A group of New Yorkers leery about a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes on Sunday learned the blocks and blows that could fend off a racist attacker and other self-defense strategies, including keeping a safe distance from someone acting erratically.
“Go! Go! Go! Keep them away!” yelled Nissin Levy, a sensei at Tiger Schulmann’s Martial Arts, while teaching 35 students at an NYPD-sponsored self-defense class in Brooklyn. “Block, elbow, knee, knee!”
“When I say go, it should be a trigger in your head that says, ‘This person is coming to attack me, the open areas are right there, I gotta execute my techniques,’” Levy told students at the Bay Ridge, Brooklyn martial arts studio. “I want you to picture that person walking at you.”
NYPD Inspector Tommy Ng, the commanding officer of the Asian Hate Crime Force assigned to patrol Queens, organized the workshop. He has held a similar event in Bayside, Queens and plans more events in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
As of May 9, the city has seen 81 anti-Asian hate crimes, compared with 17 in the same time period 2020.
“When you see someone who is acting erratically or out of the ordinary, screaming, yelling, then you should maintain a safe distance,” Ng said. “Be mindful of your surrounding — especially those who are not paying attention, looking down on your phones when walking down the street — that’s also part of crime prevention tips that I want to put out there that helps to protect yourself.”
The students were given bright, yellow whistles to use if they feel they’re in trouble.
Qilei Cai, 22, a New York University senior new to martial arts, said he felt more prepared for trouble after taking the class.
“Within an hour they taught us a few basic skills that could come in handy in case a situation arises,” he said. “I hope these skills will never come in handy, because God forbid something should ever happen to me. But if something does happen, I feel like I can make use of the skills that are taught to me today.”
Another student, Helen Li, 50, said she plans to practice what she’s learned at home. “And then when I go out, I don’t have to be scared for what’s been going on,” she said.
Of the 23 people arrested for assaulting and harassing Asian people since January, at least 11 have a history of mental illness.
Officer Carlos Anton, 36, an 11-year NYPD veteran, said he has trained and taught at the martial arts studio for the past decade.
“We don’t teach anyone to fight and attack,” he said. “You don’t go out looking for a fight but rather knowing how to defend yourself.”