In order to take action against campus sexual assault, Ron Arons ’78 had a “crazy idea.” He flew his own Krav Maga instructor nearly 3000 miles from Berkley to Princeton to hold three workshops teaching students to defend themselves and others against would-be aggressors.
On Sunday, Feb. 10, Campus Recreation’s Fitness “Free Week” concluded with those three workshops.
Krav Maga is a form of Israeli martial arts, developed as a self-defense system for the Israeli army.
Arons, a genealogist and public speaker, wanted the training to be a preventative measure against campus sexual assault.
On Oct. 29, a day after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Arons had an idea: bring Krav Maga to Princeton.
Arons wrote in an email, “I had an epiphany: why not fly my Krav Maga instructor from Berkeley to Princeton to conduct a self-defense training class?” Originally, Arons had intended for the training to be held for students at the Center for Jewish Life.
But with his concerns about campus sexual assault and his frustrations with its permeations, Arons realized that his idea could go further.
“It hit me that, with the Me Too movement, I should open it up to all women on campus,” Arons said. “Then I thought: why not open it up to the entire campus community?”
Arons has worried that Princeton does not do enough to combat sexual assault and rape on campus.
“While Princeton has been a relatively safe campus for decades, sexual assault still occurs whether the attacker is a total stranger or well-known by the victim,” Arons explained. “Two fellow classmates were sexually assaulted when I was a student, but I learned of it only many years later.”
Arons saw sponsoring the Krav Maga workshops as an alternative to donating to annual giving. “I love Princeton and that is why I decided to give back in my small way to make the University environment a safer place,” Arons said.
Arons was introduced to Krav Maga while he was living in Paris and had concerns about anti-Semitic sentiment. When he returned to his home in Northern California, he continued learning Krav Maga under instructor Gliksman.
In the last three years, Krav Maga has become an important aspect of Arons’s life.
“Krav Maga is a system of conditioning for self-defense, but it is also a system about attitude and mentality,” Arons said. “It is both mental and physical, and it builds confidence in me and has given me the confidence to address situations.”
After speaking with representatives from both the Center for Jewish Life and the SHARE office, Arons reached out to Campus Recreation. When he proposed the idea to recreational programming coordinator Kara Nitti, Nitti told Arons that the idea would fit perfectly with Campus Recreation’s “Free Week” at the start of the spring semester.
When Arons broached the idea of traveling to Princeton to his Krav Maga instructor, Gliksman, he was energized by the idea.
“Krav Maga is like a mission to me,” Gliksman said. “I want the whole world to know about it.”
Gliksman has taught Krav Maga in the California area for the last 12 years. He described Krav Maga as a “mental thing, a way of life from when you wake up in the morning to when you go to bed.”
Gliksman hopes to shed a different light on Krav Maga and to counter all notions that it is a violent and dangerous practice.
“Our goal is to look for solutions, not conflict,” said Gliksman. “There are no problems, only situations. For every situation, there is a solution.”
Twenty-five students attended the first “women’s only” workshop. Twenty students showed up for the second class, including CJL Associate Director Marni Blitz, Rabbi Julie Roth, and local alumnus Carl Mayer ’81. The final class was focused on “philosophy, mindset, and awareness,” and was attended by five people.
Having no idea how many people would attend, Arons was “pleased with the turnout.”
Gliksman thought that the workshop was a success and commented that all participants “came ready” and that “no one backed off.”
Participant Tianyi Wang ’19, who attended the female-only workshop, enjoyed her experiences and was surprised by the numerous psychological aspects of Krav Maga, especially its emphasis on awareness of surroundings and focus on confidence.
“I felt that this was very helpful, in addition to the moves and reflexes that were being taught,” Wang said. “Not only physically asserting yourself, but feeling like you were worthy of asserting yourself.”