Girl power! Gym teaches women self-defense in light of recent attacks

Kick it!: Ana D’Amato helped out during a women’s self-defense class at Fight 4 Fitness in Marine Park on Aug. 13.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

These women fight like girls — and they’ll kick your butt doing it.

A group of tough-as-brass ladies sweated it out during a self-defense class at Fight 4 Fitness in Marine Park on Aug. 13 to learn confidence, strength, and self-protection in the wake of horrific attacks against women — including the murder of 30-year-old Karina Vetrano while she jogged in a Queens park on Aug. 2. The owner of the fitness center had heard enough about the recent tragedies and decided to host his studio’s first women-only self-defense class to help his neighbors feel safer while out walking or jogging alone, he said.

“It’s been a trend these past few weeks, women getting raped and murdered,” said owner Orlando Cruz. “I’ve been watching just like everybody else. It got to a point that I thought, ‘I need to do something.’ Everybody else told me that they just feel scared.”

About 10 ambitious women of all shapes and sizes learned tricks for fending off an attacker, such as how to use a man’s weight against him and how to hit certain pressure points to get away, said crew member Nikki Morgan. Even the most petite can summon up a lot of raw power — and learning that inner strength made students feel even more formidable, she said.

“We had a lot of the women between 115 pounds to 145 pounds — one was able to easily hip throw a 280-pound man. It was so empowering they can do that,” said Morgan. “We get the idea that you can’t protect yourself against someone who is much bigger than you. It’s quite the contrary when you come in and learn what your body is capable of.”

The class also included a moving session where women could open up about times they were the victims of violence and how they overcame, organizers said.

Each attendee walked away from the 2.5-hour session with more confidence than they walked in with — a success that has gym owners planning to hold the classes every weekend, said Morgan.

“At the end there was an air of confidence that I think the women left with, I think it also assists some of the healing aspects that we tend to leave on the table when we are talking about some of these things,” she said. “Now every single week no matter who you are, come in and learn some techniques to protect yourself.”

Self-defense class at Fight 4 Fitness [3607 Avenue S between E. 36th and E. 37th streets in Marine Park,, (718) 336–0844]. Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 pm. $10.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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