A Columbia martial arts studio is shifting its focus to teaching students self-defense.

Spartan Martial Arts‘ leader, known as a “grandmaster,” believes it’s important for students of all ages to be aware of how to handle not just stranger danger situations but also dangers from people they know.

“The real-life situations are the attacks on the University of Missouri, especially on females,” Spartan Martial Arts Grandmaster William Stevens said. “We teach beyond stranger danger, so that goes beyond not knowing someone but someone that you actually know that is attacked you one-way shape or form or another.”

According to the Missouri Uniform Crime Reporting statistics, 21 supplemental domestic violence incidents were reported at the University of Missouri’s Columbia campus last year. Another incident was reported over the weekend, when a 19-year-old was arrested on suspicion of domestic assault.

“We need to know that we can protect ourselves, and too, how to keep an eye on what’s around us so that if something were to happen we already know what’s about to happen,” Spartan Martial Arts student Haley Williams said. “We can prepare ourselves mentally for it and that class kinda helps with that.”

True North in Columbia is a local safe house for all victims of domestic assault and violence. The organization’s goal is to support victims and provide them with safety, shelter, education and transitional support.

“Doing it alone, although not impossible, but it’s really hard,” True North’s executive director Elizabeth Herrera Eichenberger said. “So having that place where people will believe your story and people are listening with the intent to understand and trying to help navigate such a difficult time in your life is a crucial need in our community.”

Boone County has reported 1,628 domestic violence incidents since 2015. About 75 percent of those incidents occurred in Columbia.

Victims of domestic violence or assault can call True North’s hotline at 573-875-1370.


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