Self-defense is putting yourself first

Self-defense doesn’t have to be strictly physical and can be as simple as removing yourself from a situation or conversation you aren’t comfortable in.

two girls practice flipping someone in a self-defense class
Reporter Theresa Bourke, left, is flipped by reporter Sara Guymon during a self-defense class at Team Ascension on Nov. 11, 2022.
Contributed / Barbara Haney

The biggest takeaway from the self-defense classes I’ve been taking with my coworker Theresa Bourke is there is nothing wrong with putting your feelings first sometimes.

This was a conversation that stemmed from owner of Team Ascension Barbara Haney. Haney was discussing a situation where one of her children was at home when a maintenance man engaged in inappropriate conversation with her. The situation made the minor feel very uncomfortable and she did not know how to excuse herself.

We often worry about hurting the other person‘s feelings in situations like this. I know I have stayed in uncomfortable situations out of the fear of making the other person feel bad — all of us probably have.

Haney wanted everyone to know it’s OK to get yourself out of a situation you aren’t comfortable in and posed the question, “‘You don’t want them to feel bad, but why should you?’”

This resonated with me and made me think about why I don’t value my emotions as much as I value someone else’s emotions.


In addition to the conversation we had toward the end of the session, we also practiced punches and falling. I only have notable experience in one of those categories.

As my coworkers know, I can be pretty clumsy. Slipping on ice or tripping over my own feet is something that happens more than I would care to admit.

Self-defense journey
Brainerd martial arts studio Team Ascension is offering a five-week self-defense course to those of all ages.
Self-defense classes have not only taught me defensive techniques. They've also boosted by self-confidence.
Brainerd martial arts studio Team Ascension is offering a five-week self-defense course to those of all ages.

Brent Haney was sure to educate us on how to fall backwards properly. It’s important to tuck your head into your chin so you don’t smack the back of your head on the ground. It’s also important to extend your arms out to the sides and hit the palms of your hands against the ground.

With winter approaching, this is something that will come in handy for anyone.

We also worked on throwing punches, which made me feel pretty embarrassed. I think of myself as pretty coordinated, but something about jabbing with my nondominant hand made me feel so awkward.

As we continued to practice, it felt less and less uncomfortable but, hopefully, I will never have to use what I learned.

Our next session is our last one and I’m honestly a little disappointed. I’ve learned a lot of important techniques for self-defense and I’ve had fun while participating.

Follow our journey as Theresa and I write one last weekly column about our self-defense experience.


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SARA GUYMON, Brainerd Dispatch, staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5851 or

Sara Guymon is a Post Bulletin business reporter. Guymon grew up in New Ulm, Minnesota. She graduated from New Ulm Public High School and went on to attend college at the University of Minnesota Duluth. While at UMD, Guymon pursued a major in journalism and a double minor in photography and international studies. Prior to coming to the Post Bulletin, she worked as a staff writer for the Brainerd Dispatch. There she covered the City of Baxter and business.
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