If an attacker has you in a chokehold, how do you get away? If an attacker lunges straight at you, how do you stop them? Ask some of the women at Livonia Central School District, and they can tell you, thanks to the district’s four-week EQUALIZER Personal Defense class.

In March, 12 employees from the district punched, kicked, blocked and dodged their way to better self defense with Rochester Personal Defense LLC’s David Jenkins. To accommodate employees’ work schedules and not interfere with weekends, the eight-hour class was split into four two-hour sessions after school, says Wellness Coordinator Robbin Carll.

Why did you want to offer a self-defense class at Livonia?

Robbin Carll: As the Wellness Coordinator, I suggested to the Livonia Central School District Wellness Champions (our committee) that we offer a personal defense class.

As an organization, we strive to offer a well-rounded wellness program that integrates the full spectrum of the Wellness Wheel and not “just exercise classes.” Rochester Personal Defense LLC has been to our campus for student self defense programs offered by our local Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse, so I contacted Dave Jenkins to set up a program for our employees.

What did a typical class day look like?

RC: A typical class had pairs of us all working on one technique at a time, after some introductory instruction and demonstration. Dave would move about the room making corrections and offering guidance. It was a very interactive and physical program.

Did you learn how to defend against weapons, as well?

RC: We did not have actual weapons in the class but the instruction included techniques that might apply.

What were some of the techniques you found most interesting to learn?

RC: Some of the more interesting things we learned were the striking skills. It really opened our eyes to how much strength each and every one of us has when forced into a situation to use it.

Once the mindset was established, that we were fighting for our lives, you could see it on the faces of each and every woman as the class evolved over the four weeks.

What was involved in the end-of-program graduation?

RC: Graduation was the best! Dave put on the full suit with face guard and each participant had two to three opportunities to fight off his attacks—no holds barred for the attacker or the “victim.” We had to close our eyes and he would come up on us and attack. Then we could open our eyes and fight.

We didn’t know how he would attack or from which direction he would attack. We had to draw upon our newly learned skills to fight off front attacks, rear attacks and even got into some ground fighting if he took us down.

During the attacks, Dave played two roles: one of an attacker and one of our trainer.

As the trainer, he would verbally coach us if we were struggling, all without releasing his grip. For example, if someone wasn’t breaking free from a rear attack, he would remind them to use their feet for leverage. The adrenaline was in full force on that day.

The graduation was the last full class. Everyone received certificates a few days after completing the course.

Are there plans to offer it again next school year?

RC: We have not established our offerings for the 2016-17 school year. But, there is a good chance that both levels 1 and 2 will be offered. Classes will run if there is enough interest.

What was the biggest takeaway from the class?

RC: Based on the feedback I received, I think one of the biggest takeaways was that we all realized our potential.

For some of us, we realized not only our physical and mental strengths, but our weaknesses too, which could help us with personal growth goal setting across all aspects of our lives.