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Oxford Women Encouraged by Community to Enroll in Self-Defense Courses

Oxford women are encouraged by the community to take a local self-defense class.

The Stanford University student Brock Turner charged with just six months in county jail for rape sparked outrage across college campuses. The victim’s powerful letter to her attacker went viral, and it presented a sense of urgency in the responsibility of universities to address the problem of assault.

The Violence Prevention Office at the University of Mississippi determines that women ages 16 to 24 are four times more likely to experience assault. According to a study by the National Institute of Justice, a women’s self-defense class can reduce a woman’s risk of rape by 80 percent.

Universities aren’t the only institutes taking action, though. In addition to programs associated with the University through the Violence Prevention Office, Ole Miss students are given a variety of opportunities through community outreach. Both local businesses and law enforcement are offering self-defense classes to ensure that Oxford women are equipped to protect themselves in the event of an assault.

Women can learn self-defense from Master Ra.
Women can learn self-defense from Master Ra at Team Ra Martial Arts.

At Team Ra Martial Arts, women can take a self-defense class at no charge. Owner Sung Ra, also known as “Master Ra,” explains that the class is strictly for the benefit of the community, as opposed to profit.

“I have a little girl, and I want her to be safe,” Ra said. “Sometimes I’ll see groups of Ole Miss girls in town who are too drunk to take care of themselves, and I worry about their safety.”

The class cannot be found on the regular schedule. Rather, groups of women can request to take a class either at the studio, which is located on University Avenue or at their location. Ra says that self-defense classes at sorority houses are common.

Master Ra teaches a self-defense course to Alpha Delta Pi ladies. (Photo from Facebook.com / TEAM RA Martial Arts)
Master Ra teaches a self-defense course to Alpha Delta Pi ladies. (Photo from Facebook.com / TEAM RA Martial Arts)

“I used to get frustrated that 99 percent of the girls seemed to not be listening,” Ra said. “Then I would get a call from one or two of them saying that they used the techniques we taught them to save their life. If 99 percent aren’t listening, that’s ok, because it’s important to me to save the lives of that one percent.”

The class focuses on prevention and awareness, abductions, chokeholds and rape. Ra says that often, girls will come into the class and take it seriously, letting him know that they are present as a result of a prior assault.

“Most guys look for girls who are vulnerable who won’t fight back,” Ra said. “This is why we also teach the importance of being aware of your surroundings and communicating with the people around you.”

Master Ra teaches these courses for free to help these women learn to defend themselves.
Master Ra teaches these courses for free to help these women learn to defend themselves.

Team Ra Martial Arts has been in business for 12 years after Ra left a teaching position at the University of Mississippi to open his own business to serve the community.

For more information about Team Ra Martial Arts, visit their website at www.letsgokick.com.

Oxford Police Department also offers a women’s self-defense class.

Similar to Team Ra Martial Arts, the class is open to the public and taught by request. Police officer Tony Carleton explains that he and the other officers involved with the program are considering offering the class on a regular basis, perhaps one night a week, in the training building at the police department on Molly Barr Road.

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“The program is called The Equalizer, and it focuses on first teaching women about their surroundings and how to carry themselves to be aware of danger,” Carleton said. “We teach women about being taken, date rape, and how to escape common physical grabs, like bear hugs. It’s a 16-hour program geared toward not only what we think you should know, but what you want to know. If you want to learn about weapons and train to use a weapon, we teach that, as well.”

The Equalizer was started by Officer Johnny Smith in 2005. Smith’s lengthy list of credentials, in addition to martial arts and law enforcement, includes his assistance to the fight choreographer in the film “Batman and Robin” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and George Clooney.

The program was developed upon FBI statistics to find out where and how women have been attacked, to ensure that the instruction is top-notch. Officer Carleton explains that planning is an integral part of the program, in efforts not to startle anyone.

“Sometimes we have women in the program who have been attacked before,” Carleton said. “We are very careful with how we approach them, communicating with them well so that we don’t scare them or upset them during demonstrations.”

Officer Carleton, who has been with OPD since November after 20 years in law enforcement in Tupelo and Columbus, advises women of Oxford to take measures to protect themselves and register for the class.

He said, “Keep your head up and know your surroundings.”

More information about The Equalizer can be found at www.gosst.com.


Anna Larimore is a HottyToddy.com intern. She can be reached at annamlarimore@gmail.com.

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