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By Alaena Fletcher Ever feel nervous walking alone at night? Want to know the basics to defend yourself if your safety is threatened? The Western Kokondo Self Defense club can help with that. The club’s goal is to teach members how to defend themselves. Kokondo is a dynamic self-defense martial art that combines techniques from karate and jujitsu, which is a Japanese martial art involving close combat. The club’s president and black-belt leader, Western alumna Em Burlison has been practicing the art for 15 years. “The goal is to teach them how to defend themselves from realistic attacks, like if the attacker is bigger or stronger than you,” Burlison said. “Today we had a focus on collar grabs, but we learn all kinds of defenses from things like chokes, punches and bear hugs.” Practicing different moves and sparring together is the main focus of the club. Burlison circles the room correcting and demonstrating for the members. Junior Kristen Deeds said they figured self-defense would be a useful skill to have and has been coming back ever since.

Em Burlison, far left, puts the club through a series of movements in the Viking Union room 464 on Thursday, May 10, 2018. (Photo by Alaena Fletcher)
  “In the beginning you learn a bunch of stuff because you’re new. Once you have the foundations, [Burlison] sort of sprinkles in more stuff as we go on, when necessary,” Deeds said. According to Burlison, the club doesn’t do a lot of work with body pads because that teaches going for non-vital organs. However, with self-defense, you want the sensitive and practical areas like the eyes and groin. Burlison said most members struggle with remembering the names of moves, being willing to hit their partner and a motivation to come to meetings regularly. According to Burlison, people tend to not realize what a commitment learning self-defense can be. They often expect to become skilled without putting in the long-term effort required. A group of four to five people is the usual average per week, Burlison said. Every week’s activity depends on what Burlison thinks they need to work on, a skill that she says comes only with experience. “I took her P.E. self-defense class through Western because I’m a freshman and I wanted to know how to defend myself just in case,” club member Ashley Driscoll said. The club meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 4-5 p.m. in the Viking Union room 464.  


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