How to put your safety first in NYC


Graphic by Gabi Camacho

Oliver Schofield, Contributor

With seven martial arts studios in Lower Manhattan alone, New York City has no shortage of options for learning self-defense. Living in the city, it’s essential for students to know where to start. 

Ryan Evans, the University’s self-defense instructor, offers a jumping-off point for students who want to learn more. On Sept. 28, Evans hosted a self-defense class in the Student Center to teach students how to stay safe in the city. Through this class, he promoted awareness of the reality of crime in NYC and taught students how to respond to threatening situations, making sure to emphasize a key point: running is self-defense.

Evans began the class by debunking the common myth that NYC is dangerous when it is much safer than most people think. According to Neighborhood Scout, a site that gathers data from local law enforcement, NYC is one of the safest cities in the country, with an average of 25.80 crimes reported per 1,000 residents every year. Chicago, by comparison, has 35.19 annual reported crimes per 1,000 residents, while DC has 46.45.

Evans claimed that cities are often safer than the suburbs because crime is less likely to happen in crowded areas. In rural areas, there are often fewer witnesses to scare off potential criminals.

Students still need to be smart, however. Evans emphasized that awareness is your first line of defense. He recommends keeping headphones off while walking in the city or riding the subway; criminals are more likely to target people who are unaware of their surroundings.

Even when students keep an eye out, they still might become the victim of a crime. When one feels threatened, Evans said running is the safest form of self-defense. This may not be intuitive; some students thought it would be safest to stay and fight. “I was expecting him to say … defend your life and just like … go hardcore for [your safety],” a student in the class reflected.

Unfortunately, running is not always an option. If an aggressor grabs their victim or brandishes a weapon, it can be more difficult to escape. In these instances, Evans suggests responding with physical force, but only for as long as necessary. When using force against an aggressor, physical strength is not as important as your technique. 

“The best self-defense doesn’t actually come from… bigger people, it comes from the people that use certain techniques, like moving your body and your hips,” one student said. 

According to Evans, twisting your hips in the direction of your strike helps increase the force behind the blow. To increase the effectiveness of the attack, he also encourages targeting weak spots: striking the throat, groin or shins shuns the aggressor, giving the victim time to get away.

Evans closed the class by once again stressing the importance of awareness. Watching out for potential threats and responding as soon as one arises is the best way to stay safe. One student expressed gratitude for this approach by saying, “It just shows that anybody can be really good at defending themselves.”

Through this Weeks of Welcome (WoW) sponsored class, students learned that self-defense is not about being stronger than your opponent; it’s about reacting quickly and knowing how to put your safety first.