Self defense course focuses on basics

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Monday night, dozens of people, mostly women, sat on bleachers in the YMCA gym and watched as Stacy Busby and John St. James showed them what to do in case of an attack.

Busby has for years taught taekwondo and St. James is an eighth-degree back belt and Busby’s own instructor, but Monday both men were focusing more on personal safety than martial arts mastery.

“Whether you have done martial arts or not, you will be able to do these techniques,” St. James told his audience. “They’re very simple.”

For starters, St. James said, it’s important to be aware of the surrounding area.

“The best self defense is avoidance,” he said.

He said awareness of the situation can prevent accidentally stumbling into danger, but it can also help if the need for quick escape is necessary.

And yes, St. James recommended running away as a perfectly legitimate method of self-defense. But whether a potential victim sticks around or runs away, St. James said it’s important to commit.

“It’s 100 percent in or 100 percent out,” he said. “It’s all in or all out; there’s no 50 percent.”

Toni St. Philip, the program director of the YMCA, was in Monday’s class, and she was all in. So was her family. Her mother, and some nieces and other extended family, joined St. Philip in the self-defense course.

“I have six members from my family who are taking this course,” she said. “I just think every female should take this course.”

St. Philip is an Army veteran, but figured even she could learn a thing or two.

“I just want to get a few moves and a few pointers I might have missed,” she said.

Trista Weaver, one of St. Philip’s nieces, said she is pregnant and she has a 6-year-old son. Until recently, she said her husband worked away from home frequently, so she was eager to learn self-defense in case she had to defend herself or her kids.

“If I ever need to defend myself, it’s always good to know this stuff,” she said.

Plus, she said she enjoyed spending the evening with the females in her family. Weaver said she was particularly proud of her grandmother, who was keeping pace with the younger generations of the family.

“Not many people have a 74-year-old grandmother with more energy than them,” Weaver said.

That grandmother, Barbara Crawford, said she’s never had much fear of the world.

“I’ve never been afraid of going out, and I’ve never worried,” she said.

Crawford joked she’d been peer pressured into signing up for the course.

“My daughter insisted, and this is the truth, she insisted that I take this class,” said Crawford.

But, according to St. James, anyone, even septuagenarians, can learn to defend themselves.

“The good news is, if you can move, you can defend yourself,” he told the class.

In an interview after the course, Busby said sometimes being safe is about nothing more than projecting confidence.

“Basically, being able to give people the confidence through a seminar like that helps give people the confidence to go about their daily life without having to live in fear,” he said.

Busby said a little bit of knowledge, with regular practice, can lead to a better sense of security.

“Just a little bit of confidence goes a long way in how a person presents themselves,” he said.

The next course has not yet been scheduled. However, St. Philip said anyone interested can call the YMCA to inquire about possible future courses. Their number is 985-732-3741. In addition, Busby said people could call him directly and request future courses. His number is 985-377-4167.