Women empowering themselves, literally, in Chapin

Event nets $1,500 for Chapin Girls Lacrosse

It’s a self-defense class designed especially for women.

Inside a gym at Chapin High School about 100 girls and women spent Saturday morning learning skills to help protect themselves.

Women warm up for self-defense training. (Photos by Sandy Coots.)

Instructors from SASS (Surviving Assault Standing Strong) Defense taught the class. The event was also a fundraiser for the Chapin Girls Lacrosse team.

“I’m going to teach you how to take your strengths and use them against an attacker’s weaknesses and it’s super empowering,” Shannon Henry, CEO of SASS Defense, told participants.

“This is not your grandma’s self-defense course. I’m going to warn you; what we’re going to learn today is deadly, it’s pretty brutal. This is meant to be used when you can’t run and you can’t get help. This is your worst-case scenario class,” she said.

The SASS Defense program is based on Krav Maga.

“Krav Maga is basically dirty street fighting. The Israelis developed it. They train their women and men separately because mens’ strength is in their chest, their upper body. Womens’ is in a totally different place, it’s in our hips,” explained Henry.

The two-hour class was literally hands-on. Participants were shown different attack situations and how to maneuver out of them. Then they worked with a partner and practiced each of the moves while instructors from SASS Defense watched and guided those who needed help getting their form correct. Another key component of the SASS Defense model is the word “no.” It’s a simple word, Henry said, yet powerful when delivered properly.

“It’s not a sweet southern ‘no.’ This is a full on I’m not playing around, I’m not joking ‘no’ from your core,” said Henry. “If you do it right, you’re going to feel it in your core.”

The class brought many mothers and daughters together with one common goal.

“It’s important to be with my daughters to learn how to defend ourselves and if ever a situation arose that we would feel we were competent and able to defend ourselves,” said Clare McKay of Chapin.

Mothers trained with daughters to learn to protect themselves.

McKay took the class with her twin 14-year old daughters.

“I feel like I’ll be more defensive and when I go off to college people aren’t going to see a defenseless girl, they’ll see a strong, tough woman,” said Mallery McKay.

Maddie McKay agreed, “When my mom asked if I wanted to do it, I thought it was a pretty cool idea.”

The art of self-defense can be a foreign concept for women.

“I don’t know anything about defending myself other than to scream and kick as hard as I can,” said 25-year old Rose Cisneros.

“I’d like to have some more information and have experienced it before so that I could have muscle memory take over and possibly escape a harmful situation,” she said.

Cisneros took the class with her mother.

“I am a business owner and I work in the office by myself at night and so I thought it would be a good thing to know,” Carolyn Cisneros said.

According to organizers, the event raised about $1,500 for the Chapin Girls Lacrosse team.

Henry also said Dr. Ed Carney started SASS Defense in 1997, in South Carolina.