Executive Director of Campus Operations HD Stewart to lead campus community in multi-week self-defense course

Led by Executive Director of Campus Operations HD Stewart, Lees-McRae will begin its latest campus safety effort on Tuesday, Sept. 6 with an eight-week self-defense course. This course is open to students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and is free of charge. Sessions will be held once a week on Tuesdays from 3−4 p.m. in the Arthur Student Recreation Complex (SRC).

“For seven weeks we’ll be doing basics, from basic striking and kicking, to countering, and then the last class will be a recognition of the individual’s attendance and what they’ve learned throughout the previous seven weeks,” Stewart, who brings 35 years of martial arts training to this role, said. “Things that they’ll learn in class are conflict resolution, de-escalation; they're going to learn a skill set to help them in everyday life, not just learning to punch and kick and hurt someone.”

Stewart said that self-defense goes beyond physical attacks and while designing this course he put an emphasis on the psychological and behavioral components of valuing and defending your life. This created a class that is principle-driven rather than technique-driven. He said that one of his biggest philosophies behind the course is helping each participant feel empowered.

“De-escalation will be the focus of the class. The biggest thing I want to push is that we're open to everybody in our community. It's not just going to be a brawl where we’re all punching and kicking. It’s going to be a fun class,” Stewart said. “You have to work from where you're at. That’s one of the things I'll always say in class, ‘you work from where you're at in the class.’”

In this course, Stewart hopes to impart lifestyle changes and skills that will encourage participants to protect themselves and ensure their safety, with the physical defense training as a secondary strategy. He will focus on topics such as interpreting body language, basic avoidance techniques, awareness of your surroundings, active listening, and using your voice to defend yourself.

While he said the physical skills participants will learn such as hand striking, kicks, and joint manipulation are important, controlling the situation verbally and emotionally is often much safer for all parties involved.

“Being aware of your surroundings is your first line of defense. Learning those skill sets are important because statistically if someone is assaulted physically or sexually it's usually by someone they know,” Stewart said. “In that context, having the skill set to defuse that, and having the emotional fortitude and training to redirect in a critical situation can be lifesaving.”

Stewart emphasized that this course will do more than provide personal self-defense skills: it will also instill life lessons and training that will make for a more secure campus environment overall, even for those who do not participate in the course.

The sense of community, as well as the understanding and awareness of working in high-stress situations with other people, will allow the participants of this course to go out into their community and make it a safer place for everyone.

There is no cost to participate in the course, and no required sign up. Any students, faculty, staff, or alumni members who are interested in participating are encouraged to attend the first meeting in the SRC on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

By Maya JarrellAugust 31, 2022
Campus Life