Eastern Michigan University'’s Women and Gender Studies Department held a seminar hosted by martial arts instructor, Maryam Aziz, for students and staff members to learn about basic self-defense, Tuesday, Feb. 28. She focused on the important basics and techniques of self-defense against an oncoming aggressor.
Maryam Aziz is a second degree black belt in Goju Ryu Karatedo, specializing in Anti-Hate and Anti-Islamophobia Self Defense. She is the chief self-defense instructor for the International Muslim Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment, along with being a Ph.D. candidate at University of Michigan.
Aziz revealed that in her spare time from graduate school, she travels the country teaching self-defense.
Before the workout, Aziz asked the attendees what they were taught about power, strength and their relationship to their bodies. She said instead of doing what they were taught about those concepts, she wanted them to rethink those by having all 14 attendees, including herself, in a meditation.
She wanted them to let those ideas float out of the mind, and the stress and anxiety of [their] weak being at the university float out of the mind. That way, they could “absorb as much as possible and we can think differently as much as possible,” she explained.
Aziz mentioned that most people don’t teach you how to get out of the way of basic attacks that come out of hate crimes. She emphasized the importance of this because of the significant amount of hate crimes that have happened since November.
“Most people that attack are not necessarily stronger than you, but think they have the upper hand on you or think that they can surprise you. And often times you’re more likely to have someone invade your physical space or your personal space, or try to yell at you or do something like a shove, rather than take you and kidnap you to a second location,” said Aziz.
Throughout the seminar, Aziz put emphasis on how to defend yourself specifically against someone who is trying to shove you. She said that hand placement and hip movement, along with distance from the attacker, are important factors to be aware about.
According to the hate crime statistics of 2015 on fbi.gov, “of the 4,482 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against persons, intimidation accounted for 41.3 percent of those offenses, while 37.8 percent involved simple assault and 19.7 percent involved aggravated assault.”
“You have to assume that the situation will escalate, so you have to be ready for anything. That shove can lead into punches, or they can be coming from a mile away and try to put hands in your face,” Aziz explained.
A majority of the attendees said that they have never taken a self-defense class. Towards the end of the seminar, Aziz asked what they learned, when one of them said that they learned different techniques on how to move out the way rather than just “freeze up and let the attacker come towards them.”
Since she didn’t go into detail on more specific hate crime self-defense like the grabbing of the hijab, Aziz held her lecture, “Towards a Radical and Inclusive 21st Century Martial Arts Pedagogy,” that would go into further detail on the importance of anti-hate crime defense and the use of martial arts to empower the marginalized, using third world and feminist martial artistry.