Throwing Punches: Defense class prepares students for dangerous situations

WKU graduate student Kimberly Horan practices wrist-over-wrist punches with Mark Cline, massage therapist at the Preston Center. Horan and Cline participated in the Self Defense of the Wing Chun System class.

Katherine Sproles

Being prepared for any situation is what an eight-week self-defense class being offered in the Preston Center is all about.

“Being proactive” is how Lindsay Thomayer, fitness coordinator at Preston, sees the class.

“If you are being proactive, you are teaching yourself the skills to get yourself out of a situation instead of reactive where the attacker got the best of you because you didn’t know how to handle your situation,” Thomayer said.

Class instructor Quentin Hollis is an associate professor of liberal arts and science at WKU. Hollis has trained for over five years in the Wing Chun system, the form of Chinese martial arts taught in the class.

“It’s the only martial arts system according to history that was created by a woman,” Hollis said. “So it’s based on the smaller person or the weaker person being able to defend themselves against a much larger opponent.”

No prior fitness level is required, Hollis said.

“It does help if you are sort of in shape, but I would say if you’re not it’s still something that you can come in and go at your own pace, apply some of the techniques and ideas and eventually with the way in which we work out, you will get in shape,” Hollis said.

The main principles of the Wing Chun system teach the person being threatened important advice to follow when they feel their life is in danger.

“For one, you don’t retreat from an engagement if at that time you have to fight and defend yourself,” Hollis said.

“The main thing we talk about in this class is the best defense is to not fight at all — to talk down a person or maybe make noise so that the person doesn’t want to attack you. Also paying attention when you go to your car to look and see who is behind you or who is in the reflection in your window.”

Some of the basic moves involve engaging an aggressor immediately, attacking their center and attacking their weaker areas, Hollis said.

Hollis compared the philosophy of the system to the animal kingdom.

“Lions like to attack things that are passive and won’t attack back,” he said. “As soon as something attacks it, it will leave or won’t attack it.”

Hollis said the Wing Chun system is a violent form of martial arts to fend off an opponent. 

“When we have to fight for our lives only, not for property, not for things, not for show, then you have to have a system that is very ballistic and is very unfortunately violent to match the violence that you are about to receive,” Hollis said.

Hollis and Thomayer agreed that self-defense is a crucial skill to know.

“Most of your attacks are against women. Most of the domestic violence cases are against the woman,” Hollis said. “Most of your date rape cases that are on college campuses are attacks that come from people that that woman knew and felt like they couldn’t defend themselves.

“I think that it’s perfect to have it on a college campus where you might have someone attacking you.”

Thomayer echoed his comments.

“You never know what kind of situations you can walk into,” Thomayer said. “Any male or female should take something like this. It’s a valuable skill for them to have.”

While registration for this semester is closed, according to Hollis, another eight week course will be offered next semester. The fee is $40 for students, $45 for faculty and staff and $50 for community members.