Like many parents, Miss Andrea Bryan would always worry about the safety of her nine-year old daughter Katherine, when she was not at home.
“She is very involved in after school activities such as gymnastics, and activities at church. She also goes on a lot of field trips. We can’t be here all the time to protect her,” she says.
She had given her daughter the regular safety tips – not to talk to or take rides from strangers, and to run and scream if a stranger attempts to or succeeds in grabbing hold of her. She however decided to take the safety issue a step further by enrolling Katherine in self-defence classes.
Miss Bryan says she now has peace of mind knowing that in the event of any danger, Katherine will know what to do.
Student at the Jamaica Self Defence Academy, Cheyanne Hoosang-Brown (left), demonstrates self defense techniques with instructor, Alhiete Pereira, at the institution’s campus at 12 Colliston Drive, Kingston.
“I know that she can defend herself if I’m not there and she’ll be fine. She’ll be confident as well,” she tells JIS News.
Director and Chief Instructor at the Jamaica Self-Defence Academy, which Katherine attends, Ms. Adriene Stokes, says the safety programme for children teaches martial arts as a self-defence tool.
“It is (tailored) specifically for children. Most times you find that (other) programmes just do basic martial arts and you hope the child can incorporate it into being self-defence. But we go straight to the source, look at self-defence, how the child can keep him/herself safe both in terms of physical and mental awareness,” she explains.
The primary aim, she says, is to ensure that every child knows how to react to danger while on the road.
“You’re really just trying to safeguard against something that might happen and making sure you have the necessary tools. You want to train the child how to avoid the threat, how to get help if they feel threatened. If a situation arises (where) someone actually attacks your child, how they can protect themselves with the sole aim of getting out of the situation or harm’s way and to safety,” Ms. Stokes informs.
She says that learning self-defence techniques also improves the child’s awareness of and confidence in reacting to threatening situations.
“It improves the self-confidence of the child to know that if something is wrong, they can act. They are not going to just think that because an older person, male or female or even another child tells them something, that it is necessarily right. They can start thinking more clearly for themselves and react appropriately,” she notes.
Ms. Bryan’s daughter Katherine tells JIS News that she has learnt a lot from the classes.
“I learnt how to defend (myself) if somebody grabs (me) from behind. You stand up, you tip your toe and then push yourself forward and then push back,” she explains.
Seven-year-old Andrew Smart, who also attends classes at the academy, knows what to do in a threatening situation.
“You have to scream really loud and start kicking the person that is kidnapping you. My favourite thing about self-defence is that when the person grabs you from behind you have to drop down and roll and then run away and get help,” he shares.
Edson Williams, whose children attend the academy, is urging more parents to enroll their children in self-defence classes.
He tells JIS News that he has been practising the procedures with his children and believes they are able to respond effectively to threats.
“From what I’ve seen, they actually simulate circumstances and that is where the children take a keen interest and actually learn. I’ve practised it and have done it with my children and they have actually gone through and have done the techniques that they have learnt. So, I am very comfortable that the children will actually do the stuff that they have learnt if the situation should arise,” he informs.
Senior Advisor at the Ministry of Education, Dr. Rebecca Tortello, tells JIS News that self-defence training could be incorporated into the primary curriculum, if the funding is secured to do so.
“We have actually been in discussion with people, who run (self-defence) programmes, trying to find ways to embed some of the principles into our primary school curriculum, whether through physical education (PE) or after school activities. It’s an issue of funding.
“Even if we are able to film one of the sessions or have the practitioners train the PE teachers or a teacher, who would be willing to take on that role,” she says.
While it is unlikely that a child may be able to overpower an adult; children with the right training can think more clearly and react appropriately.
Parents are therefore being encouraged to be honest with their children regarding what can and may happen to them by creating and simulating precarious scenarios and the appropriate defence responses.
Founded in 1999, the Jamaica Self-Defence Academy, located at 12 Colliston Drive off Hagley Park Road, Kingston, aims to provide defence and safety solutions for citizens in order to restore personal well-being in the society. Parents can enroll their children by calling 968-8238.