Geraldine Lee used to be able to walk home through downtown Trail without feeling threatened.
After increasing close encounters with unsavoury street characters over the last few years, Lee, now 73, had had enough.
On Saturday she enrolled in Jason Ayles’ Self Defence for Women course at Trail Martial Arts Centre and gained a little empowerment through knowledge — and the correct technique for a knee to the groin.
She figured the course would bring her awareness out and learn what she could do to protect herself if she was surprised on her walk home and the situation went bad.
“You see people looking at you on the street and maybe thinking, ‘Hey, you’re an easy mark.’ I don’t want to be afraid of someone coming down the street, but I’m going to use my head,” she said.
Not in the Irish sense of physical conflict, but in non-violent conflict resolution, which was a big part of what Ayles taught in his introductory class.
A lot of ladies end up in trouble at some point in their lives, said Ayles, a martial arts master with 17 years experience, so the idea was to train them to get out of that situation before it happened, or if it does get physical how they could actually defend themselves.
“This is teaching people the most effective techniques that they are not going to hurt themselves but, if they have to defend themselves that is what they’ll use,” he said.
And the statistics show at some point a woman may have to defend herself.
In Canada, 51 per cent of women over the age of 16 have been a victim of physical or sexual violence, while 33 per cent of female victims were assaulted by a friend or a casual acquaintance.
The women in Ayles’ course learned non-confrontational ways to diffuse a situation before it became physical.
Ayles taught common sense, like having keys in your hand as you are going to your car so you are not stopped and fumbling for them, leaving yourself open to attack.
On the street Ayles said people need to be looking up and ahead and not at their feet.
“If you are looking at your feet while you are walking, all of a sudden someone is there and you are in the physical zone already,” he said. “If you are looking ahead of you you’ll see that and avoid it.”
The women also learned basic self defence techniques, including how to break holds, as well as the three rules of self defence.
“There are no rules,” said Ayles. “In self defence you need to do whatever you need to do to survive and you need to make that decision right here, right now.”
He also said to be aware.
“It’s very simple but something people lose sight of a lot,” Ayles noted. “Always observe what is happening around you or coming towards you.”
And be in shape. Statistics show most altercations last less than 60 seconds.
“So one minute of hard cardiovascular work is what you need to defend yourself,” he told the class. “If you can push yourself hard for one minute, then there is a good chance you’ll get away.”
They also learned the three elements of an altercation:
• Gut stage – having a bad feeling about the situation. Women should trust their instincts and get out if you are having a bad feeling about it.
• Verbal stage – the encounter begins with an “interview” whereby the attacker is trying to assess the situation and see if you are weak.
• Physical stage – there is an area around you called the physical zone where if an attacker enters he can attack.
The workshop concluded with a confidence building exercise as each woman lined up to break a board with their bare hands — and all were successful.
The learning continues next month with a men’s survival course, which is men’s self defence program geared specifically towards guys. In March, women can take the next step in self defence in the Covar seminar.