn confidence, to have a good attitude about yourself, to be physically fit. People can be more agile. They can learn how to step and learn balance. If you have balance in your physical body, you can balance your mental ability.”

White urges students to think about their worth and how much their lives mean to others. By learning ways to stay safe, students help improve their chances of surviving an attack.

“I took the self-defense class, and now I’m taking jiu-jitsu,” said Cailin Maxwell, a sophomore exploratory major. “I think it should be required for freshmen to take a self-defense class just to understand how to defend yourself on campus.”

Kent State also offers personal safety classes for one college credit. Classes include self-defense, karate, cardio kickboxing and jiu-jitsu.

Off Campus

Gyms and dojos are another option for students to learn self-defense.

South Prospect Gym in Ravenna offers classes like karate, jiu-jitsu, self-defense and kickboxing.

“What we have is an ongoing program,” said Benjamin Pettit, the owner of South Prospect Gym. “The longer you participate, the more classes you attend and the more you practice, the better off you are.”

Pettit, along with police officers who train their stations to defend themselves in dangerous situations, teach the self-defense classes.

“A lot of negative things are happening all around you in the world,” Pettit said. “There’s always danger. There’s always potential threats, and it’s important to have a skill set available to you if you ever need to defend yourself against anyone.”

Kent State’s Campus Safety

Kent State features many resources on campus to aid in a variety of situations. There are about 50 blue light posts scattered around campus, which are used to contact police. This is a valuable resource for anyone to use no matter their self-defense experience, because they give campus police a chance to further investigate the situation.

Students are allowed to carry pepper spray, but not mace, on campus. Tricia Knoles, a community resource officer for the Kent State Police Department, recommends students carry a stream pepper spray, not a foam, so they can stay at a safe distance from the attacker and avoid the attacker throwing the foam back.

“I think it is important as you’re out and about that you remain aware of your surroundings,” Knoles said. “Nowadays, you see a lot of people walking around with their heads down looking at their cellphones. … and that, I believe, is one of the more important things because you can’t see if something bad is heading your way.”

Kelsey Meszaros is the student affairs reporter. Contact her at [email protected].

Abbey Jones is a general assignment reporter and contributed to this story. Contact her at [email protected].