SUU First University to Adopt Smart Defense Training

Published: September 09, 2022 | Read Time: 4 minutes

Smart Defense, Miyo and ElizabethSouthern Utah University is working with the Elizabeth Smart Foundation (ESF) to offer Smart Defense™ self-defense classes to students enrolled at SUU. Smart Defense™ is a one-credit elective course offered during the fall and spring semesters and is under SUU’s Department of Kinesiology and Outdoor Recreation.

“SUU is honored to partner with the Elizabeth Smart Foundation as the first university to incorporate Smart Defense™ into its course offerings,” said SUU President Mindy Benson. “This training reinforces our commitment to student safety and well-being, and it equips students with invaluable skills, strength and confidence that will benefit them in their college life and beyond.”

Smart Defense™ is a self-defense training program led by ESF and the Malouf Foundation™. Both nonprofits work to confront sexual violence and exploitation, and they officially joined forces earlier this year to maximize their impact. After being sexually assaulted on an airplane in the summer of 2019, kidnapping survivor and advocate Elizabeth Smart decided to help individuals everywhere learn how to defend themselves. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), a person is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds in the United States.

The Smart Defense™ curriculum was designed by hand-picking self-defense techniques and skills from a number of martial arts styles including Krav Maga, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai. Each technique was selected with the objective of giving participants the best chance or advantage to stop a potential threat or escape an attacker. Smart Defense™ not only teaches physical defense, but it also educates individuals on red flags and unsafe situations, as well as consent and healthy relationships. All Smart Defense™ instructors are thoroughly vetted and trained to be trauma-informed.

“ESF is excited to work with SUU and bring our self-defense program to the University,” Smart shared. “The statistics on sexual violence are alarming (for example, an American is assaulted almost every minute), and we want to help address this issue through education. With Smart Defense™, we hope to provide a safe place where people can learn multiple areas of self-defense at their own comfort level, and where they can realize their strength and power.”

Program Director Miyo Strong assisted in creating the Smart Defense™ training program. Prior to joining the ESF team, she taught self-defense for Temple MMA and Empower Self-Defense. Strong is a survivor of sexual violence and an award-winning Jiu-Jitsu World Master Champion.

“At Smart Defense™, we emphasize the education surrounding sexual violence prevention, not just the martial arts techniques used for defense and escape,” Strong said. “One of the most powerful tools we have is our voice. Learning how to use our voice in these situations is a big part of what we

SUU will offer one Smart Defense™ course per semester. Each course will be divided into two cohorts of 20 students—accommodating a total of 40 people—and both groups will complete a five-week training block under the direction of two Smart Defense™ instructors. Throughout their training, students learn about situational awareness, consent and defense techniques, such as break falls, grip breaks, clinch entries and mount escapes.

Incoming SUU freshman Avery Hunter recently completed a Smart Defense™ course. She shared, “I heard about Smart Defense™ from my aunt and have already taken a class. I thought it was amazing. Women have so much power and strength, and this class is a way to remind us. Being able to take control of our situations and our lives is so empowering.”

Additional Smart Defense™ classes are available in Salt Lake City, Utah; Riverton, Utah; Provo, Utah; Pocatello, Idaho; and Colorado Springs, Colorado. For more information on Smart Defense™, visit

If you or a loved one has been affected by sexual violence, the National Sexual Assault Hotline, operated by RAINN, is available at 800.656.HOPE or via live chat at Communication is available 24/7, confidential and free of charge.

About Southern Utah University
The caring campus community at SUU puts students first by creating access to a quality education at an affordable price. SUU goes above and beyond to find innovative solutions to help the nearly 14,000 students succeed on campus and online. With more than 150 undergraduate programs and 19 graduate and certificate programs, students are offered world-class, hands-on learning opportunities to gain professional experience giving them a competitive edge before entering the job market. For more information, visit

About Elizabeth Smart Foundation and Malouf Foundation™
In January 2022, the Elizabeth Smart Foundation officially became a part of the Malouf Foundation™ to confront sexual assault and exploitation. Each foundation fulfills their mission by providing education through OnWatch™ and Smart Defense™; promoting healing through the Juniper Scholarship™, Rooms Restored™, and restorative care centers; and advocating for survivors through Heroes Landing™ and the "We Believe You" campaign. Supported by the network of Malouf Companies™, the Malouf Foundation™ and the Elizabeth Smart Foundation give 100 percent of their resources on behalf of the people they serve. For more information, visit and

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