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Martial arts can be effective tool in learning self-defense

The attack of a woman at a Gulfport mall this week has many talking about different ways to protect themselves.
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 7:27 AM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The attack of a woman inside a public bathroom earlier this week has people across South Mississippi talking about ways to protect themselves.

For some, that may mean carrying a firearm or pepper spray. Even with those tools, it’s still a good idea to know how to defend yourself if necessary. Martial arts like jiu-jitsu can be useful in those situations.

Gracie United in Gulfport is one of several dojos and gyms on the Gulf Coast that offer classes to teach self-defense classes for men and women. When it comes to defending yourself, knowing takedown techniques is key.

“Being able to take a person safely from their feet onto their back, to pin them and submit them, is crucial in a fight,” said Dustin Davenport, who has been practicing martial arts for seven years.

Heather Dunn owns Gracie United and said using takedown techniques helps to control your opponent, giving you the upper hand.

“Standing up, anyone can throw anything and anyone can be hurt standing up,” she explained. “Once I get the fight to the ground, the only thing they can really do is maybe an upkick that will maybe hurt me, but once I pass your legs and control you, I should be safe. I should control that fight.”

Being able to defend yourself and takedown an aggressor if needed could be key to your safety....
Being able to defend yourself and takedown an aggressor if needed could be key to your safety. Jiu-jitsu classes are a form of martial arts that can teach you how to do that.(WLOX)

For Davenport, jiu-jitsu classes like the ones at Dunn’s dojo are the best tool for self-defense.

“Anyone can do football, soccer, basketball, but none of that simultaneously teaches you how to defend yourself in a real situation,” he said. “It’s the most crucial thing a person can do.”

These self-defense classes are particularly helpful to women, adding an additional layer of protection to the safety measures many are already in the habit of doing.

“When I go out into the parking lot, I am always aware of my surroundings,” said Dunn. “Whose around me? What’s going on? I check my backseat when I get into my car. I still do all of those things women are taught to do. I just know that if it came down to it, I would be able to defend myself with hand-to-hand combat.”

Being able to defend yourself and takedown an aggressor if needed could be key to your safety....
Being able to defend yourself and takedown an aggressor if needed could be key to your safety. Jiu-jitsu classes are a form of martial arts that can teach you how to do that.(WLOX)

As news this week spread after a woman was brutally attacked and raped inside a restroom at a Gulfport mall, women across the Coast took to social media to express concerns for their safety and ways they can protect themselves. Learning self-defense skills like takedown techniques can be vital in keeping yourself safe, said Dunn.

“What’s more important than being able to defend your own body, your own life? I can defend someone else if I can’t defend myself.”

However, Dunn warns that keeping up with the self-defense skills you learn is crucial to being able to perform them seamlessly. Learning the art of jiu-jitsu and practicing regularly will help ensure proficiency if you are ever in a position where you need to use them, she said.

Gracie United has classes for all age groups and skill levels, with many that are beginner-friendly. The dojo is located at 1331 East Pass Road in Gulfport. For more information on classes, visit their website.

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