Combative sport absent from PE curriculum

Senior Kayla Ocean practices a front kick. Impact Bay Area offers classes that help people build physical and emotional tactics to defend themselves.

NUSD Physical Education (PE) curriculum offers the option to teach students combat sports, yet teachers have decided not to include this unit due to a lack of knowledge on the subject. Many members of the community feel basic self defense training would be an important addition to the physical education program, so that students can feel more prepared and confident if they

are ever put into an unsafe situation.

Combat sports were not prioritized in PE teacher Ben Philpot’s college classes, which he said is likely why many PE teachers shy away from teaching them and stick to what they are more comfortable with, like racket sports or basketball. He is open to the idea of having someone with more experience come in and teach his students. 

“I have never taken a self defense class myself,” Philpot said. “But I could see how someone would feel more secure or safe when they are out and about by taking one.”

Feeling more secure and confident through self defense training is an ongoing theme with both students and staff. Junior Saoirse Whelan said she has some experience with boxing and is glad that she is not completely in the dark about how to defend herself. 

“My dad has taught me and my brother how to box for both protection and fun,” Whelan said. “Because of this I feel more prepared going out in the world.”

The United States has seen an overall rise in crime due to socioeconomic pressures brought on by the pandemic, BBC News reports. The chances of being a victim of a violent crime in California is 1 in 227, and in San Francisco, 1 in 145 people. The city is a 45 minute drive away from San Marin and a place many students go during the weekends. 

Whether in the city or out past dark, senior Victoria Suveda feels especially vulnerable as a woman because she says when people expect someone to be defenseless, they take advantage of it. 

“Self defense is important for everyone,” Suveda said. “Especially for women, because they are more vulnerable to being involved in a dangerous situation. People take advantage of the fact that others do not know how to react, but if we did know how to, then they would back off.” 

Amanda Wagner, former self defense instructor, advocates for the importance of learning self defense because of how it has helped her overcome the fear of being attacked, taken advantage of, and the inability to speak up for herself. Wagner took classes with Impact Bay Area, a company that strives to create safer communities using self defense training to prevent violence. 

“I left the class with the ability to not only physically defend myself but also set effective verbal and physical boundaries,” Wagner said. “It is hard to put into words the way this class has changed my life.”

Inspired by her own positive experiences with Impact Bay Area, Wagner volunteered during the weekends and eventually became an instructor, some of whom she instructed were high school students. 

“Teaching high schoolers was one of the most amazing experiences I had as an instructor,” Wagner said. “I wish, if nothing else, that every young person could go out into the world with these crucial skills. High school is an especially important time for students to learn to physically, verbally, and emotionally protect themselves. ”

Since the PE program is given the option to teach self defense, and it is highly advocated for in the San Marin community, the question of why it has not yet been implemented is raised. Weight Training teacher Greg Irish says this may not only be because of the lack of funding to hire a certified instructor. 

“Young adults without the proper mindset may not be able to distinguish the difference between when something becomes defensive and then switches to offense,” Irish said. 

Irish believes self defense is critical, especially with the danger’s in today’s world, but notes that high schoolers have varying maturity levels. By learning these tactics for protection, students could potentially use what they have learned to fight in a situation where self defense is not necessary. However, many argue the benefits would outweigh the potential risks. 

“You never know what is going to happen,” previous School Resource Officer (SRO) Nick Wagner said. If [students] have the skills to protect themselves, the likelihood of something catastrophic happening goes down exponentially. Unfortunately, it’s because of the world we live in today that we have to think of these things.”

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