Asians Are Strong org calls for help in funding self-defense program for Asian seniors


Nonprofit Asians Are Strong is calling on the public’s help in funding a self-defense program for Asian seniors with a first-of-its-kind in-language curriculum.

Headquartered in San Francisco, the organization has collaborated with martial arts and self-defense experts to develop over the past three years what it says is a unique self-defense program tailored for Asian seniors.

As they have successfully launched a 10-week, in-language curriculum with the San Francisco Chinatown YMCA, they now aim to make this program widely accessible by digitizing and translating it for global distribution. With a goal and total cost of $25,000, donations received through Asians Are Strong’s Givebutter will be used to produce the video program, with the potential to translate it into multiple languages.

Co-founder and Executive Director Hudson Liao said the organization initially conducted one-off workshops for elders, using dim sum as an incentive to encourage participation. Finding it challenging to develop skills and plans in this format, they piloted classes with the San Francisco Chinatown YMCA and later launched a formal 10-week curriculum. Additional classes were also piloted with “Self Help for the Elderly” and various community centers.

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“Everyone loved it and wanted us to come back because they saw how valuable the information was and how much everyone enjoyed it,” Liao tells NextShark. “But we don't have enough people and instructors to teach all these classes because we all have full-time day jobs. So we want to digitize and translate our 10-week course into an online video program so that we can reach and help more people. This video program will help us reach and protect millions more Asian seniors around the world.”

Liao and his friends founded Asians Are Strong amid the surge in hate crimes and violent attacks on elderly Asians in San Francisco during the COVID-19 pandemic. Incensed by the assaults, they organized rallies and self-defense demonstrations in the Bay Area before eventually establishing self-defense classes at YMCA.

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“Besides the horrific physical nature of these attacks, we also saw the emotional trauma it was giving our seniors,” says Liao. “I would hear over and over again that a lot of them stopped going out to just do groceries because they were afraid to get attacked. We couldn't sit back and not do anything. We wanted to equip them with basic self-defense knowledge and techniques so that they had some tools to mitigate any harm to themselves in the situation. But more importantly, it was to give them back some agency and confidence.”

Liao and his team — including a restaurateur, tech CEO and financial risk manager — collaborated to create the curriculum. Liao, who leads the classes, teaches seniors aged in their 50s to 80s how to defend themselves against attackers through techniques like breaking grips and delivering kicks.

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Liao says he and his friends, some of whom are ex-military and law enforcement, have been lifelong martial artists. While they are trainers at their respective gyms, they had not initially focused on self-defense until they began the program.

Beyond practical skills, the program fosters an intergenerational connection, providing emotional support to empower seniors. It has since become a silver lining for both instructors and participants, fostering a sense of community and resilience.

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Liao recalls some memorable and positive responses from participants, including a time when a group of grandmothers — guided by tear-away flyers — approached the class location at Portsmouth Square. Despite initial uncertainty, they stayed, had a great time and expressed gratitude.

“Another time was after one of our first classes at the Chinatown YMCA, one of the grandmas that took the class stopped us after class to give us zip-block bags of mixed nuts so that we wouldn't be hungry. That is how our people show love — by sharing food. And then the first graduating class of our 10-week course was amazing. It was so rewarding to see how much they enjoyed and profited from the class,” Liao shares.


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