Guthrie teaches self-defense intro

Montgomery Gym hosts seminar for women


Evelyn Zavala

Montgomery Gym, as seen from Main St. Dedicated in 1912, the building —Allegheny’s dance studio — is the only one named after a professor.

Allegheny Recreation sponsored a free women’s self-defense class to promote safety on campus.  Professor of Dance and Movement Studies John Guthrie taught the women’s self defense class on Sunday, Oct. 3 at Montgomery Gymnasium.

The class was meant to introduce more students to self-defense and have them continue to pursue learning about it.

“This doesn’t fix anything,” Guthrie said. “Self-defense is not a seminar, it’s not an event, it’s a process. I’m thrilled that they came, that shows the first step, but that doesn’t fix anything.”

Guthrie emphasized the importance of self-defense and practicing it in everyday life along with the role martial arts plays in discipline and protection. He specifically mentioned that self-defense cannot be learned in just one event because people will not be able to remember a lot of the techniques and will not be able to use them when they need to.

“Everyone thinks that everything is going to happen to me, everybody is invincible, everybody thinks that they are safe,” Guthrie said. “And if not they think that their parents, security and the police are gonna come riding in and save them. By the time anybody arrives to help, it’s too late. It helps you in everything else that you do since it teaches you self discipline, self control and self respect.”

The emphasis on a women’s self defense class is to give them the opportunity to experience self-defense and be more prepared in the event that they need to protect themselves. Guthrie pointed out that a lot of women have not grown up practicing self-defense because they have not grown up hitting each other the way a lot of male identifying people do.

“You might find young ladies that have never been hit,” Guthrie said. “Allegheny just released a report for the last three years of the different offenses on campus and I think there was a disproportionate number of those that affected the female population.”

After explaining the purpose of the seminar, Guthrie had everyone partner up and demonstrated different techniques. The students would then practice the moves on each other. The techniques were centered around being able to escape a grasp and shocking the opponent for enough time to make an escape. Guthrie commented that some self-defense moves such as poking an attacker’s eyes or putting fingers in their mouths are moves he would never want to recommend. Sara Pillittieri, ’23, explained why she was interested in the class and her experience with learning new self-defense techniques.

“I thought it’d be really helpful to learn different ways in managing self-defense,” Pillittieri said. “I definitely liked doing the practices and him really showing us how to do everything. It’s just gonna be a good thing to have it in the back of my mind in case I ever need them.”

Savannah Willis, ’23, shared her experience with walking on campus at night.

“I always get nervous walking alone at night on campus when it’s dark so I wanted to make sure that I could walk around safely,” Willis said. “There are so many dark corners at Allegheny where people can be hiding in. I definitely enjoyed the class and will be looking for things like this. I feel more safe right now to walk around and I really liked how he broke it down step by step and explained why the move is effective and what is being affected.”

Along with physical moves, Guthrie encouraged students to use their voice to alert people if they are being dragged away. He told students about a time when a woman in broad daylight was dragged by the arm by her kidnapper and did not say anything as she was being taken, which resulted in her death.

Guthrie also outlined that students can practice self-defense in ways that keep them from being in situations where they need to escape danger.

“We can practice self-defense everyday by looking at fire exits when we walk into a room,” Guthrie said. “No one is going to protect you so you need to protect yourself. I recommend everyone walk with a buddy when it’s dark out. If you go to a party with a group of friends, you make sure everyone leaves together.”

Guthrie underlined the main message numerous times throughout the class.

“You should always be your first line of defense, don’t rely on others for security,” Guthrie said.