Self-Defense 101

Brad LeDonne and Dr. Robert Mathers demonstrating personal distance. (Photo: Sadie Eichner)

By Melissa Gemballa

The Martial Arts & Self Defense Club, with the support of Blue Pride, presented a short session on the basics of self defense during common hour on Oct. 27 on the stage of Café 780.

Dr. Robert Mathers, Associate Professor of Chemistry and club advisor, spoke first.

“It’s probably not a good idea to get self defense from popular culture,” Mathers cautioned. In other words, the 32 rules of survival as outlined in the movie ZombieLand may not be the best rules by which to live.

Mathers emphasized that the mental and verbal aspects of self defense play a much more important role than the physical aspect.

“The best way to stay safe is to be aware of and avoid unsafe situations,” he advised.  Zombieland Rule #3: Beware of bathrooms.

Brad LeDonne, a club member, spoke next. He reiterated the necessity of avoiding conflict situations whenever possible by simply “walking the other way.” Zombieland Rule #17: Don’t be a hero.

He warned that if a situation escalates, however, you must keep in mind that the other person means to hurt you and you must attack without hesitation.  Zombieland Rule #2: Double tap.

LeDonne listed the eyes, throat and groin as being the most vulnerable parts of the body, although stating that the groin is somewhat overrated. He instead pointed to the ears as a substitute target, noting that striking someone with open hands to the ears will disorient him and allow you time to escape. Alternatively, Zombieland Rule #6: Cast-iron skillet.

Derek Shick, club member, and Brendan Gaffney, club president, continued the presentation by demonstrating some simple yet effective techniques for fending off an attacker who is trying to grab you by the arm, choke you, or accost you from behind. The key is to learn and to practice the techniques before you actually need to use them in a self defense situation. Zombieland Rule #18: Limber up.

Students Josh Barry and Cristina Umbel took advantage of the opportunity to receive a hands-on lesson from Gaffney before another club member, Ray Geminetti, took the stage. With the assistance of Gaffney, he demonstrated more advanced self defense techniques that he had acquired through martial arts training. Zombieland Rule #8: Get a kickass partner.

Although there were no violent crimes committed on the New Kensington campus during 2009 according to the latest safety newsletter released by the University, it never hurts to be prepared.

After all, we were convinced there were no zombies in Pacific Playland, right?

The Martial Arts & Self Defense Club meets every Friday during common hour in the wrestling room off the campus gymnasium. For more information, contact Brendan Gaffney at


One response to “Self-Defense 101

  1. All very good points, but how do regular people protect themselves? How do you feel about non-lethal weapons? ie. Tasers, stun guns & pepper sprays for those that are physically or mentally unable to protect themselves with self defense fighting techniques?
    And when I say mentally unable, it takes a state of mind to be prepared to defend yourself physically.

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