Last week, as part of the Leavers Programme offered to our Year 13 pupils at the Senior School, a large group took part in the Women’s Self Defence classes, delivered by external providers, Saturn Protective Solutions. They occupied the Fowler Pavillion for two days last week. The classes were physical and are designed specifically to enable women to defend themselves against an assailant in the event of an attempted assault or robbery. We spoke to Saturn Protective Solutions Director, Simon Clarke, about the importance of teaching women self-defence and the alarming rise in violence against women across the country.
Standing six feet tall, and sporting two black eyes, Simon Clarke certainly looks the part in his role as a self-defence instructor. “I got these yesterday,” he says, pointing to the bruises under his eyes. A couple of the girls caught me. It’s an occupational hazard,” he chuckles. In the centre of the Fowler Pavilion, a group of our Sixth Form girls are surrounding a single pupil, each poised to attack. They are each holding crash pads and wait for their number to be called by one of the Saturn Instructors before they rush in to engage their assailant. Every single one of the pupils in the room has a beaming smile on their face, even when their crash pad is being punched and kicked with considerable force by another pupil.
“We’ve been doing this for a few years now and I have to say, I’ve been really impressed by the way this group of girls have engaged with the classes and really picked up the things we’ve taught them. It’s the sad truth that violence against women is on the rise, so it’s really important that girls learn how to defend themselves. The classes we teach aren’t about fighting. We teach women how to inflict pain upon their attacker so that they buy themselves time to make an escape. It’s about developing the techniques, and most importantly, the confidence, to do that.”
It’s beyond all doubt that Simon knows what he is talking about. He and his business partner were formerly Police Officers, working with the Special Operations unit with the Essex Police Force, before they retired and decided that they needed to do more to help empower women to gain control in threatening situations.
He adds: “Obviously we’ve seen some truly terrible things in our work which motivated us to try to give women and girls the power to defend themselves. One of the first things we teach each group is fighting the urge to flinch and curl up. It’s our natural reaction when we feel threatened. Giving people, women in particular, that confidence to stand tall and engage when they are threatened is the first challenge.”
Simon adds: “It’s a fact that women aged between 16-24 are statistically at greatest risk of assault. These girls have enjoyed a generally safe environment while they have been here at Framlingham. It’s when people leave that safe and familiar environment and they are exposed to new situations when we see problems occur. Our plans, as an organisation, are to develop this programme further and take it to schools and other groups across the country so that as many women and girls as possible can have access to this training.”
Of course boys too have an obligation to be aware of self-defence techniques, and while the course was offered to both our Sixth Form girls and our Sixth Form boys, there was insufficient take up from boys to make it possible this time.
Due to the popularity of the course, there are plans to make self-defence classes a regular feature of a Framlingham College experience for all our Sixth Form pupils.