MONTEREY PARK, Calif. - A Southern California organization is working to provide local seniors in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community with the skills they need to defend themselves, by offering free self-defense classes.
Seniors Fight Back is Torrance-based group, founded in 2021 to "help the AAPI community in the midst of rising anti-Asian hate crimes — particularly against the elderly."
The group held a free class for seniors in Monterey Park Sunday.
"We wanted to create self-defense classes to bring community, empowerment, and safety for our AAPI elders," the group said on its website.
Hate crimes against the Asian-American community have gone up by nearly 140% since 2017, according to the FBI's Crime Data Explorer, with a massive spike between 2019 and 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its height. Hate crimes against Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders went up by a similar rate over that time. The FBI keeps statistics for those groups separately. Those groups saw the fifth and sixth-highest spike over that time.
In 2021, more than 300 hate crimes were committed against the Asian-American community nationally, as well as 33 hate crimes against Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. The data that the FBI collects on hate crimes however is self-reported and the bureau noted that the number of organizations reporting hate crimes has dropped over the years.
The Group Stop AAPI Hate tracks community submitted hate crime reports. Their numbers paint a much more serious picture. Between March 2020 and March 2022, the organization received more than 11,500 reports of anti-Asian hate.
The classes Seniors Fight Back hosts are completely free to seniors. They're taught by a professional Muay Thai fighter with more than 20 years of self-defense experience.
"The world is a broken place and it’s unfortunate the horrors that the community are forced to witness and experience acts of hate," the organization said on its website. "We hope our participants leave the event feeling empowered and find comfort that there are people looking out for them."