Teenage girls learn self-defense

Girl power. Some South Whidbey teens are becoming more powerful by learning self-defense techniques at Tiger Martial Arts in Freeland.

The classes focus on safety training; discussions of dating and relationship issues and hands-on training involving martial art techniques.

Wendi Barker, owner of Tiger Martial Arts is teaching classes to empower teen girls. The classes are open to all high school girls and are sponsored by Soroptimist of South Whidbey. Classes were held in April and more are scheduled later this spring.

“The purpose is to provide an awareness, give girls a voice and skills they can use to get out of dangerous situations,” said Lynn Tippery, president of Soroptimist of South Whidbey.

The class is free to any girl interested.

“This year we are putting energy into empowering our teen girls. I would like to see at least 75 girls go through the course.”

“I am the mother of a teen and I see the issues girls struggle with,” Tippery said.

The course is divided into three two-hour sessions that include the practical hands-on techniques for self defense, discussions with representatives from Citizens Against Domestic Abuse, or CADA, about abusive relationships and a third session ties the two classes together.

“Everything we teach the girls is practical,” said Barker, who has earned her third-degree black belt.

“They learn how to strike the most vulnerable areas on an attacker; the nose, the eyes, the throat and the pelvis. We practice the moves over and over again, so they will learn the proper technique without hurting themselves,” Barker said.

Some paper products have paid the price, however.

“We destroyed dozens of cardboard tubes because they are the same density as the trachea,” she said.

Teaching self-confidence is a big part of the class.

“What is as important as learning the techniques of karate chopping the throat or kicking the pelvis of the attacker is projecting self confidence. It is important they learn to use their voices to roar,” Barker said.

“Kicking and roaring are viewed as valuable tools to help girls be prepared, proactive and powerful when it comes to their personal space,” she said.

Some of the subjects discussed in the class are abusive relationships, sexual harassment, assault, dating violence and date rape drugs.

“Basically everything they can get into,” Barker said.

“The girls do a lot of role playing so they will know exactly how to handle difficult situations,” Barker explained.

One student who took the class this spring said it was helpful.

Rhonda Johnson, 17, wishes the course could be longer.

“I loved the way Wendi presented everything. She made us do things that were uncomfortable for us but in a safe environment,” Johnson said.

She added that it was useful to talk about dangerous situations and learn how to handle them.

“Some of these subjects are hard to talk about with your parents,” Johnson said. “I feel a bit safer now.”

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