Retired professor empowers women through self-defense


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Retired Women’s and Gender Studies professor Martha Thompson, along with Impact Chicago, offer self-defense classes in the P.E. Complex this spring with hopes to add more in the fall.

Christian Gralak, Online Editor

If you were walking around campus this Spring, you may have noticed flyers for WGS-150-1 Women’s Self Defense – a one-credit hour course designed to teach and empower women in the art of self-defense.

Since 2003, Martha Thompson, a now retired part-time professor who taught for over 30 years, has offered the course at NEIU once or twice a year in hopes of helping women empower themselves through the art of self-defense.

“The focus is, come in with what you’ve got and we’re going to add to your toolbox,” Thompson said.

Thompson began her self-defense training back in 1988 through an organization called Impact Chicago, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. She underwent a rigorous two-year training session in order to become a self-defense teacher and has since had success with her program here at NEIU. This spring was no different in that continuing success as 14 out of 15 slots were filled up for this semester’s class.

When asked whether she’s heard talk of the need for more classes like this, Thompson noted that the amount of calls for Impact Chicago has greatly increased since the Nov. 8 election last year.

“We have had probably five times the number of inquiries for self-defense and bystander support than we had prior to that,” Thompson said. “The political climate has made a huge difference.”

The political climate isn’t the only thing that has brought change to the state of Illinois. The lack of a budget has been a huge factor as well. Thompson said that she would love to offer self-defense programming in the fall, in addition to her spring classes, but with all the people involved who help with the body armor and the cost of insurance—since it’s full-contact training—it just wouldn’t be possible.

“The Physical Education Complex has been very generous as has (the) Women’s and Gender Studies (department) in making sure this course happens once a year,” Thompson said. “Of course we would love to do more programming but, there just isn’t the money available through the state. The budget has been cut so much and so much programming is in jeopardy.  It’s the availability of resources that makes the difference.”

Requirements for joining the self-defense course are simple.

“The requirements we have in terms of fitness level is that people should be able to walk briskly across the (classroom), be able to walk up a set of stairs carrying a bag of groceries (…) be able to get down on the floor and get up again,” Thompson said. “We do have other programs and we will be offering more if people have disabilities that would prevent them from doing that but for this course we have that kind of minimal fitness level.”

If you are unable to meet these general requirements due to a disability or if you happen to be interested in learning self-defense in general, there are several other courses (non-credit) offered by Impact Chicago that can help you learn self-defense techniques.

The courses at Impact Chicago range in price from $0 to $395. The organization offers a sliding payment scale thanks to generous donors who have provided money to the not-for-profit organization ((403(b)). This means that anyone facing financial issues can meet with an Impact Chicago representative to talk about a payment plan that works within their budget. You can also receive a discount of $35 for signing up with a friend and get $20 for each additional friend after that.

For more information visit, email [email protected] or call (312)-971-7119.