The best offence is a good defence
For my last birthday I was given a personal safety device by my brother in law. It was a small thing about the size of a pocket knife and when a pin was pulled from the top, it sounded a high-pitched deafening scream to deter a potential attacker. I was grateful and, honestly, a little confused about how this item had fallen under the gift category. But it did make me contemplate mortality - specifically, my own personal safety.
So when the Waikato Times motoring sales rep was invited to take the self-defence classes and asked me to come along to write it up for Tempo, I said yes. Better to be armed with knowledge rather than have to remember to take a device every time I head to the shops. And it sounded fun. It was organised by Ingham Hyundai sales consultant and martial arts enthusiast Matt Bulbeck as an innovative way to contribute to the community. The course involved a series of five once-a-week evening classes, run by martial arts instructor Shayne Hughes.
Shayne has been involved with martial arts for over 40 years and specialises in the Aikido form, which is a modern, non-competitive, Japanese martial art founded on the principles of harmony, awareness and non-violence.
I considered myself a fit and strong person. I run. I do group fitness and I generally look after myself. I also imagined that I would be able to get out of any difficult or dangerous situation pretty easily if I put my mind to it and when the adrenalin was pumping. I had heard of the old "kick him in the groin or poke him in the eye" stuff and was half expecting to walk away with my general ideas on disabling an attacker confirmed.
But reality, of course, is different and when someone is really trying to attack you or hold you down, it's much harder to wriggle or pinch your way out of it. The classes took place in Ingham Hyundai's showroom cum dojo, soft floor padding arranged in a large square, about 15 women of various ages and builds, all of us standing slightly nervously at first in a semicircle waiting to start our lesson. Shayne had a calm and direct approach. He was all about sharing techniques that were easy to learn, remember and practise. The focus was on self-preservation.
Each move was sharp and precise and easy - and each move worked a treat. During one of the sessions, I asked one of Shayne's assistants to grab me, full strength, from behind. We're talking a man who's over 6 foot with a muscular build. His grip was tight and strong, but with the right balance and technique, I easily broke free. And I felt empowered.
The classes were not designed so that students mastered any killer moves or learnt how to fight back, but so that we could remove ourselves quickly from a dangerous, intimidating situation.
Shayne is clearly passionate about what he does, and he made sure we all felt confident with each move throughout the series of classes. He offers similar programmes for women and the elderly community at his dojo in Hamilton.
My confidence has increased more than I expected, and with the evenings dark and winter well and truly here, I can say I feel much safer and more capable of my abilities, which is exactly how every woman should feel. I still take my brother-in-law's gift with me when I remember, but I also know I have techniques to use above and beyond the safety device.
If anyone is interested in learning more about self defence, contact Shayne Hughes of Arum Aikido at email@example.com or calling 07 853 9652.