By Tina Kalenits
Self-defense clinics are being offered for Youngstown State University students and faculty to learn the proper form and techniques of self-defense in an emergency situation.
Ryan Bonacci, chief of police for Mercy Health Youngstown and martial arts instructor, taught the interactive clinic and said having knowledge in an active threat situation is one of the most important self-defense techniques.
“Having an understanding of the situation, having an understanding of what you’re going to do in that situation, is the very first step into, you know, surviving any type of situation that might come after you or any type of attack,” he said.
Bonacci said if a perpetrator has a gun or weapon and they threaten a person, it’s safer to give in than fight back.
“In the situation with the gun, we hope that they’re just after your things, and we teach people just give up your purse, give up your wallet,” he said. “The cost of replacing that is a lot less than the cost of replacing you.”
According to Bonacci, the skills being taught are very simple to learn.
“In order to become truly good at it and have very good awareness and protection of yourself … muscle memory is key for everything,” he said.
Ryan McNicholas, associate director of the Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center, said the center is hoping to educate students through these safety programs.
“We’re trying to educate some students so they’re more knowledgeable when they are out in the community or on campus,” he said.
Through self-defense clinics like the one at YSU, students and faculty can learn skills in active threat situations.
“They could take at least one or two things away from [the self-defense clinics] to help educate them when they’re on campus or in the community, just to really benefit them as well as obviously gaining some physical activity by doing some self-defense attack,” McNicholas said.
YSU Police Chief Shawn Varso said for someone to use self-defense, a threat would have to be initiated toward them.
“You can’t just arbitrarily think that this person is threatening you and then act upon that,” he said.
Varso said a number of items can be used for self-defense, including keys, a heavy backpack and pepper spray, but in dangerous situations, he advises students to call the police.
“There’s a lot of times that people sit and question themselves on whether they should call the police. Is this a police matter, not a police matter?” Varso said. “If you’re in that much of a quandary, call us.”
Regardless of what the crime is, an individual should always be on the lookout for their own safety, according to Varso.
“Even if you’re in an area where you think is completely safe, you should always be aware of your safety net,” he said.
Varso said the YSU Police Department is active 24/7 and is trained to look out for dimly lit areas.
“In any area when you have a lower light source, you know, whether it be nighttime, whether it be on a city street that, you know, the street lights are out, there’s a little bit more of a concern,” Varso said.
Kathryn Sewall, a junior accounting major, said it’s important to know self-defense skills when leaving campus at night.
“I don’t think there’s a real threat on campus, but off campus I know the areas can be a little rocky,” she said. “It’s good to have these skills.”
Sewall said she hopes she never needs to use her skills, but she feels safe knowing she’s prepared.
The last two clinics of the semester will be held March 19 and April 23 in the aerobics room in the Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center.