By Melanie Mandell
Delaney Kenyon ’22 has participated in martial arts for over a decade, and she graciously decided to share what she knows with the Colorado College community in the form of an Adam F. Press Fitness Center class titled “Fight Back Fit.” Through informative, practical defense tactics, Kenyon hopes to educate her peers so they will be better equipped to protect themselves from any and all forms of violence encountered.
Melanie Mandell: Tell me about the class you teach.
Delaney Kenyon: I teach “Fight Back Fit,” which is actually a lot less athletic than it sounds. Basically I teach other students to get out of grabs/armlocks/being held down, how to kick and punch in a way that won’t hurt you, situational awareness tips to stay out of bad situations in the first place, and the general themes of moving your body in space in such a way that allows you to be in control of those bad situations.
MM: What inspired you to start teaching this class?
DK: I’ve been training in martial arts since I was five. Being a second-degree black belt, I have quite a bit of good practice and experience. Part of my training required me to teach the newer students, so I’ve been teaching since I was 12. Even though it’s no longer required for me to teach, it feels immoral to not spread that training and help people. I can’t sit down and study systems of oppression and generational violence while also learning organic chemistry, but physical violence is something I understand and can teach people how to get out of. It’s obvious then that I should spread that knowledge so cycles of oppression perpetuated through physical violence can stop. Also, coming from the Penn State area, sexual assault is an issue very close to me, and while CC is better than [Pennsylvania] State University, there is still quite a bit of gender violence here. If I can prevent even one person being assaulted — sexually or otherwise — all of the hours I’ve put into training and teaching will have been worth it.
When I heard about student-taught classes on my admissions tour I thought it would be a great way to continue teaching. However, when I got here, Campus Safety was already teaching a class, so I didn’t think to challenge it or develop a class of my own until I met people who said they’d be more comfortable learning from a peer. Having what people perceive as the “police authority” on campus teach a self-defense class created a power dynamic that kept these people from attending that class. So, I decided to do something about it. As a student teaching this class we can honestly discuss situations involving alcohol and drugs without the fear of being reported. I can also talk about uncomfortable situations I’ve been in as a student on campus and how I handled it. Also, for female identifying survivors in a class that requires touch and contact to learn, it’s more comfortable to learn from a fellow female identifying student and survivor who actively includes consent practices in contact classes.
MM: How did you become an Adam F. Press fitness instructor?
DK: I became a fitness instructor because I tracked down Chris Starr and presented my planned curriculum. It was actually really easy. I already knew what I wanted to teach because I’ve been teaching it for years, and I had it written out, so all we had to figure out was what to call it and when the class was going to be.
MM: How does teaching a class fit into your daily routine?
DK: I’m already a pretty active person that goes to the gym every day, so it actually kind of really works out for me. I teach my class, I work out, I shower, I go to bed. If nobody shows up, I just get to go to bed earlier or do more homework before I go to bed.
MM: Can you walk us through what planning a class looks like?
DK: I pull a lot of content from my 14 years of training in martial arts, Split Second Self Defense, boxing and street fighting to make a class that generally follows the same outline. First, we stretch. Then I begin class by teaching three different kicks, two blocks, and an attack. This helps people get used to the stances/weight distribution/movement that is necessary for self-defense. A lot of people haven’t had to move their bodies in certain ways before, so this helps ease people into thinking about their bodies in space. Then I normally move onto the special programming of the day. One class might be ground fighting, another knife defense (we don’t use real knives in class, don’t worry), another hand grabs or active shooter training or how to defend against multiple people, etc.
Some classes have a five-minute free form “improv” session where I give people a hold/position they might end up in and the students can figure out their own way to get out of it. I know 30 ways to defend against a punch, but I can’t teach all of those ways to a student in an hour, so instead I use this improv session to teach my students to apply the movements and steps we’ve learned in a specific situation. Then we stretch after and go around and talk about the most interesting thing/how we feel/discuss situations people need to talk about/whatever really. I really have to be adaptable with this class because it really depends on how many people show up and what I brought. You can’t do knife defense if you don’t have fake knives, and I would not recommend practicing ground fighting without mats, or we can’t do multiple attacker if it’s just me and someone else, so it’s really variable.
MM: What do you hope to get out of teaching this fitness class?
DK: Everyone can always learn more. I may seem like an authority because of my experience, but I learn more and more from my students every class. I learned everything I learned in a very specific way — maybe even ways that are less efficient than other ways. Some of the things I was taught are applicable in the dojang but not on the streets/party/friend’s house. Teaching this class has helped me move from my rigid training to a greater understanding of practicality and efficiency.
MM: What is your favorite part about being a fitness instructor? Least favorite part?
DK: I love watching my peers become more confident in their bodies and their abilities. Knowing that you can defend yourself is a powerful feeling. Watching people learn that they are in control of themselves and their bodies and nobody can take that away from them makes me the proudest I’ve been since I stopped teaching in Pennsylvania.
I have to say that my least favorite part is when people don’t show up. I don’t have a big following yet (shout out to the people who have been with me since third block), and the idea of punching and kicking is pretty intimidating for new people so sometimes I’m raring to teach and nobody comes. It’s frustrating mainly because as a student I am experiencing the same stressors and I still work my schedule around to teach. However, also as a student, I totally understand what everyone is going through and sometimes I’m relieved about getting that extra hour to study.