Impact Stories

StandStrong Instructors Connect with Kids, Change Lives

Karine Newman was looking for something for her kids to do during the pandemic, but what she discovered ended up changing their lives.

Rachel, 13, and Joshua,11, have been taking StandStrong’s free, online self-defense classes for nearly a year.

“I love the program and the way they present it,” said Karine, who is originally from France and has been living in California for 17 years.

“Before my son hated anything that was related to martial arts,” she said.

“He absolutely fell in love with the instructors. Not just the way they were teaching. It was about caring and the way they connected with the kids. They talked to my kids’ hearts.”

While the program is a customized hybrid of Krav Maga and Jiu-Jitsu, the techniques offer students more than martial arts moves.

“It’s about more than how to defend yourself, they teach how to care about yourself,” she said. “Don’t just hit the person in front of you. Defend yourself. Be careful and watch what is around you.”

Joshua is like a new person now.

“It gives my son self confidence. He very much knows exactly what to do. How to get out of a potentially dangerous situation.”

“He wants to go to their classes. He feels so much more empowered.”

While California tends to be focused on body image and appearance, the class is about feeling confident and empowered.

“My daughter is a teenager, a girly girl,” she said. “They talk to her like a person. Teach her how it’s important to be safe, to get home safely.”

“They’re awesome. They do something very unique.”

Classes online are comfortable and convenient for families. In addition to the main instructor, an assistant instructor provides feedback and encouragement to students throughout the class.

“Being behind the camera doesn’t feel embarrassing. They will make you feel special and unique. There’s nothing fake in there.”

Rachel and Joshua completed Level Aleph and Bet courses — six classes in each — multiple times. They would take the classes over again, practicing the techniques until they’re second nature. There’s also an Elite program that allows students to go on to become trained StandStrong instructors.

“They were home because of Coronavirus so this was good for exercise as well,” she said. “It was such a lifesaver for my family during COVID.”

But it turned into something so much more.

“They really made a connection with the instructors. They were awesome. They really reached a great relationship,” she said. “I really think it’s something everyone should know about.”

Joshua

Standstrong has been amazing to me. I do not feel worried now, because I know where or how to kick, I feel that I can come home safe and get out of a tricky situation.

StandStrong’s team has been so nice, kind and “strong” and such great teachers with me. I feel so much stronger in my body and my head.

I am just 11 years old and I admire what they do so much and beside what my parents taught me, they taught me too that hitting is not what you should do but we need to know how to defend ourselves.

After a class I am so happy and I feel really good and strong. And we are all equals in their class because they are people from all ages, that’s really cool!

I really Love StandStrong!!

Rachel

As a young woman in today’s society, I need to feel empowered. But I was always against doing any sort of self defense program, until I was introduced to StandStrong.

It was the most warm and welcoming environment, I did not feel any pressure to be the best or win in a fight. Standstrong helped me see that I needed to be the best version of myself that I could be.

They were super encouraging and motivating when they helped me improve my techniques and made sure that I knew what I was doing, even if that meant listening to my questions and showing me after class. 

Finding StandStrong has changed me as a person in the best way possible.

StandStrong free self-defense classes help women feel safer, more confident

Ayala Aharon wanted to learn to protect herself. After struggling to find someone to teach her, she came across StandStrong. 

“I was just looking for self-defense classes and I couldn’t find anything in New York,” said Ayala, 34, who works for an Israeli airline. “I couldn’t reach anyone and no one would return my phone calls or emails.”

When she learned about StandStrong, which offers no-cost self-defense classes to women, children and people of all backgrounds, she jumped at the opportunity.

“Everytime I walked in the street I didn’t feel safe,” Ayala said. “I always wanted to take classes and knew it was an important thing.” 

After speaking with Lior Ofir — StandStrong’s founder, a former Israeli Navy Seal and world-champion martial artist — she set up a time for herself and 15 of her friends, colleagues and family members.

“Why not help other women to learn some skills, not just me,” she said. 

The fifteen or so women — in their teens, twenties and thirties — gathered in Central Park last Friday afternoon to learn practical self-defense skills to protect themselves and stay safe. 

A unique hybrid that includes Krav Maga and Jiu-Jitsu, the program is taught by professional martial artists, all trained with precision. 

“During the class we realized how important it really is. Things we hadn’t thought about,” she said. “It was like, ‘Oh my God, we really need this!’”

She explained that she’d be walking home at night and when she’d see someone coming towards her she’d get really nervous. 

“When this happened after taking the class, I thought about the things I learned. That made me feel much better,” Ayala said. “I really want to take more classes.” 

She quickly realized that she needed to spread the word in order to help other women. She posted on a New York women’s social media group, including pictures from the class. 

“So many of them reached out wanting to do these classes,” she said. 

StandStrong teaches self-defense to Asian sorority at Purdue

Rachel Zhang, a college sophomore, reached out to StandStrong on behalf of her sorority, looking to learn skills that would help her, and her friends, feel safer and more confident on campus. 

Following an easy email request after searching online, Rachel was thrilled to learn that not only could StandStrong help, but the program wouldn’t cost anything and could be done right away. 

“Due to the recent increase in AAPI hate, many of our members feel an increased need to learn self-defense in the case that a potentially harmful situation was to occur,” Rachel said, referring to the Asian American Pacific Islander community. 

Thanks to Rachel’s initiative, Purdue Alpha Kappa Delta Phi, the Asian-interest sorority at her university, brought together 15 young women for one of StandStrong’s signature online self-defense programs. 

“We all thought it was a really great opportunity,” she said. 

As the world’s largest provider of no-cost self-defense classes, StandStrong instructors teach thousands of students per year on college campuses, in schools, at synagogues, and online. 

“I hadn’t taken any self-defense classes before. It was scary to think that was something like that could happen to me,” Rachel said of the increase in hate crimes and intolerance on college campuses. 

“What we learned during the class helps us feel more confident to walk around on campus and live our normal lives.” 

StandStrong teaches self-defense at Chicago Jewish Day School

StandStrong instructors had a blast with students from Solomon Schechter Jewish Day School in Chicago this week, teaching self-defense skills to more than 150 students in grades 5 through 8.

The students truly enjoyed it, and the teachers were so impressed with the unique program they asked the instructors to come work at the school. 

StandStrong partners with universities, K-12 schools and other organizations to integrate customized fitness programs in-person and online. 

At Solomon Schecter, for example, the students worked on practical protective skills, such as jab-cross and duck-under, integrated with IDF fitness tools that teach self-discipline and defense

“I would like to thank you for an amazing day and the amazing experience you gave to our students. They loved it!” said Irit Alkalay, a Hebrew teacher at the day school. 

StandStrong teaches BBYO High School Women’s Empowerment

BBYO (formerly B’nai B’rith Youth Organization), a Jewish teen movement based in Washington, D.C., participated in a StandStrong program Wednesday, April 21. The 45 high school students came from Buffalo Grove, IL. Nicki Stoller: “LOVED THIS great job!”

StandStrong Women’s Class in the U.K.

On April 22 we delivered a female-only class hosted by Lauren, a SWU Student & Emmerson Fellow. The class was open to students across different universities in the UK. Both Jewish and non-Jewish students took part. Fifteen students completed the Demo class, with a lively Q&A at the end. The group was really interested in what we are doing, and they are keen to do more with us!

StandStrong and Students Supporting Israel (SSI) at Binghamton University

Sixteen students at Binghamton University learned stance, duck under, open palm and knee during a program this week. Our partnership with SSI and ZOA will be ongoing on different campuses.