Class Empowers Women

Photo by Jason KUROSU Women learn they have techniques in defending themselves against an attacker. The self defense class was part of a series offered by the Glendale Commission on the Status of Women.

In 2001, Sexual Assault Awareness Month was initially observed in the month of April, the purpose of which was to raise awareness of sexual violence and provide resources for prevention. This April, the Glendale Commission on the Status of Women organized a series of self defense classes for women and girls at the Glendale Police Department and Glendale Community College.

The women in attendance, dressed appropriately for the athletic activity expected over the following three hours and were in the hands, sometimes quite literally, of Nelson Nio, an expert in various forms of martial arts. Nio began teaching the classes in 2003 after a friend of his coworker was assaulted.

“I started doing research on the Internet and learned that a woman is sexually assaulted every two and a half minutes. Facts like that made me start volunteering at rape crisis centers and battered women shelters and teaching these classes,” said Nio.

Nio founded SHIELD, the martial arts-based self defense program that coordinates events like the self defense classes in order to aid women, teaching them how to protect themselves from assaults.

Over the class periods, Nio guided them through different techniques for warding off attackers. He showed them how to use the proper tone of voice, how to strike the attacker and how to counter various attacks such as hair grabs, chokeholds and pin downs. Nio wore protective pads during the one-on-one portions of the class as he usually adopted the role of the attacker who would, with the aid of Nio’s teachings, be attacked and subdued effectively.

“Nelson is one of the best in my personal opinion,” said Christine Baboomian, administrative assistant for Management Services for the city of Glendale.

Nio demonstrated how to attack on “Bob,” a dummy that was essentially a head and torso on a swivel. The women laughed nervously at the severity of Nio’s attacks on the three integral points of attack: the eyes, throat and groin.

“Always strike in the center,” stressed Nio, noting that all the vital organs are located down the middle of a person’s body.

But soon the women became very engaged in the class, fiercely attacking the heavily padded Nio. After demonstrating with his assistant, Colleen Snyder, volunteers took their shot at Nio as he put them through an array of holds and other compromising positions and scenarios. Each volunteer attacked Nio mercilessly, much to the delight of the other women present.

Several survivors of sexual assault were present at the class and encouraged to attend.

“You could tell that during the class, especially if they were training with Nelson and possibly pinned down, that it was an emotional experience for them,” Baboomian said of the survivors. “But it was a healing experience as well.”

The second half of the class featured more of the ground work such as pin downs and other attacks sensitive to the survivors and thus, men were not permitted to view this portion of the class.

But the activities of the Commission on the Status of Women extend beyond those two classes.  This Thursday is the international “Take Back the Night” event, a march from the Glendale Police Department to the YWCA intended to unify those against sexual violence. Also, this summer will mark the fourth year of Camp Rosie, a summer camp for girls between the ages of 12 through 19. Along with education on financial security, nutrition and building healthy relationships, the camp will feature the tutelage of Nio and his techniques for fending off would-be attackers.

Both classes were stocked with literature on sexual violence, hotline numbers and upcoming events.

“We want to educate, elevate and empower,” said Paula Devine, chair of the Commission on the Status of Women.

The Commission certainly met

that expectation with its self defense classes, bringing women to their feet and excited to stand up against violence.

For more information on the Commission or Camp Rosie, visit