Self-defense instructor teaches girls to protect themselves


Cassetta taught a group of junior and senior girls how to stay aware and protect themselves in her self-defense class.

by Colin Morrow and Dylaney Sabino

Thirty girls from the junior and senior classes attended a self-defense course in the APR room on Monday, Dec. 19. The class was aimed to prepare the girls for college and insure that they would be safe while on their own.

The class was taught by Ms. Jennifer Cassetta, a professional self-defense instructor. This was the second class time that Cassetta spoke with the senior girls. The first came earlier in the year during an assembly in which all girls in the senior class were taught basic skills to defend themselves.

The experience was lauded by many of the participants, who asked Cassetta for a follow-up class.

“[Arlotta] had talked to me and said he wanted her to come back,” Katie Byrd (’17) said. “I was really into it, so I said we should have her come back and do a smaller group activity.”

Jennifer Cassetta is a nutritionist, personal trainer, self-defense instructor, and all-around advocate for the emotional and physical well-being of individuals.

Cassetta began learning martial arts in 2000. A few years later, she decided to begin teaching. She primarily teaches high schools, universities, and women in large corporations. In 2009, she created Stilettos & Self Defense, a program and DVD series for women.

“I chose to teach it because it was such a big part of my life. I studied and taught martial arts almost every day for 10 years,” Cassetta said. “Women in NYC asked me to please teach them self-defense and women started sharing their stories of assault, violence, and being vulnerable with me. I saw the need for it and now do it on a larger scale.”

Cassetta typically teaches high schools, universities, and adults at corporations. However, she believes that all women should know how to fight back in case of an attack.

“Everyone should learn how to protect themselves but especially women because statistics show that one in five will be the victim of sexual violence in the United States. One in three women will be the victim of sexual assault globally,” Cassetta said. “Statistics like that make it a no-brainer that we need to educate and empower women how to stand up for themselves and fight back when they need to.”

When Cassetta first began teaching, she mainly focused on the physical aspect of self-defense. She would teach women how to fight back with different parts of their bodies. However, over time, her teachings have become more focused on awareness and avoiding dangerous situations, instead of simply learning what to do once someone is in trouble.

“Awareness is the first lesson in self-defense. Always being aware of your surroundings can greatly increase your chance of avoiding dangerous situations,” Cassetta said.

Patricia Whyte (’17),  who attended the meeting in which Cassetta first spoke, feels that it’s important for women to be given the tools that they need to defend themselves.

“I am all for female empowerment, and I am all for women being able to defend themselves,” Whyte said. “Whenever a car slows down next to me I’m like ‘I’m getting abducted, this is it.’ When I’m walking home it’s always terrifying, and I’ve been conditioned to think that way.”

Many of the senior girls felt that these lessons have allowed them to feel safer when in difficult situations.

“When I’m walking home alone at night as a woman I feel like these techniques can really help me,” Valerie Stewart (’17) said.

Stewart, who attended the both of the classes, has been confident in her ability to defend herself throughout her life but feels that the class and the new techniques really benefited her.

“I feel like it gave me the techniques to use the strength I’ve acquired through dancing and exercising,” she said.

According to Cassetta, self-defense training for women can be not only helpful, but lifesaving as well.

“I wouldn’t be teaching this if I didn’t think it was important and could save someone’s life,’’ Cassetta said. “To communicate powerfully could possibly keep you safe from danger in the first place.”

Even though Glen Rock has taught self-defense classes to senior girls each year, this is the first year that the class was taught by a professional. Arlotta hopes to continue offering the class to students in future years and hopes to open it up to other grades as well.

“I would love to bring it back and open it up to other grades,” Arlotta said. “This year, we opened it up to the juniors.”

As her class came to a close, Cassetta left an important piece of advice behind for those she taught.

“Awareness. It’s the first lesson,” Cassetta said. “Making sure you’re not buried in your phone when you’re walking down the street and making sure you can hear everything that is going on around you and also believing in your own power.”

To find out more information about Cassetta’s teachings, visit