Using martial arts as protection

Taekwondo club offers self-defense seminar for students

Taekwondo [tahy kwon doh]: a Korean martial art, a particularly aggressive form of martial arts that utilizes punches, jabs and chops, according to

Master Dave Schimmelpfennig instructs Stephen Oppegaard on the practices of taekwondo. Photo by Maddie Malat.
Master Dave Schimmelpfennig instructs Stephen Oppegaard on the practices of taekwondo. Photo by Maddie Malat.

By that definition, taekwondo sounds quite appealing to the stressed, overworked college student. Punching, jabbing and chopping, what college student would not be interested in that?

However, the taekwondo club of Concordia might object to the aggressive definition of taekwondo found in the dictionary.

“Taekwondo is for self-defense only,” said Master Dave Schimmelpfennig, instructor of Concordia’s taekwondo club. “The taekwondo practitioner does not eagerly engage in a fight, because the worst possibility is death,” according to

On Dec. 8 from 7 to 8 p.m., Schimmelpfennig and the rest of the student taekwondo club will look to teach the student body taekwondo in a Self-Defense Seminar that will take place in Olson Forum. The seminar will teach students a variety of techniques that come from taekwondo Schimmelpfennig said.

“The focus is not to teach you how to fight, but to teach you techniques to get you out of an encounter quickly,” Schimmelpfennig said.

The number of campus crimes both nationally and locally is fairly low, according to Concordia Public Safety.

Even still, students in today’s era are becoming more fearful of walking alone at night, according to Aimee Lee Ball’s article “Staying Safe on Campus” published on the New York Times. Due to many recent school shootings, students across the nation have a heightened sense of danger and are looking to defend themselves.

This fear has prompted many campuses across the nation to adopt better safety tactics. Many colleges and universities feature a 24/7 Safe Walk and BlueLight program. Concordia is no exception according to William MacDonald, director of public safety.

“Safe Walk is available 24 hours a day,” MacDonald said. “We will escort people within three to four blocks away from campus.”

Concordia has five BlueLights on campus and is in the process of implementing a sixth MacDonald said. The BlueLight is a small box on top of a pole that has two buttons connected to it. A black button connects whoever presses it to a campus operator. This button can be pressed when one has a question about where to park or an event on campus.

The BlueLight also has a red button. This button will set off a strobe atop the box and will go to the dispatch center regardless of whether or not anyone truly needs help. Public dispatch is then sent to the location of the BlueLight to address any situation that may be unfolding there.

Along with Safe Walk and BlueLight, MacDonald believes self-defense is another way a college student can stay safe.

“Taekwondo might give people a greater sense of confidence,” MacDonald said. “It’s not the one answer but a tool that can be used.”

In the past, the taekwondo club has teamed up with public safety to co-lead an awareness event for students in which self-defense and general safety practices were discussed and taught to residence hall students, Schimmelpfennig said.

Local law enforcement is brought in during these residence hall events to also help teach the resident assistants the basics of self-defense. These events provide students with a way to feel safer and more in control MacDonald said.

Senior club member Stephen Oppegaard said that a self-defense seminar can help students deal with the possibility of falling into a dangerous situation, but will also help the student avoid the situation in the first place.

“The more you repeat these sorts of techniques, the more natural it becomes what to do in uncomfortable situations,” Oppegaard said.

For many members of the club, taekwondo also provides an opportunity to relieve much of the stress associated with a typical college student schedule.

“With self-defense, I practice to keep breathing and stay calm when something stressful comes up,” said junior member Karis Baerenwald.

Schimmelpfennig, an ICU nurse at Sanford on top of being taekwondo master, also uses his training to reduce stress.

“Taekwondo forces me to dump my baggage at the door in order to train properly,” Schimmelpfennig said. “With the attitude of working on something healthy, I become more healthy and reduce my stress.”

The concept of improving one’s physical and mental health is one of taekwondo’s primary aims according to Schimmelpfennig. Many of the club members are aware of Schimmelpfennig’s career as a nurse and see that influence shine through their training.

“He tries to make sure we always stay healthy and don’t hurt ourselves or each other,” Oppegaard said.

Schimmelpfennig compared his taekwondo training with his career as a nurse, saying both have much in common.

“ICU nurse work and taekwondo energies rely on quick, focused reaction,” Schimmelpfennig said. “Lack of reaction or slow reaction [in the ICU] can lead to death. In fighting, slow reaction can lead to death. The same can occur in an ICU.”

Schimmelpfennig has been a part of many emergency situations in the ICU. These situations include providing CPR and other life-saving techniques that rely on the correct execution of his nursing training.

Taekwondo has allowed Schimmelpfennig to harness his mind and stay mentally healthy.

“Taekwondo has been a way for me to safely vent frustration,” Schimmelpfennig said. “It has created a balance in my life.”

For Oppegaard, martial art has improved his personal mindset.

“Taekwondo has helped me be more confident, but also less arrogant,” Oppegaard said. “I can sort of see other people’s merits better and I can understand that I’m not that amazing.”

The club hopes that the seminar will give students an opportunity to see the club in action but also provide students with the opportunity to learn skills that can provide safety for them in the future.

“I hope students will have a better understanding of self-defense, as there are many practical techniques that are just easy to do,” said junior club member Brianna Lasserre.

The club will have a table in the atrium the week leading up to the seminar where they will have more information regarding the event. The seminar will have a $5 fee associated with it that will help cover operating costs of the club. A free will donation is also appreciated.

This article was submitted by Matthew Engum, contributing writer.


Contributing Writer

This article was contributed to The Concordian by an outside writer. Questions and comments on this article should be directed to

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