Recently, Hoboken's Monroe Center for the Arts launched the first studio in New Jersey dedicated solely to women's self-defense. "Girls Fight Back" classes will incorporate a variety of fighting techniques to best equip women for any scenario.
The program is designed for woman at all levels of physical fitness. No experience is required.
Empowering women The program offers an array of classes ranging from a free monthly lecture and demonstration that gives women an overview of basic self-defense, to a comprehensive 12-hour course.
"We want women to be prepared as opposed to being scared," said Weed, the program's founder and a Hoboken resident. "The classes build confidence and awareness, and show women that they are their own best protector," The classes will be given by Weed and fellow Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) Instructor Kevin Lockwood, an assistant dean at Seton Hall University who has taught self-defense classes to students for years.
Weed's training includes Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kray Maga [Israeli military defense art], kickboxing and knife defense, to name a few.
In addition to her RAD certification, Weed has graduated from five self-defense schools, where she's learned confined area survival tactics, fear management, and threat assessment techniques.
Weed's mission is matched by her commitment to providing women with a safe, clean and nonjudgmental environment in which to train.
"I went out of my way to create a brand that's super friendly and encouraging," Weed said. "I think most women are intimidated by defending themselves. This [environment] opens it up. If women are comfortable, they're more likely to absorb what they learn and be able to use it."
On the GFB website, Weed describes the facility as something between an urban gym and an Ikea.
The tragedy that triggered On June 12, 2001, Weed's friend Shannon McNamara was violently murdered by an intruder in her apartment in Charleston, Ill. The Eastern Illinois University Undergraduate was studying to be a teacher before her life was stolen from her days before celebrating her 22nd birthday.
McNamara's murderer was apprehended and convicted of first degree murder in February of 2003 and currently sits on Illinois Death Row awaiting execution. Police were able to track down the killer from evidence left behind due to McNamara's decision to fight back on the night of her murder.
Distraught over the loss of her friend and inspired by the courage she displayed, Weed set out to learn how to defend herself if ever she was attacked.
Within two months of her friend's murder, Weed left her career in television production and enrolled in the SIGARMS Academy in New Hampshire, a 128-acre facility that provides fire-arms and self-defense training for private citizens.
In January of 2002, Weed founded the Girls Fight Back program in honor of her friend's memory after receiving the McNamara Family's blessing.
In the last five years, Weed has traveled across America speaking to over 100,000 women about violence-prevention, self-protection and women empowerment. The current program at the Monroe Center for the Arts is the first actual self-defense course Weed has taught.
In addition to the program, Weed has recently released a book entitled Girls Fight Back: The College Girl's Guide to Protecting Herself. The book is currently available at her studio and will be sold nationally as of Sept. 5.
Why Hoboken? "I didn't start [the studio here] because Hoboken was a dangerous place," she said last week. "But people travel, criminals travel. One cannot say 'Oh I live in a safe place. I don't need to know how to defend myself.'
Complacency can be dangerous. Many women in Hoboken don't have their guard up, so there's even more of a threat."
Aggravated assault is down 23.3% since May of 2005, according to Hoboken Police Chief Carmen La Bruno. In regard to the new self-defense program La Bruno said, "We're supportive of any initiative that will help Hoboken residents protect themselves."
In the last year, Hoboken has had 23 cases of aggravated assault, but police were not able to say how many involved women.
"Women can't depend on their boyfriends and husbands to always be there to defend them," said Weed. "We're leading very independent lives but we still have these archaic ideas about men protecting us. We have to be able to protect ourselves."
According to the RAINN [Rape Abuse & Incest National Network], one in every six women in America has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape, 80 percent of whom were under the age of 30 when the incident occurred.
For more information call (201) 222-3900 or visit www.girlsfightback.com.
Michael Mullins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org