SPRINGFIELD — For many freshman students, going to college means moving to an unfamiliar city, far from home, for the first time.
That can be a bit unnerving.
In response to a campus survey, Evangel University — which draws students from all over the country — offered self-defense training for the first time this year as part of its orientation program.
"It's a proactive thing to offer," said Andrew Goodall, an Evangel residence hall director.
Female students were encouraged to attend, but male students could come, too.
Among the new students who attended one of the two self-defense sessions Tuesday was Gabriella Reyes, 18, of Meriden, Conn.
"It's really good to know self-defense. It's helpful, especially when you are new to a city and far away from home," said Reyes, adding that her parents urged her to take the class.
Shimar Clements, 17, of Marietta, Ga., took the chance to learn some moves.
"It's good to know how to protect yourself in a new place," Clements said.
Jon Stem, owner and head instructor of local martial arts school Jujiden, taught the classes Tuesday.
"Escape is self-defense," Stem told the students.
When escape is not an option, one needs to subdue his or her attacker to get out of danger, he said.
With help from Shayne Weekly, one of his senior students, Stem demonstrated basic techniques in different scenarios — when you get grabbed by an attacker, when you fall to the ground and when you are on your stomach.
Students gasped at the sheer power of some punches and pulls as well as the cleverness of some simple but strategic maneuvers.
They giggled as they tumbled around, delivering fake punches and pretending to twist arms, pull ears and choke throats.
Vicki Rische, 20, of Nixa, likes throwing elbow punches.
"It's easy to do, and they are powerful," she said.
Said Hannah Cowan, 20, of Kansas City: "I feel more confident. I know what I can do to get out of a dangerous environment."