The Campus Recreation Center on East Campus plays host to the Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes between the club and the Kappa Delta Phi sorority. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Rodriguez.)
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu team is using the form of martial arts they practice to give students on campus the increased ability to defend themselves, starting with the Kappa Delta Phi NAS sorority this semester.
The new club sports team and the sorority have teamed up for jiu-jitsu self-defense classes at the Campus Recreation Center, which they plan to expand to other sororities and the general population of students on campus next semester. Team president Thomas Cheviot said he helped start the classes as initiative to help deter physical violence, especially acquaintance rape, on college campuses by giving potential victims a tool to defend themselves.
According to the United States Department of Justice, 90 percent of college women who are victims of rape or attempted rape know their assailants, and fewer than five percent of rape or attempted rape victims report it to police. Additionally, 40 percent of victims who did not report to police cited fear of their attacker as a detrimental factor.
“No one wants to talk about it,” said Cheviot. “Acquaintance rape is an ugly subject…but it’s a conversation we need to have because it’s important that we protect our women. It’s important that we have things in place where they can empower themselves and learn and be able to protect themselves.”
Co-sponsoring the classes, Kappa Delta Phi NAS members, like senior Ida Uko, said they wanted to learn a form of self-defense that is easy to learn to help increase safety on campus.
“I’m glad that the school is finally taking more notice on sexual violence and campus safety in that aspect,” Uko said, “and I think that self-defense classes are a great way to increase safety because jiu jitsu gets you into more real-life positions that could harm, especially females…”
As a sport, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is all about self-defense, according to graduate student and club member Chris Yee. The sport instead relies on grappling techniques and strategy to help smaller individuals defend themselves against larger aggressors.
“Brazilian jiu-jitsu isn’t about brute strength,” Yee said. “If you have the technique, you can always win.”
In addition to mastering self-defense tactics, the benefits of jiu-jitsu include increased respect, confidence and athleticism, Yee said.
Junior Christine Schaffer said becoming proficient in jiu-jitsu “took a few tries,” but she was able to grasp the concepts shortly thereafter.
Sophomore Abi Martinez plans to transition from a student to an instructor next semester as part of the joint effort between the sorority and the club. Martinez said she wants to dedicate her philanthropy hours as part of her sorority to improving campus safety for all students.
Uko, Martinez and Schaffer said they know students who have been assaulted in one way or another, but for Cheviot, knowing Brazilian jiu-jitsu saved his life altogether when he was attacked in New York.
“When I was living in New York, I was mugged and I was stabbed by multiple people, and I got hurt, but because I knew jiu-jitsu,” said Cheviot, “I was able to defend myself enough that when the opportunity presented itself. I was able to get back to my feet and retreat…
“I know for a fact that if I hadn’t had the training that I have, they would have killed me.”
Though Cheviot is set to graduate in May, he said he would love to continue to volunteer with the self-defense classes to watch them expand.
“We hope that we can expand it to the [rest of] the school, and then maybe we can expand it to the entire country,” Cheviot said. “Maybe UMass Lowell is the school in this initiative, and we’ll be at the center of it. That’s the dream. That’s the goal.”