Tuesday, February 22, 2005
It's a Friday afternoon in the Hayden High School wrestling room, and martial arts instructor JD Paul makes a move for senior Lauren Branstetter, trying to grab her arm. With a firm hand she cuts just beneath his elbow, and his momentum sends him flying into a soft wrestling mat.
In a real-life scenario, the move would knock the wind out of Paul, giving Branstetter the chance to escape a potentially dangerous situation. It's among a core set of skills that, combined with focus and relaxation, can help the students defend themselves without sending their attacker to the hospital.
"It's definitely a technique," senior Tyson Sweetser said. "It's not just throwing punches and rolling around."
Paul, a black belt in the Korean fighting style hapkido, is donating his time for free self-defense classes from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through May 26 in the Hayden Middle School gym.
Paul earned his belt through the American Hapkido Association and was introduced to martial arts in a class at Colorado Mountain College about six years ago. The experience changed his life and is something he wants to share with others.
"I was a punk kid, but I had really excellent teachers," said Paul, who teaches hapkido at the college. "It had a huge impact for me, and I wanted to do that for other people."
The class is for participants 11 and older. Paul will focus on aikido, which uses momentum to discourage another person from fighting. Unlike hapkido, aikido techniques do not cause serious damage to another person.
"To hurt people is easy," he said. "It takes a lot more effort, power and self-control to defend yourself while not hurting someone."
Participants will take turns playing "uke" (attacker) and "nage" (defender) to practice wrist turnouts and other key skills.
"Learning the simple techniques helps you build your own moves," Paul said.
Aikido is particularly useful for women and smaller people because it is focused on using one's own energy to redirect an attacker's momentum. The larger the attacker, the more powerfully their bodies will be thrown, Paul said.
"That's the beautiful thing about it," he said.
But physical skills are only one part of aikido, which also requires defenders to be relaxed so their moves are smooth. In addition to various relaxation and breathing positions, Paul will use drills to help instill alertness in students.
The structural nature of aikido can be particularly beneficial to middle school students, who will learn discipline, patience and respect by bowing to partners and participating in other rituals related to the art.
"It's not just learning self-defense," he said. "They are learning values."
To register for the class, call Paul at 276-7242 or (970) 629-8545.