It’s a dark night and you are a woman walking home alone from work, when a figure in a black hoodie approaches. You are on your guard and watch closely as he passes you without incident. The moment of relief is short lived as you realize the man has switched directions, and now follows you. Your heart races, you quicken your pace but he is closing in. You know you have to do something quick. Instinct takes over and you turn and scream, “You better back off.” The mysterious figure replies, “But I’m your husband!”
I’m not sure what my next move would have been if this scene would have played out differently. As it stands, I just felt quite silly. I often wondered if I would have had the skills to fight off an actual attacker. Most people think “we live in small towns” here, so we are not likely to have a need for self defense. They are wrong. A few weeks prior to this night I had been stalked and harassed by a group of three guys in an SUV, and I had to sneak through a building and out the back door to escape them.
A few years prior to that, in another local small town, my daughter and me were passed by a man, who then turned to follow us. We headed for a better lit area, downtown, and went inside a store. The man waited outside the store a while. When he was distracted we slipped out the store, and ran home through a short cut. I had been discussing with my daughter since she was a toddler a plan in case we were attacked. If we could both not get away, she knew to run and get help, while I would stay and fight. This event taught her that her mom was not just being paranoid. Now a teenager, I get no argument when I insist she bring her brother or the dog with her if she even goes across the street after dark.
The scarcest incident occurred when I was a teenager, living in a town in Virginia, roughly the size of Batavia. I went out after midnight to get an Ice cream cone at the all night gas station about five blocks from my home. On the way back a man crossed to my side of the street and stopped in front of me, to “tie his shoe.” I did not want to end up close to him, so I decided to be safe, I would just cross back to the side of the street he had come from. Within moments, he crossed back and was behind me. I walked faster, and so did he. I dropped my ice cream cone and started running. He followed me as I cut through a wooded area, and ran across the street to my building. I punched in the security code, and got safely inside. The stranger disappeared into the night. I do not want to imagine what would have happened if I had not been so cautious.
It seems I knew the first lesson of Karate. The best defense is to get away, or “no be there” as I learned from Karate kid. Considering my experiences, it is clear why I would choose to enroll in the Karate Classes the college offers. Quickly you learn it is not what you see on TV. The class is co-taught by Shihan (master) Cindy Jones and Sensei Hyde. It is currently offered on M and W afternoons for college credit and an opportunity to earn a yellow belt in Isshin- Ryu Karate.
Hyde, who is a 6th level black belt started taking karate to be supportive to a boy she met while student teaching. She stuck with it because she enjoys the people, the exercise, and says it is a great conversation starter. Hyde, who describes herself as “over 50”, is very encouraging and understanding of students who struggle to learn the more difficult moves. This works well for myself, as I’m not exactly a “karate kid.” Hyde wants people to understand karate is used for self defense, and it “is not flashy like you see in the movies.” It involves self discipline and improves self esteem.
Jones is a 9th degree black belt, and the “highest ranking female in Master Kichiro Shimabuku’s Isshin Ryu World Karate Association” She explains her interest in the art, “I was very impressed with Bruce Lee and so I started karate as it was available. In later years I was thrilled to actually study and later teach his art of Jeet Kune Do.” At 71 years old she can safely and effectively bring a man a third her age and three times her size to his knees, with the self defense moves she teaches. She wants people to know that, “Karate has something for anyone who wants to learn it and is willing to put in the effort.” Jones has a karate school in Byron-Bergen. More can be found out about Shihan Jones at www.collamer-jones.com.
The Karate learned in this class extends beyond the physical, and enriches the mind and soul. There is a chance to gain understanding of the rich culture this discipline stemmed from. Jones and Hyde share with us their own experiences, such as this one from Jones about a time she met with her mentor. “When Master Shimabuku visited my home in Bergen he fished in my pond, cleaned and ate the fish raw. He was then expected to attend a special big Italian dinner prepared for him and couldn’t eat anything.”
The class is fast moving, fun and energetic. They train us in a variety of self defense techniques, as well as exposure to Thai Boxing, and martial arts with swords and bow. We read books on philosophy of karate, and learn its many applications for everyday life. “I use karate mental training everyday to avoid situations that might cause me to have to use physical techniques,” explains Jones. As you can see, even if you are never in a situation like those I described above, your life could be enriched from the practice of Karate.