This content was originally published by the Longmont Observer and is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
As a woman, I have had my concerns about being able to defend myself in sticky situations. Having expressed these concerns with a colleague, he thought I should find a local self-defense class and get some tips.
I began my search by looking in Longmont. In my mind, I thought I would find a one day class and learn some simple techniques from a guy in a full padded suit. My search yielded no such class in Longmont, however, there were several options in different martial arts studios. Only one place offered a class devoted to self-defense and that was Dark Horse Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, so I chose this one.
I should note that none of the other options seemed like a bad choice. I was strictly choosing a class and place for the self-defense alone, not an in-depth look into martial arts as a whole. What I found at Dark Horse was a little bit of both.
When I arrived at Dark Horse, located at 950 Elgin Avenue Unit A, Longmont, I met with owner and Professor Andrew Dudderar for a brief interview and lesson on self-defense.
Dudderar participated in football and wrestling in high school. When he went off to college, he missed "being able to pour myself into something and come out the other end as a better person." It didn't take him long to discover Jui-Jitsu or discover that martial arts training was his passion.
He opened his academy, Dark Horse in January 2010. Like many business owners, he struggled with finding a name for his new business until he finally settled on Dark Horse.
"Dark Horse is a horse racing term for a horse that the handicappers don't know, so they don't know how to handicap that horse in comparison to the other horses, so it's a sleeper or an unknown. The mythology of it is that it comes up to win. We are all kinda dark horses, right? We are all underdogs in this world and unknowns. And we gotta get ourselves out there and make stuff happen. Being a dark horse or an unknown can be a hindrance but it can also be an advantage," explains Dudderar.
Although Dudderar believes that self-defense is important to protect oneself, he thinks that self-empowerment is more important. He feels that through Jui-Jitsu, one can feel self-empowered due to the intense training so that when faced with less stressful real-life situations, such as a boss yelling at you, an individual is able to remain calm and to find a positive perspective while finding a resolution.
The self-defense classes at Dark Horse are designed to accommodate people of any age and gender. It is Dudderar's belief that all people should know how to defend themselves. He says, "even if it isn't strictly self-defense, it is awesome to train in the martial arts. Any martial art with a reputable instructor would have a lot of good benefits."
The self-defense class at Dark Horse, using Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques, is not dependent on being bigger, faster or stronger than your opponent. It is based on leverage, allowing even the small and possibly sickly to be able to defend themselves.
"Brazilian Jui-Jitsu is a ground-fighting art, so if a woman is sexually assaulted, what they are going to do is try to throw her down to the ground and get between her legs. Between the legs in Brazilian Jui-Jitsu is the guard, it is a positioning that we work on all the time so it is where she is the most dangerous, where she has the most weapons, the most ways to stay safe. The best way to avoid sexual assault is to see things coming and get out of the way. But sometimes that isn't a possibility, so in that case, Brazilian Jui-Jitsu is good. Boxing is good but if you give up 50-60 pounds, even if you land several strikes it comes down to one strike and you go unconscious. Brazilian Jui-Jitsu gives a lot more effective and realistic options for a woman in the case of a sexual assault," explains Dudderar.
Because Brazilian Jui-Jitsu uses leverage, Dudderar suggests that people train as often as possible. He references a quote by Saulo Ribeiro, a five-time world Brazilian Jui-Jitsu champion, who said, "if you think you fall behind, if you fall behind you use muscle, if you use muscle you tire, if you tire you die."
It is based on this philosophy that Dudderar believes it is so important to train until the moves become automatic and a part of one's muscle memory, therefore becoming much more effective when applying defensive techniques.
Although beginning any kind of self-defense or martial arts class can make people nervous, Dudderar encourages people to give it a try and to try several disciplines to find the one that fits you. "Not everywhere is going to be great and maybe not everywhere is going to be a great fit for you, but somewhere probably will."
He also suggests that you might be surprised by what you find especially in his experience with Brazilian Jui-Jitsu. "Counterintuitively, regular training builds really strong bonds of friendship. Because metaphorically you are putting each other's lives into each other's hands so you build up trust over time. For the most part, there is a lot of harmony, even families that train, they become closer."
Not having sampled other forms of martial arts I don't dare compare Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to any other. I can only speak on my experience at Dark Horse.
I never felt uncomfortable or at a disadvantage while in the lesson, which admittedly was a concern I had walking in. Just by looking at the photos, you can tell that Andrew is much larger than I am. However, he took the extra moment to make sure I knew exactly how to communicate with him that I needed to stop.
Andrew carefully explained each technique prior to executing it and then went very slowly through the technique each time. Not only did he explain the technique but he performed it, which accommodated different styles of learning. Because I am a very visual learner, I appreciated the multiple teaching techniques. He made sure that I knew what parts of the body would be affected by the move and how to protect myself from being hurt.
We ran through each of the techniques several times for better retention. And he would not move on to the next step until he knew for sure I understood the last.
Although in my initial search, I was looking for a class that would offer me a one time experience, I now understand why it is so important to train regularly. Muscle memory is very important especially when in a high-stress situation.
I spent an hour learning from Andrew and only got through a few basic exercises. I do not feel as though I would be adequately prepared to defend myself using these techniques after one lesson.
However, I did enjoy learning these simple yet powerful techniques for self-defense. And one day, who knows, maybe I will go back to learn more.