Anti-Hate-Crime Self-Defense Classes

In the wake of the election, the United States saw a sudden rise in incidents of hate crimes1. And Ann Arbor was not exempt from this trend. The University of Michigan's Department of Public Safety and Security warned the campus of two hate crime incidents near campus.23 Additionally, the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research (ISR) informed its employees about fliers containing hate speech4. Fortunately, Ann Arbor is also the home of Maryam Aziz, who has been teaching self-defense classes specifically aimed at defending oneself against hate crimes.

These self defense classes are co-sponsored by the Ann Arbor Alliance for Black Lives (a3bl), which Aziz has been a part of since the fall of 2014; and the Women's Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE), where Aziz has worked since March as their Chief Self Defense Instructor.

Five classes were taught last weekend, to 53 students5. More will be taught this weekend, on Saturday and Sunday. "Given the demand," said Aziz, "we're probably going to continue to have them for the next couple of months."

She says that the class sizes are being kept small, for more intimate instruction, and that more students will be accomodated by having more classes, rather than larger class sizes. "We'll be collaborating with other martial arts instructors, to accomodate more people."

These classes are open to all people, but priority is given to people who would visibly be perceived to be targets of hate crimes.

"I think martial arts are beautiful," says Aziz. "You build up technique and confidence by repetition, so we want people to come back. But we want people to have takeaways that they can use, remember, and practice in the community."