Self defense isn’t just violence

Self defense safety instructors Lindsey Cornwell and Todd Norcross demonstrate the palm heel strike. - Tara Lemm/Staff Photo
Self defense safety instructors Lindsey Cornwell and Todd Norcross demonstrate the palm heel strike.
— image credit: Tara Lemm/Staff Photo

POULSBO — It’s a crazy, crazy world in which we live.

Turn on the television or flip open the newspaper and stories of violence, rapes, child molestations and other gruesome crimes fill the broadcast or pages.

Unfortunately, more often than not women are the victims of today’s violent outbursts. But that doesn’t have to be the case, as women aren’t defenseless, they just need to know how to arm themselves for any situation that might arise.

Kitsap Martial Arts in Poulsbo is eager to arm women with education on the ways of self defense. The family fitness organization offers a two-hour, free women’s only defense class each quarter, the most recent of which was Saturday, and 10 ladies showed up.

One woman was there because she’s moving to Bellingham. Another was in attendance because due to a bike accident she can no longer run and needed to learn a backup plan. But all were there to get a dose of self-survival skills, which were handed out in abundance.

“Self defense is a sense of empowerment in that it’s an attitude, it’s more than just that moment when you find yourself in a bad situation,” said Kitsap Martial Arts owner and second-degree black belt in hapkido Mark Barabasz. “The physical act to get out of it is end of the line self defense. Hopefully after today you’ll never have to get to that point.”

The bulk of the class centered on the preventative measures of self defense, as the women were informed “the best self defense in the world is to not be there at all.”

Awareness of one’s surroundings is the first step of self defense, followed closely by listening to one’s intuition. To prove the awareness point, fellow class instructor, tae kwon do master and second-degree black belt in hapkido Todd Norcross, asked how many exits were in the room. Only one woman was paying enough attention to her surroundings to answer: four.

“A lot of us become complacent in our daily lives and when we take things for granted it could hurt us. Be aware of your surroundings and control your environment,” Norcross said. “Being aware, alert and making eye contact is the first step to self defense.”

The women were told to look into their cars before getting inside, if they get home and something is out of order or different pay attention to that, don’t shower with the doors unlocked and when hiking or biking choose familiar trails and observe who else is on the trail.

Intuition came next.

Norcross shared a story of a time when he didn’t follow his gut instinct, and as a result a knife was pulled on him.

At the time he was 12 and living in Southern California. He was walking through an alley to get some apple juice at the store, and there was a man in the alley. Instantly Norcross’ neck hairs began to stand and he just felt uncomfortable. But he ignored it. He was a trained fighter, wasn’t he? The man asked for directions and as soon as Norcross deviated his attention to answer a knife was to his neck.

“I said I’d never let that happen again — not listening to my instinct — and nothing’s ever happened since,” he said. “It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you get a feeling go with it, you can always apologize later on.”

Of course the class also delved into hard hitting kicks and punches.

The punching paddles and kicking bags came out as the women shouted their best “Hhhiiiyyyyaaahhhh.” They were taught quick palm punches to the nose and ears, which with one forceful strike can knock an attacker out of commission. Hammer fist punches, front, side and roundhouse kicks, foot stomps, knee crippling maneuvers and various wrangling-away-from-someone’s-grasp techniques were taught.

Perfection isn’t necessary for the moves to be effective.

“You’re not going to have pinpoint accuracy, worry about the actions,” Norcross said. “They’re powerful so you don’t have to be accurate.”

Barabasz said he’ll try to host another class before the end of the year, possibly in October or November. He offers the classes as a means of giving to the community.

“The class is to give back to the community, and to help women feel safe and comfortable,” Barabasz said. “To do our part to bring safety and peace to our community.”

After observing a few women’s self defense sessions Barabasz said with a laugh the women of Poulsbo now scare him, as he knows they could beat him up. But in all seriousness he’s observed an “empowering” trend.

“I really like the way they’re coming forward to say, ‘I want to take possession of my own and be empowered.’ That’s what I’m seeing,” he said. “Women have the absolute right to take care of themselves. That is their right no matter what anybody says.”

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