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Call for support for Vancouver Downtown Eastside women's self-defence class

The instructor needs extra protective wear to ensure students are able to practice techniques with full force.
woman punching
The instructor of a women’s only self-defence program on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is calling on the community for donations to help buy much-needed equipment for the class. Photo: Shutterstock

The instructor of a women’s only self-defence program on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is calling on the community for donations to help buy much-needed equipment for the class.

Vancouver Strength Collective is a fitness and martial arts school in the Chinatown district, which endeavours to make fitness accessible to all, offering a variety of classes from weightlifting to self-defence.

Conlan Mansfield, the founder of VSC, runs a free weekly self-protection training program for women—teaching them everything from boundary setting, grappling, striking, the legalities involved, and how to believe that they are worth protecting.

Mansfield said while he prides himself in being robust enough to take hits from his students, there was a limit with regard to the damage he was able to take. On the Gofundme campaign page, he wrote he needed the funding for extra protective wear, including a High Gear Adaptiv training suit, worth $3,000, and an Everlast boxing body shield, about $300, to ensure students were able to practice techniques with full force.

“My students are kind, and they balk at applying techniques with full force,” Mansfield wrote.

“There are very specific circumstances that call for high-levels of force, it's extremely important to be able to apply those techniques without hesitation and with full power.

“If I train students to hesitate because they are afraid of hurting me, I am doing them a disservice should they ever have to use those techniques in real life.

“They place their love and trust in me to work with their bodies and ensure that techniques are effective, and I can never betray that.”


Hello friends - we're seeking $3,600 to put towards our self-defence club for protective equipment. • It's a long-term goal to make these clubs free for all participants, and we're almost there. Women between 12-18 & Indigenous women don't pay to train, supported by the in-kind contributions of the instructor (me), the free space rental, and the generous donations of students over 18. • I appreciate your support regardless of whether or not you can contribute financially. No donation is too small. Donations can also be sent directly to if this platform doesn't work for you. • Additionally, please feel welcome to share this post with your networks. Thank you for your love and support.

A post shared by Vancouver Strength Collective (@vancouverstrengthcollective) on

He said a police-quality protective suit would be used for training full-contact self-defence techniques including strikes, throws, submissions, and takedowns. While the shield was a mobile body protector for boxing training, which allowed for striking to the torso and body.

At VSC, women between the ages of 12 to 18 and Indigenous students all receive a 100 per cent scholarship to attend the classes for free. The scholarships are jointly supported by the donations of students over 18 and the in-kind contributions of Mansfield.

"Many of my students have never had the chance to explore their true physical, mental, or emotional power, and to have such an opportunity to a) do so in a safe container, and b) have an opportunity to succeed in doing so can be extremely personally transformative for students," Mansfield wrote. 

"That level of confidence and belief in oneself is way more important than learning how to punch." 

Mansfield said the equipment would also expand Vancouver Strength Collective’s ability to offer both paid and pro-bono training.

“We're scaling our programs, and I want to offer more training across the city,” he said. “We stand a very good chance to become a leader in civilian personal safety across the province, and we would be one of the only organizations to possess such equipment.”

He said 100 per cent of proceeds returned back to the centre’s community to support living wage employment for youth and subsidized training for marginalized community members.

Mansfield said no donation was too small.

“We're grateful for any and all support whether or not you can contribute financially,” he said.

Any remaining funds will go towards international shipping costs as well as towards subsidizing students at the school.

To help, go to the Gofundme campaign: Women's-only self-defence equipment.