Women’s self-defense class to emphasize jiu-jitsu techniques

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Whitney Neugebauer. Courtesy photo.
Whitney Neugebauer started jiu-jitsu because she thought it would be a fun sport to try and a way to meet new friends, as well as stay in shape.

Her boyfriend, now husband, Bryan Alvarez, was involved in the discipline and encouraged her to take a class.

She says, “I didn’t get into it for self-defense reasons, but I thought it was really cool that something that I was doing for fun was also something that might protect me if I ever got into trouble. I also found the sport really intriguing because it’s like a chess game in that you use a lot of strategy when you do it.”

The local woman, a 2005 WHS grad, and UW alumnus, took to the sport and eventually earned her second degree blue belt.

She is now a teacher at Evergreen Karate and Jiu-Jitsu in Bothell.

“I teach Gracie jiu-jitsu,” says Neugebauer. “It’s a martial art, which was founded by Grandmaster Helio Gracie in Brazil almost 100 years ago. Gracie was a small man and he adapted judo techniques taught to him by a friend of his father, who was traveling the world to spread the art he learned in Japan.”

She continues to explain that Gracie’s adaptations emphasize leverage and technique as opposed to brute strength and power. They allow a smaller, weaker person to successfully defend him/herself against a bigger, stronger opponent.

Originally a male dominated sport, Gracie jiu-jitsu has gradually been attracting women in recent years, who are drawn to the activity for a variety of reasons.

“They like it because it’s great physical exercise and it’s fun to do,” comments Neugebauer. “But, they also like the sense of empowerment it gives them and the useful skills they gain.”

She adds, “Jiu-jitsu is non-violent, but at the same time it can protect you from violence. We know that the first line of self-defense is always to avoid trouble and to run away if you can. However, if you end up in a situation where you don’t have those options, it is good to know something — some moves or holds you can do that will perhaps save your life.”

Neugebauer wants to help bring awareness of the sport to more women.

To this aim, she has created a self-defense course using Gracie jiu-jitsu techniques, geared specifically towards women to aid them in threatening situations.

“It’s pertinent to rape defense and sexual assault,” comments the local woman. “It will show women how to get out of a situation where someone is grabbing their arms and wrists or their throat. We’ll teach them techniques that they can use standing up or even when they’re on the ground and someone is lying on top of them.”

The course, which will meet on Saturdays over a period of seven weeks, will utilize demonstrations and emphasize ample practice time for participants, who will work with partners, to ensure they are able to master the moves.

Neugebauer stresses that the classes will be held in a non-threatening environment and that no experience or particular level of fitness is required.

“I think this is important stuff that all women should learn,” she notes. “Nobody ever thinks something violent will happen to them, but the fact is that it can. One of our students, Rosie, started taking jiu-jitsu classes because her boyfriend Richard was doing it. About one month after her first lesson, she saw a man attacking his girlfriend in a Safeway parking lot on Highway 99. She called the police and they told her to stay in the car, but the guy was really pounding on the woman and none of the bystanders looking on were doing anything.

“So Rosie got out of the car, snuck up behind the guy, put him in a rear-naked choke and rendered him unconscious. The cops showed up, woke him up told Rosie that it’s never a good idea to take the law into your own hands, but also congratulated her for her heroic actions.”

Neugebauer adds, “Even a little knowledge proved helpful in this situation.”

For registration information, contact Whitney Neugebauer at: (425) 770-0787 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

What: 7-week women’s jiu-jitsu based self-defense course
When: Classes start Saturday, November 19
Where: Evergreen Karate and Jiu-Jitsu, 10116 NE 185th St., Bothell

Space is limited.


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