Kyden Payne always sits facing the door in restaurants to know who enters and leaves. Raised by a former police sergeant, he learned from a young age about the importance of being aware of his environment to stay safe — a lesson he wants to spread to fellow USF students.
Through three free virtual seminars, Payne, a third-year pre-med and English major, will teach self-defense techniques, the theory behind them and how they can be used in difficult situations such as getting robbed or harassed. The seminars will take place Feb. 26, March 5 and March 10 on Microsoft Teams at 6 p.m.
Payne has practiced martial arts since he was 5 years old and has progressed to a certified black belt and Krav Maga teacher, a self-defense system that mixes together elements of boxing, wrestling, judo, karate and aikido.
As a Krav Maga instructor, he has taught classes for both kids and adults and now hopes to use this experience to teach students about self-defense. He said he wants to give back to the community and hopes he can have an impact on his peers while doing something he enjoys.
“One of my big passions is sharing knowledge that I’ve acquired with other people and presenting [the knowledge] in a way that is familiar,” Payne said. “I wanted to become an instructor so I could affect positively as many people as possible.
“It did mean having to spend more and more hours as a student, taking extra classes, training extra hours, but I felt like it was worth it to me because I now am in a position where I can affect other people’s lives [with] the things that I’m going to be teaching.”
The first seminar will include an introduction to basic self-defense techniques, a brief history of Krav Maga and the “survival mindset,” which he described as programming the brain to do anything it takes to survive any scenario.
In the second meeting, Payne will teach participants common attacks and scenario-based learning, both of which are part of his self-defense “tool kit.” His final session will feature his father and former police sergeant Darryl Payne as a guest lecturer discussing the psychology behind criminal behavior and his experience with counterterrorism methods.
Knowing that hosting in-person events is challenging due to COVID-19 concerns, Payne opted for a virtual alternative to interact with students from a safe distance.
“Self-defense, half of it is practical, in the dojo [training facility], in the school, how you move your body, the different techniques,” Payne said. “The other half is actually more important to be honest, because it’s how you put yourself in certain positions and how you can deal with things mentally, that stops you from getting into any sort of altercation to begin with. So, I thought, ‘You don’t need to be in person to do something like that.’”
As of Feb. 22, 30 students had signed up for the first session. He hopes to make participants of the seminars more aware of their surroundings, especially on and around campus where they could feel more comfortable letting their guard down.
“I think it’s easy to forget that the world is not a rosy, colorful, rainbow-filled place. We are fortunate enough to go to a fantastic school with high levels of security … but it also [generates] a false sense of security,” he said.
“If you turn maybe two or three blocks outside Temple Terrace, you don’t have that anymore. And if you are complacent of your surroundings, you’ve now completely put yourself in a position of disadvantage.”
Those who have signed up are excited to see what Payne has prepared for the sessions. Roshnee Patel, a junior majoring in biomedical sciences, said she did not want to miss the opportunity of attending a free class that could teach her to protect herself.
“I like to take advantage of these opportunities … for my own self-confidence,” she said. “I need to learn a little bit more about how to defend myself, I really don’t know much at all, and I was thinking … I don’t have a car. So I am walking around a lot at odd hours of the day. And so it [would] just be really nice if I knew a little bit more about how to protect myself [in a] bad situation.”
She said even though she has never found herself in a dangerous situation, she knows that robberies have occurred near where she lives on 42nd Street, and she is afraid to go out sometimes because of those incidents.
“I’ve been scared sometimes just if I’m out super late, but nothing specific has ever happened to me in particular,” Patel said. “I’ve gotten notifications sometimes of robberies or something at the Flats [at 4200], and it’s right down the street. So that freaks me out sometimes.”
Julia Girgis, a sophomore double majoring in biomedical sciences and deaf studies, said attending the seminar is important so she can be prepared for any scenario. Besides becoming more aware of self-defense, she said those who attend the lessons could learn to protect their friends and loved ones from attacks if necessary.
“[It’s] better safe [than] to be sorry, and of course, it’s all free,” Girgis said. “If you have, especially like a group of college students learning, and it’s not just learning about self-defense, it’s also learning that while there are people out there that could possibly do you harm … it’d be good for us to understand how to not only protect ourselves, but possibly even each other.”
Having contingency plans and checking surroundings while out and about are actions Payne believes are normal and necessary to stay safe. However, he said this thought process doesn’t have to lead to feeling constantly paranoid.
“You have to think negatively, unfortunately. Situational awareness is taking into consideration all of the variables around you and all of the things that could happen, and preparing for the worst and hoping for the best is the best thing,” Payne said.
“Now this doesn’t mean that you have to get caught up the whole time where you’re so fixated on ‘Oh, if this happens, then this happened so that I have to do this, and I have to do that,’ because then you’re going to become a crazy person and you’re never going to let yourself live life.”
Students can still sign up for the first seminar until Thursday night. Registration for the second one will open up Friday after the first event ends. To encourage participants to continue practicing self-defense techniques covered during the seminar, Payne will give them access to the videos he prepared for the sessions.
“My goal is that this will open people’s eyes to realize that they are interested in this type of thing, and they want to be more confident of themselves and their surroundings, and [that] they pursue martial arts further, because that’s the only way that you really become a person that can be self-protected,” Payne said.
“If you do it often and you practice routinely over a long period of time, [that’s] when you build that muscle memory. This should only be a brief introduction, so [I’m] just providing that free introduction for people.”