The University of Richmond Police Department is hosting a free women's self-defense class to teach interested students, faculty and staff about being aware of one’s surroundings and how to use physical techniques to fend off attackers.

The self-defense class, which has about 30 people signed up so far, has taught approximately over 1,000 people since 2008, Officer Paul Witten, one of the class's instructors, said.

The class is very basic, Police Lt. Al Johnson, another instructor for the course, said. It covers physical techniques, including stances, strikes, kicks and pressure points, as well as techniques to escape from wrist grabs, bear hugs and chokeholds, he explained.

“The techniques we show you are very simple,” Johnson said. “My niece is 7 years old and I’ve showed her some of the moves and she can do it.”

Witten agreed, remarking, “For all body types, strengths, abilities, if you do the technique properly, it should work for you.”

Witten and Johnson also offered general advice that could help even those who cannot attend the class: be aware of your surroundings, keep your hands free, try to avoid walking alone at night and follow your instincts.

Elizabeth Schultz, WC‘21, signed up for the course after hearing about it during orientation, in order to brush up on skills she learned from a similar class in high school.

“The world’s pretty violent and I should be able to defend myself if I need to,” she said.

Smaragda Spyrou, WC‘19, a public safety auxiliary, has taken the class before and enjoyed how light-hearted and informative it was.

“It was stuff I could do to a guy that was 6 feet 5 inches tall and 200 pounds, like it didn’t require strength or mass necessarily,” she said.

Spyrou also noted that participants would be practicing the techniques with peers, in case they were concerned about practicing directly with officers.

The program, which Witten described as the one of most popular ones held by URPD, was first established in the early 2000s when women on campus expressed a desire to learn more about women’s self defense.

Johnson and Witten revamped the program after it fizzled out a few years ago, Johnson said, and researched best practices to emulate other successful self-defense programs.

The class can also be held upon request by students or organizations. The sorority Pi Beta Phi is currently planning on participating in a session.

The Women's Basic Self-Defense class will be held next Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 6 p.m. in the Web. Those interested in the class can register ahead of time here.

Contact news writer Kay Dervishi at