Keep Calm and Know Karate
Weighing in on Women’s Self-Defense Workshop
An impressive thud resounded through the room as instructor Brad Taylor of the Norfolk Karate Academy, a solid guy of around 250 pounds dressed in traditional white karate pants and a NKA tee-shirt hit the ground. His mock adversary, Aubrey Odom, stood with a relaxed expression, one leg kicked back behind, giving her the solid base that was necessary to throw a man nearly twice her weight.
I felt enlightened with several new techniques after attending a session of Gracie Women Empowered, a program offered at Norfolk Karate Academy teaching methods of escape and self defense. The program happens once a month at the Academy (418 W 45th Street) and is free to ODU students and sponsored by the Women’s Center. Ladies, this is something that you do not want to miss out on!
I watched in awe as time after time the instructors demonstrated the ease with which holds could be broken. Seemingly hopeless pins could be overturned and the perpetrators thrown aside as though they weighed no more than a bag of feathers, an illusion broken only when bodies hit the floor, their weight betrayed by a loud smack as they hit the mat.
I found a partner and we began to practice some of the holds on each other. I was surprised to find that the girl, who was significantly shorter and lighter than myself, was easily able to break away from all of my holds and even sent me flying when I pinned her to the ground. I started out anxious that I might hurt her on accident. I could have saved my worries. I soon found myself working hard just to hold on for more than a few seconds.
The lesson was led by four instructors: Jennifer Taylor, her husband Brad Taylor, Aubrey Odom and Kevin West. They demonstrated the motions in front of the gathered women and then walked around the room correcting holds and explaining the significance of each move as we practiced with our partners.
Before the lesson started I got some great advice from Bill Odom, the owner of the Academy. Odom, who according to Gretchen Edwards-Bodmer of the Women’s Center “came out with a binder full of research” when they first met to discuss holding classes for ODU women, has put a heck of a lot lot of thought into his work. He emphasized the importance of conserving energy until the right moment. “If you can break free, great, but don’t waste energy!” he said, pointing out that the key to great self defense is to be smart in the way that you handle situations. He said, “You have to be a little bit clever. If you make it clear that you are fighting back then it can be a little more difficult to exercise the moves.” His suggestion: set your attacker up for a big surprise. If in the initial struggle you are unable to break free, do not waste your strength fighting a losing battle. Wait for the right moment and then catch the aggressor off guard.
Norfolk Karate Academy has been at its 45th Street location since 2005, providing lessons geared towards helping each student to become a “confident, competent, and complete martial artist”. The lessons provided monthly for ODU students work as an orientation for the Women Empowered program which specifically aims to give women the skills necessary to neutralize attacks should the need arise. The full course is very affordable. For more information check out the website! norfolkkarate.com
Also coming up soon is another program from the Women’s Center, “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” on March 20th. Proceeds of the event will go to the YWCA which provides counseling and other services to women.
By Hannah Morgan