UMPD Teach Self-Defense Classes to Female Students and Faculty

Photo credit: Natalia Rovira

The University of Miami Police Department employs 1,863 security cameras and a 24/7 patrol service in order to minimize danger on campus, but the organization also encourages people to take personal safety into their own hands.

Sofia Portillo Palm Strike-2.jpg
Photo credit: Natalia Rovira

On Wednesday, Sept. 26, the department held a free self-defense class to further the protection of female students, faculty and staff.

Two Self-Defense Awareness and Familiarization Exchange certified instructors taught the victim-prevention course: UMPD employees Bryan Rodriguez and Latoya James. They said the main focus of the class was empowering women to build up the mental and physical skills necessary to defend themselves in dangerous situations.

“I’m doing this because I want you to walk with a purpose,” said Rodriguez, who is a security systems technician for UMPD. “I want to make you all aware of your true potential.”

Rodriguez and James said they volunteered to teach the class because they thoroughly believe in the importance of providing women with potentially life-saving information.

According to the 2018-2019 UM Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, in 2017 there were 12 cases of rape, 15 of fondling, 17 of dating violence and 16 of stalking on the Coral Gables campus.

Although the data does not indicate the gender of the victims, Rodriguez and James said women must always be ready to protect themselves against an attacker.

“The class really opened my eyes to how assault can happen to anyone, said Junior Sofia Portillo, a health science major on the pre-medical track. “I need to be more prepared.”

The instructors said the first step to self-defense is prevention. They emphasized the importance of being able to detect unsafe situations and knowing the signs of a threatening individual.

Participants learned crucial survival tips, such as using eye contact to appear more confident, pre-planning for an attack in suspicious situations and constantly staying alert in new surroundings.

Although these techniques reduce the risk of an altercation, Rodriguez said they would not be sufficient in the event of an attack. So, participants spent a significant amount of time learning physical defense techniques.

Rodriguez and James demonstrated a stable defensive stance and taught students how to deliver effective palm and crotch strikes.

Junior Lauren Flaumenhaft said she thought the class was very helpful.

“I think any girl on campus who wants to feel safer or at least more informed about practicing self-defense should absolutely take part in the class,” said Flaumenhaft, a creative advertising major.

Portillo said she feels more confident in her ability to protect herself.

“I now feel like I can handle myself better if something were to happen and I’m happy I took the class to gain that insight,” she said.

The UMPD also offers a free self-defense course for men and a more in-depth self-defense class for women called RAD, Rape Aggression Defense. More details can be found on UMPD’s website at

This semester, SAFE will be offering additional classes from 5:30-7:30 PM in Eaton Residential College on the following dates: Oct. 10, Oct. 24, Nov. 7 and Nov. 28.