Rachel samples a self-defence class at Letterkenny’s Jiu Jitsu club, Rilion Gracie.

In recent months, I’ve noticed a much greater awareness of self-defence courses, particularly for women. The shocking attacks on women in various places around Ireland have understandably sparked a heightened sense of worry. Gyms across the country have responded to the concerns by offering classes to equip women with skills to protect themselves.

One place that has been providing self-defence classes for years is Rilion Gracie, a leading mixed martial arts club. When they invited me to sample a class, I was excited to see what techniques I could learn.

The Rilion Gracie Ireland training space, Cullion Road, Letterkenny

The four-week course offers a basic introduction to Jiu Jitsu techniques. However, they are tailored to real-life scenarios, from having your wrist grabbed, to being choked, or being pinned to the ground.

As serious as these situations are, the learning environment is relaxed, safe and friendly. I found that stepping onto the mat with a group of women is much easier than it would be if it was a mixed class, but once I learned the basics I think I would feel safe practicing with men too.

Our coaches Brian and Ethan took us through techniques to escape a larger, stronger opponent. That’s the key lesson – create space between you and an attacker, and get away. Another lesson Brian shared was awareness of potential risks and dangers around us, whether that’s walking in the park to a crowded street on a Saturday night.

It goes without saying that so much needs to change in society for women’s safety, but, personally, I think that learning self-defence can give us a certain sense of power. If we have the knowledge of ways to remove ourselves from a situation and gain the upper hand, that inner confidence can make a big difference.

Rilion Gracie Ireland, now established for 12 years, runs 30 Jiu Jitsu and MMA classes per week for children and adults. They have an impressive new space on the Cullion Road, where people of any age and ability are welcome to join beginner programmes, which equips them with skills to filter into regular classes.

The current self-defence course runs for another two weeks, but if you’re interested in joining the next one, follow the Facebook page for announcements: www.facebook.com/riliongracieire

Instagram: www.instagram.com/riliongracieireland