Self-defence skills can make all the difference

Sueann Musick
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PICTOU – Kelli Cruikshank is all about empowerment. 

Kelli Cruikshank, right, and her husband Chris, stand with students who recently took a self-defence course. From the back, left, are Sensei Chris Cruikshank, Regan Noel, Xiaia Fraser, Chloe Stewart, Hannah Fahie, Haley Fahie, Danielle Millen, Megan Trundle, Kennedy Atwater, instructor Kelli Cruikshank. Front, left: Keiara MacInnis Corrigan, Simone MacInnis Corrigan, Tabitha Simpson, Shelby Noel, Emma Naufft, Kiara MacKenzie.

 

Photo credit: ShutterBugz Photography Sabrina McInnis

Her positive outlook on life and enthusiasm for health and wellness made her a great community columnist for The News, but it is her latest project with young women that caught my attention.

Kelli is teaching self-defence courses to girls of all ages that not only empowers them physically but also mentally.

As soon as I saw her posting on Facebook, I knew this was something that needed to be shared with our readers. As you know, the world is changing at a rapid place, but I believe that the mindset of many is not. Many people still believe that because we live in a cozy little Pictou County that bad things don't happen here. Well, you don’t have to live in a big city to find trouble.

In a world where children are so much more accessible to strangers and danger because of social media and extracurricular activities, it’s difficult for parents to keep an eye on their children 24 hours a day. 

Sure we all hope that they know not to talk to strangers or scream if someone tries to grab them, but what if a stranger wants to take a photo of your child without your permission? It seems like a harmless act, but what are they going to do with that photo when they leave? In the age of the Internet, where could it end up?

Is it enough to scream now when someone is chasing you? Will people just stand by and not want to get involved because they think it is just some harmless prank? 

You see a child grabbed by the wrist and dragged out of a store by an adult. You assume the adult is the child’s parent, but are you sure? Why is the child protesting so much?  Children should know how to let people know when they are in danger.

Kelli can name a hundred different scenarios that can make your skin crawl and question your own parenting. She is not saying anyone is a bad parent, just that bad things do happen so the best defence anyone has, at any age, is to be prepared.

As an adult, we think we know how to protect ourselves if we are threatened, but what do our children know? How do you teach a child to protect themselves without scaring them so they don’t want to leave the house?

Kelli and her husband Chris have developed a self-defence program that tackles all these questions. Chris initially put together a self-defence and anti-bullying program, and then Kelli got involved with a class targeted at young girls.

The program involves three key elements for the bullying and self defense class. Talk your way out of it, walk your way out of it and then do whatever you need to do to get out of it.

First, Kelli teaches them about the use of a safe word that is known between only them and their parents or guardians. She said the safe word is only used when the person is in trouble and needs assistance immediately. It must be a word that can be used in normal conversation so it doesn’t draw a lot of attention of people nearby, but one that signals to the parents or guardians that she is in trouble.

“My 19-year-old daughter has had a safe word and she only used it once in conversation by accident and I nearly had a heart attack,” she said.

She said she also tells students to listen to their gut instincts and if they don’t feel comfortable in a situation, to walk away. She said if a child is grabbed, it will be most likely by the hair or wrist, but after taking her class, any child will be able to get away from anyone, including adults.

“It’s a simple move,” she said. “Our daughter Emma can get away from Chris.”

She tried it out first on a group of young girls who attend her self-esteem class and the response was a hit from both the parents and students. The course includes four sessions. The first day, everything is taught to the children and they are sent home to practise what they have learned for the next three classes.

They are also given a child-friendly booklet that can be shared with their parents at home so everyone in the family is involved in the training. She wishes self-defence courses were taught in schools to all children, but she understands that using kicking and hitting techniques as a line of defence is not popular.

However, she said, even in her class, such physical techniques are to be used as a last resource.

“I tell my kids, if you can’t walk away, then you do whatever you need to get away,” she said. “If you have no other resource, this is what you have to do. They actually get a picture of the body in their booklets listing all the sensitive parts. Parents will know they have this and they will know how to get away.”

In a split second, one self-defence course could make all the difference in the life of you or your child. We are updating everything else in life… our cars or our phones so why not our self-defence skills? It will be wonderful if your child never has to use this knowledge, but having it will never hurt her. It will empower her. 

Geographic location: Pictou County

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