Fortified Bulls: Inside USF’s self defense club

Julia Hoover (right) brings training equipment every meeting to help teach different techniques. ORACLE PHOTO/ CHRISTIAN SANTIAGO

What would you do if someone was trying to attack you on campus? If you’re a member of the Bullfighters club, you might feel more prepared to answer.

Bullfighters of Florida (BUFF) at USF is a club that focuses on self-defense and martial arts that meets every Wednesday. 

The club’s president Julia Hoover, a biology major, said she dreamed about starting a club that not only teaches students about self-defense but also makes students feel safer on campus.

This dream started when Hoover heard about a story of a girl who almost got kidnapped at a Walmart. The young girl was enrolled in self-defense training for women and was able to escape, Hoover said.

“That could have been me walking through the aisles of Walmart and getting kidnapped,” she said. “And it just sparked something in me because I wanted to learn how to protect myself.”

This was her inspiration to start learning self-defense and karate. It’s also why she started BUFF, to make sure that people become the most well-defended versions of themselves.

Hoover, a senior, has a background in martial arts.

“I trained for 10 years on American open-style karate, and I really loved it,” she said.

Hoover said it’s hard to train in self-defense by yourself. She said she wanted to create a safe environment where people can come together to practice and learn from each other.

Even though she has an expertise in karate, she said BUFF is a melting pot of different fighting styles. 

“I just thought it would be great if there was something available on campus for students to be able to come and not just learn one style, but get a taste of what’s out there,” she said.

BUFF alternate classes Wednesday. On some weeks, meetings are focused on self-defense and others on karate techniques.

Hoover said that her club is a judgment-free zone. She really wanted students to come in feeling comfortable.

Junior student Susan Leyvas, an econometrics major, has been going to BUFF meetings since its inception last fall.She said that she feels a lot safer on campus after joining the club. 

Leyvas said that she loves how much energy and passion Hoover brings to the club every time.

“I feel confident that I’ll be able to really get into it if something were to really happen,” she said.

She said she hopes that the more she goes to the club, the more safer and secure she feels with herself.

“If I’m ever somewhere by myself, not around any people, I can always count on myself to protect myself,” she said.

No one at BUFF has ever been hurt while practicing.

Hoover said that they take extra precautions to make sure everyone stays safe.

“One of the most important things for us is being a safe environment to train in, we want to learn from each other, not kill each other,” Hoover said.

Hoover wants students to know BUFF is open to everyone. 

“It’s really important to make it feel open for everyone to join us,” she said.

Hoover has never had to use any of her self-defense skills, but said that the area around USF isn’t the safest area, which definitely keeps her on edge.

Her advice to anyone that’s facing a dangerous situation is to be confident in their abilities.

“You are not the victim,” she said. “You’re a fighter. You’re the victor. So don’t don’t give up the moment somebody grabs you, go into fight mode, fight for your life, because you may really be fighting for your life.”