Someone You Should Know: Founder of self-defense program with a passion for teaching women to protect themselves

Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 9:19 AM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Sydney Meza is the founder of the Empowerment Center. She offers an 18 lesson program teaching self-defense techniques for women at Avera McKennan Fitness Center.

She is no ordinary instructor. Sydney has been training in martial arts since the age of three, learning how to kick before she could walk.

“I was actually born into a family of black belts,” said Sydney.

Her mother sparked her passion for protecting women and teaching self-defense.

“My mother has always been an advocate for domestic violence survivors. And so I’ve kind of grown-up learning about the statistics learning what women go through,” said Sydney.

Sydney created her program after learning about the rise of domestic violence during the beginning of the pandemic.

“It became apparent to me during 2020, during Quarantine, when domestic violence rates almost doubled. Because people were stuck in their homes with their abuser,” said Sydney.

Sydney had a personal experience that fuels her determination to teach women how to protect themselves.

“Learning how to defend myself was ingrained into me, so it became a shock to myself and my family when I was sexually assaulted when I was 18 years old,” said Sydney.

“It was my own experience that healing that trauma and realizing first hand what these women go through,” Sydney.

Her students of all ages and backgrounds seek her classes after traumatic events or for general safety.

“We wanted to learn to defend ourselves against people. In real scenarios and possibilities,” said The Empowerment Center student Sonja Mentzer.

Sydney believes a woman must first feel worthy of defending. Explaining how it all starts in the mind.

“In order to defend yourself effectively, you must first and foremost believe that you are worth defending,” said Sydney.

“We are learning all kinds of different scenarios, an acquaintance versus a stranger, real moves that work,” said Sonja.

Sydney is not done earning belts.

“Out of all of my belts, out of all my achievements, 27 years of training, my Pink Belt is what I am most looking forward to achieving,” said Sydney.

The Pink Belt is certification is the most comprehensive self-defense program for women ever created.

“Women, we are very unique, in that we have a lot of power that’s not always seen in the world that we live in. And when you get women together in numbers, something amazing happens,” said Sydney.

Sydney is relentless in her mission of empowering women and teaching the necessary tools for self-protection both physical and mental.

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