Abigail Green / The Daily Gamecock

'They're in control now': Student pursues passion for teaching self-defense

Da'Cia Campbell teaches female students how to take initiative and defend themselves against attackers. 

The second-year biology and psychology student is a teaching assistant for Self-Defense for Women, a class that helps students learn how to protect themselves in uneasy situations. These situations range from being stalked to defending against rapists, and the course focuses on preparing students for real-life scenarios. The class meets every Friday and is a laid-back and educational experience, Campbell said.

“Once they start the class, no one has a problem going to the class because it's a really fun environment," said Campbell. 

There are no prerequisites to join the class, but students are expected to participate in physical activities. Campbell said she was initially uncertain about learning from Steve Sawyer, an adjunct professor in the physical education department, because she didn't want to practice the positions with a male. But she said she realized Sawyer was able to provide valuable insight concerning how attackers generally think and react to situations.

Sawyer demonstrates real-life scenarios to teach the students how attackers act, which he says is one of the benefits of learning from a male instructor. These scenarios are fast paced and designed to get the students comfortable with the moves.

Sawyer brings his background in martial arts to the course and incorporates military-style techniques for takedowns and escapes. Sawyer explained that if the victim can wrap around the attacker, the control can then shift from the attacker to the victim. 

“A person who wants to control me loses control, and that’s not part of the plan," Sawyer said. "That’s when the defender starts flipping the tables and taking over their own personal initiative, and now they’re in control.”

Last semester, Sawyer watched Campbell become more capable in the class. He saw her teaching her partner and others around her, showing him that she was taking personal initiative. She was also answering questions and coaching her classmates, which instantly grabbed his attention.

“I’m watching an individual who’s learning technique, performing it rather well, and at the same time trying to connect with the people around her to make sure that they’re at the same level that she is,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer's ultimate goal is to teach Campbell and his other TAs enough to have them replace him. He wants to pass the torch to the next generation, and when he saw Campbell show interest and passion about self-defense, he knew she was fit for the job. 

“That’s a flag for me, right there," Sawyer said. "That’s a person who wants to teach. That’s a person who wants to coach." 

Nakia Devine, a fourth-year biology student, was interested in the class because she often walks alone and wanted to be prepared for real-life situations. She teaches her roommate the moves and techniques she learns to help prepare her as well. 

Devine said Campbell's ability to demonstrate proper technique and explain why students are incorrectly using a technique is what makes her a great instructor. 

“I think it’s also being able to know the technique well enough to tell someone that they’re doing it wrong, but tell them why they’re doing it wrong," Devine said.

Campbell recommends that any female student, especially those who live off-campus, should consider the class. Her favorite part of the class is learning the practical moves that she will use in real-life situations, not just inside the classroom.

“I know how to handle situations to show I’m in control, as well as knowing that I can protect myself now,”  Campbell said.

Campbell said she wants students to be prepared when it comes to dangerous situations. She also advises others to go into any self-defense course with confidence and willingness to learn because many people find themselves in threatening situations, even if they don't often consider it a possibility. 

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