Following the murders of Michelle Go and Christina Yuna Lee this year, Muay Thai fighter Jess Ng from Queens felt obliged to equip and empower the Asian community to look out for each other and protect themselves from more violence.
In her self-defense classes, Jess instructs women how to remove themselves from dangerous situations with as little physical contact as possible, such as backing from an attacker while they yell “stop!” over and over.
Jess does not generally teach anyone who attends her self-defense workshops how to punch unless they specifically ask her to do so. This is due to the fact that improper striking techniques can result in injuries to the hand.
“It’s really about recognizing the power of your body and your voice,” she said. “The goal is not to engage in hand-to-hand combat,”
As each class progresses, Jess said that she has observed differences in the women — they start the day nervous or feeling down, and walk away more confident and empowered.
Some women were surprised by their own strength and are feeling more in control of their safety, as well as protecting their children.
Jess has also noticed how community members have pulled together. Several local Asian businesses have been kind enough to provide baked pastries and bubble tea for certain sessions.
In addition to this, she has observed how a handful of Muay Thai fighters from different parts of the city have come together to form a collective in order to create and instruct self-defense programs.
Story by WAMU’s Debbie Truong, listen here.