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Davis, California

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Empowering students and staff


UC Davis Police Department, Safety Services hold monthly self-defense training sessions

Learning skills that range from verbally deflecting unwarranted comments to striking key areas during hand-to-hand combat are crucial parts to protecting oneself from danger on a college campus. In addition to self-defense and martial arts courses offered by the UC Davis Department of Physical Education, there is also a monthly training program that provides students with the opportunity to learn self-defense skills.

According to the UC Davis Police Department website, the campus has experienced an increase in robbery and sexual assault cases since 2014. Although the overall crime rate of UC Davis is low in comparison to that of California in general, the rate of violent crimes at UC Davis increased significantly from 2013 to 2014.

To help students and staff combat possible threats, the UC Davis Police Department and UC Davis Safety Services hold a monthly self-defense training session that emphasizes safety and situational awareness, as well as instructs students on how to protect themselves in realistic dangerous situations. Taught by Rocci Twitchell, the training program aims to help individuals build self-confidence and feel secure wherever they are.

“We want everyone to be safe,” Twitchell said. “We want everyone to at least have some kind of skill to […] have the confidence to stand [their] ground. I tell everyone to come to my self-defense classes to be empowered.”

Twitchell, who also works for the fire prevention unit on campus, has taught the class since the program began in 2013. His experiences from being bullied at school when he was younger motivated him to take martial arts lessons. Because of this Twitchell has trained in  various schools of self-defense including Muay Thai and boxing.

“I get to train with some really fantastic people,” Twitchell said. “One of my instructors […] was Larry Hartsell; he used to train with Bruce Lee in his Bel-Air home. My other instructor is guru Dan Inosanto […] the guy who fights Bruce Lee with the red sticks in The Game of Death.”

During the first part of the session, Twitchell gives a powerpoint presentation on situational awareness, explaining possible dangerous circumstances and how to quickly identify them.

“If you’re conscious about things going on around you, [a session] tends to [give] you a high sense of what’s happening instead of […] being totally paranoid about everything,” said Rhejinald Walker, a UC Davis Facilities Management employee who trains with Twitchell. “You can identify trouble before it actually happens.”

The presentation is then followed by active physical training and drills. The course mainly teaches effective hand, elbow and knee techniques for self-defense and escape.

“We kind of base [the training] on ‘run, hide, fight,’” Twitchell said. “If you can run and get away, perfect. If you can hide and get away, even better. But if you’re cornered and something happens, you have to fight.”

The class also instructs students on how to utilize common school supplies for self-defense when under attack.

“You’d be able to know how to use everyday tools or utensils […] to be able to defend yourself,” Walker said. “Even stuff as simple as your cellphone or books.”

The class emphasizes self-awareness education, making the training session a unique experience.

“The biggest takeaway from [Rocci’s] class was how much of any preparation is mental,” said David Slipher, director of marketing and communications for the College of Biological Sciences, in an e-mail interview. “It’s not so much physical. It’s your awareness and your understanding of the situation that you’re in. Mental preparation is the foundation that is going to get you out of a potentially dangerous situation.”

In addition to self-defense training, Twitchell also leads monthly classes on fire extinguisher training and active shooter survival. All of these classes are free on campus, and students and staff can register for them by visiting the UC Davis Police Department website and emailing the program coordinator.

“I think that [the classes] leave a positive impact,” said Raul Castaneda, a UC Davis Facilities Management employee. “You can get physically fit, you can get mentally strong and […] it also will help you defend against somebody that may attack you.”

Written by: Jennie Chang — features@theaggie.org


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