When Fresno State’s Spotlight Events hosted its Safety & Self-Defense Workshop, teaching students how to stay safe on and off campus, a majority of the 36 attendees were women.
Both the organizers of the event, held on Sept. 7, and the guest instructors who taught the seminar noticed this, and although the event was to ensure the safety of all students, they did prioritize the dangers women face.
Bianca Palma, the student event coordinator for Spotlight Events who created the workshop, began by telling attendees that certain topics could be triggering to students. Topics included sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking.
“I feel like women can feel more vulnerable sometimes because either it’s something that’s happened to them in the past or something that they’re afraid will happen,” Palma said, explaining why more women attended the event.
Several other attendees of the event shared Palma’s sentiment.
Family members Crystal and Karent Hernandez used to commute to Fresno State, but now that they live together in the city, they wanted to utilize the workshop to prepare themselves and feel safer.
“We’re two girls in a city that we haven’t been in. We live next door to Bulldog Village and we kind of want to see the self-defense [workshop] and know how to defend ourselves,” said Crystal, a senior at Fresno State, majoring in plant science.
Her relative, Karent, is in her third year at Fresno State, majoring in business marketing. She said she wanted to learn self-defense techniques when she’s in the streets by herself.
“Sometimes I come home late, and I get scared. It’s just me being aware of my surroundings,” Karent said.
Dan Manriques, a Fresno State alumnus and a police officer for the Clovis Unified School District, and William “Billy” Woodson, a blackbelt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu who also teaches MMA. taught about situational awareness, a major part of the workshop.
The two emphasized that environmental awareness and being aware of people around you, whether it’s on or off campus, makes a big difference in safety.
They also cleared the room of furniture to allow students to practice self-defense techniques with a partner. Woodson demonstrated some moves, with Manriques as his partner, on how to escape certain situations like when being choked, pinned down or grabbed from behind.
Woodson said a majority of the self-defense classes he teaches outside of campus also have mostly women attending. The reason more men don’t attend is “because of pride,” he said.
”They think they don’t need it. But most of those males will never end up in a fight anyway or being attacked in the way that a female would be,” Woodson said. “[Women] know they need it in life and their pride, actually, it’s the opposite, brings them here because they know it’s a necessary thing.”
Manriques graduated from Fresno State with a degree in history and served in the Marines for 24 years. He said he was grateful for what the university has done for him, and that is the reason he and Woodson volunteered their time for the “Safety & Self-Defense Workshop.”
“We’re just giving back to the community. Fresno State has given me a lot and I can’t deny it. I’ve met a lot of good people here, and it’s just the concept of giving back to Fresno State” Manriques said.
He also agreed about men’s pride limiting them.
“I think [Woodson] is right that sometimes we got to let go of our ego. Because there’s a lot of things that can be learned in this realm. You may know it all, but even some of the best fighters always learn,” Manriques said.
Palma said she was really happy to provide a free self-defense course to Fresno State students, and to see a great turnout at the event.
Palma is a third year Fresno State student, majoring in communications and minoring in English and Mass Communications and Journalism.
She herself participated in the workshop and said it was fun, as many attendees enjoyed performing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu moves.
“That’s what I really enjoy about these events is the student experience. And it’s just fun to sometimes be a part of that experience as well,” Palma said.
Fresno State students can learn more about Spotlight Events at its website, or find out about future events through its social media.