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UNC offers new self-defense LFIT class after monthslong push by student

UNC fifth-year Eszter Rimányi poses for a portrait at the Old Well on Oct. 5, 2021. Rimányi worked with Lifetime Fitness director Becca Battaglini and University administration to create a new self-defense LFIT for the Spring 2024 semester.
 Photo Courtesy of Lexi Baird.

As a previous instructor of the boxing club, UNC fifth-year Eszter Rimanyi is using her skills another way. 

She worked with Lifetime Fitness director Becca Battaglini and University administration to create a course titled Lifetime Fitness 190: Special Topics. It is available in ConnectCarolina as a one-credit course.

"Self defense is something that you can take power in and it can boost your confidence," Rimanyi said. "It can make you feel less afraid in a lot of situations because you know that you've done everything that you can, on your part, to protect yourself."

Michael Hernandez, an exercise and sport science graduate student and former U.S. Marine, will be the course instructor. He said he became an instructor of martial arts in the Marine Corps and will teach students basic training skills. 

Lifetime Fitness 190 will teach students skills that derive from three different martial arts forms: jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai and boxing. 

“I’m going to provide them with the foundational pieces to build on to become more efficient, like handling techniques and controlling techniques,” Hernandez said. “Very simple things that could be beneficial in day-to-day life.” 

By offering this course, Rimanyi said the University will give students the opportunity to learn self-defense without having to sign up for outside classes.

Since students can only take one Lifetime Fitness class during their undergraduate career, Rimanyi said the class can be taken as a Physical Activities elective for students who have already fulfilled their Lifetime Fitness requirement.  

“Other UNC students should also be able to take this class and not miss out on the opportunity just because of enrollment differences,” she said. 

Typically, Lifetime Fitness courses are led by one graduate student, but Rimanyi said she wanted to structure the course so that other students who have expertise in different martial arts can provide additional instruction.

“I was advocating for how amazing this plan would be because you would have student-to-student interaction of gaining strength together as a community,” she said. “Feeling like your other fellow Tar Heel has your back.” 

The presidents of UNC’s jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai and boxing clubs will be involved in the course, Rimanyi said.

Emily Cornell, president and founder of UNC's Muay Thai club, said she will teach students a form of traditional Thai kickboxing.  

“It is similar to kickboxing, except for the fact it's called the 'Art of Eight Limbs.' So, instead of kicking and punching, you also are able to use elbows and knees for knee strikes and elbow strikes,” she said. 

Battaglini said she wants this student-teaching model to be repeatable in future semesters. 

“We want to make sure that they’re training up the next leaders within their group to be able to make this something that everybody’s contributing their best to, but not getting burnt out,” she said. 

The class will be offered as a special topics course next semester. If students and teaching assistants are happy with the class, Battaglini said it will get its own course number for the following year. 

In addition to teaching self-defense skills, Rimanyi said she plans to coordinate guest speakers like a UNC Police officer to come speak to the class. 

Hernandez said he is excited to teach people skills that they can use to protect themselves on a large college campus and added that he is looking forward to seeing students grow and learn techniques.

“When you see it click in their head and you see that emotion on their face, that is rewarding,” he said. 

Along with the education and skill sets the course will provide, Rimanyi said she hopes it will help foster a connection among students. 

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“You’re gaining the community and gaining the sense that being a Tar Heel means something beyond the fact that we go to the same classrooms,” she said. “It means that we’re together in this.” 

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