Get Active: Students set up self-defence class for women
PUBLISHED: 12:00 21 February 2015
What would you do if somebody grabbed you by the hair or tried to touch you inappropriately on a bus?
Thankfully it’s a question I’ve never had to experience answering, but a new self-defence class at Sportsdock aims to equip women with the necessary skills to fight off any attacker.
Shoes off and onto the mat, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the session.
Looking around the room there were women of all ages, sizes and backgrounds – surely we all couldn’t be expected to be able to throw a tall, heavy man to the floor?
As it happened, we weren’t.
Our instructor, Sophie Newnes, demonstrated how to get out of a hold by throwing your arms up and forcing your attacker to release their grip.
I felt like a chicken practicing the moves – that’s not to say I was scared, more that the arm action made be look a bit one – but I seemed to get the hang of it.
As the hour-long session went on, we learnt several practical moves, such as how to force someone’s hand away when they won’t stop touching your leg and how to get up from the floor without being pushed back down.
Each of the moves was accompanied by a suggestion of where it could be useful in a real life situation, something Sophie explained she was keen to include in the class.
With no prior martial arts experience, I found a couple of the moves a bit tricky to get the hang of, but I wasn’t the only one to struggle.
One of the best things about the class was that everyone helped and supported each other, despite being complete strangers.
It meant I could feel relaxed and unafraid to keep trying. If I got it wrong, nobody would judge me for it and I’d be shown how to improve step by step by the instructors.
I came away from the class feeling as though I’d not only had a workout that benefited me physically, but had learned some practical lessons to take away as well.
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A terrifying attack made Sophie Newnes realise that she needed to arm others with the skills they need to defend themselves.
She was just 18 when a taxi driver assaulted her and tried to push her in a bush after she took a taxi home following a night out.
With a bit of quick thinking, she was able to get him to stop the car and then managed to use her black belt in Ju Jitsu to push him on the ground when he tried to chase her on foot.
It was only after the case went to court that she fully came to terms with how it affected her and it reawakened her desire to start free self-defence classes for women.
“The attack strengthened the idea,” Sophie, now 22, said. “I was young and foolish and didn’t expect that sort of thing to happen to me or many other women.
“When I started researching and found out that it affects one in four women, it was quite a shock.”
After moving from the West Midlands to London to start a sports coaching degree at the University of East London, she set up WOMMA foundation (Women of Mixed Martial Arts) with fellow student Gemma Whitfield.
The university provided a room and a time-slot at its indoor sports centre Sportsdock. Last year the duo won a competition which has given them £6,000 towards further developing their business.
“We make it fun. We don’t want it to be like military fitness,” Sophie said. “Just by taking part you are going to be getting fit and losing weight.”
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