At least two self-defense schools in New York City said that they’ve noticed an increase in interest this year amid reports of slashings and stabbings in the five boroughs.
The owners of the Krav Maga Institute and JKD NYC both said they’ve seen more students seeking martial arts and self-defense classes this year, part of which they attributed to increases in stabbings and slashings.
Through the end of May, there had been 1,796 such instances of the violent crimes in the city, according to the New York Post, up from 1,623 through the same point in 2015. Most recently, a man was slashed after a fight at a Duane Reade Wednesday morning. And on Sunday, a woman in a wheelchair was slashed in an apparently random attack in East Harlem.
Krav Maga Institute owner Patrick Lockton said Tuesday that they had to cap memberships for the year early. He said he couldn’t attribute all of the extra students to the reports of slashings because not everyone wants to share their reasons for taking self-defense classes. But he said that there was increased interest – particularly from women – after a spate of slashings on the subway earlier this year.
"Some (were) impulsive, others let it sink in before coming to us," he said. "Those tend to be the most committed students."
Lockton said that many students who come to the class may have been victims of violence and were still suffering the effects. One student had recently been robbed on the way home from the subway in Brooklyn, while another took lessons after being bullied and beaten up on the way home from school.
"I think most people still come to us to boost self-confidence, to meet people, to vent stress, socialize, get fit and lose weight, but a good and increasing portion also come to us as a result of a perceived need to learn an effective self-defense system," Lockton said.
JKD NYC owner Chris Moran said he’s also seen more students this year. He also said not all of the increase could be attributed to perceived threats, but some people who have come in have sought to protect themselves.
"It’s a logical decision," he said. "They’re hearing about these things and also want to get a great workout. It’s a two-in-one with a possible lifesaving benefit."
In March, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announced that the department began breaking down slashings and stabbings into categories to learn more about the crimes.
When the announcement was made, slashings were up 20 percent for the year. According to the figures reported in the Post, slashings were only up 10 percent when compared to 2015.
At the time, Bratton said most slashings could be attributed to domestic violence or instances of violence at illegal nightclubs, rather than random attacks.
Still, Lockton and Moran both said that there were tactics New Yorkers could use to stay safe, including:
- Stay aware of your surroundings. Lockton said that people shouldn’t be afraid to cross the road if a situation makes them uncomfortable.
- Put cellphones and headphones away. Lockton said that people looking down at a phone or using headphones might not know when a situation poses a threat.
- Keep a safe distance. Moran said that if someone pulls out a knife, the best thing to do is to gain distance from an attacker.
- Don’t drink too much. Lockton said that New Yorkers can have fun, but they shouldn’t lose control or situational awareness.
- Learn to use items at your disposal to protect yourself. Lockton and Moran both recommended using things like bottles or bags as defensive weapons in situations where an attack is possible.
- Practice self-defense. Moran said the best way to get better at defending oneself is by experiencing it. Lockton, meanwhile, stressed taking classes that emphasize both fighting techniques and general fitness.