Self-Defense Class Packs a Punch

El Vaquero Editor in Chief

A woman is grabbed from the back. She struggles, trying to shake off her attacker, but he is much bigger and stronger than she is. Suddenly she changes her grip on his hand, shifts her weight, and within seconds he is on the floor and she is kicking him in the head. Then it’s the next woman’s turn.

This is the Self Defense for Women class — some of those enrolled are actual survivors of attacks — that has been offered by GCC for five semesters. Armando Sanchez, the instructor, is known to many on campus for his work in the Information and Technology Services Department, where he mans the help desk.

Sanchez, who has studied martial arts for more than 18 years, has trained in numerous types of martial arts disciplines. He holds a black belt in scorpion karate do, a brown third stripe in kakto jitsu (the belt preceding black), and a blue belt in jujitsu. Explaining how his easy-going personality at the help desk is so different than his demeanor in class, he says, “Most people that have seen me fight or that have trained with me have seen the other side of me. A hard and aggressive person. When I train, I stay very serious and focused.”

The class starts with discussion. Sanchez has announced that his students may take the new co-ed Self Defense class in the spring semester if they have Self Defense for women as a prerequisite. Surprisingly, some of them are considering it.

“Yeah, I think I’ll check it out,” says a very petite Asian girl. It seems hard to picture her voluntarily locked in combat with a large male opponent, yet that perception is incorrect. She can handle it.

Then the class moves on to simulated assaults. Mark Ragonig, also of ITS, has volunteered to help with training. One after the next, he attempts to choke the students, and one by one they drop him. The atmosphere in the dance studio is very supportive as students cheer for their colleagues and Armando coaches from the sidelines
“It’s all professional,” laughs Ragonig, getting to his feet after hitting the mat after what seems to be the 20th time. Self defense isn’t just about getting to beat up ITS personnel.

It’s a one-unit physical education class that meets once a week.

Asked what reasons a student might have for taking this class, Sanchez said “They [the students] learn more than just self defense,” Sanchez said. “They learn confidence. We do exercises so they get a good workout, they learn how to see the dangers that surround them, but the best reason is at the end of class they at least know that anything can happen and they are better prepared for it.”