Yesterday, I wrote about general holiday safety tips but personal safety is something women think about all the time. National crime statistics show that even though men are more likely to be a victim of crime, women are more likely to victimized by someone they know. With all the news coverage of crimes and recent high profile sexual harassment accusations, it’s not hard to see how easy it is for women to become victims of predatory behavior. While my daughters took self-defense in high school, I’ve never taken a class but always thought I should.
Last Saturday, I attended a free two-hour session on women’s self-defense offered by Michael and Kathy Knowles, of Knowles Karate Academy , at their studio on Third Street. The session was a free opportunity for students to learn more about their six-week course on the same topic. (The six-week course is $100.)
Michael Knowles, owner and head instructor, led the class with assistance from his wife Kathy and another student Kristen, who was currently taking the advanced self-defense class. We learned how to use our own weight as leverage to push an attacker off balance and get away. We also learned techniques to use to get away from someone who has grabbed your hands and may be dragging you against your will. The methods are simple and don’t rely on great strength or skill, just practice…so that in a panic, you can rely on muscle memory to kick in and take action.
“Our classes will put you in real-life situations so you can train yourself to think and react quickly,” explained Knowles. “Our goal is to give you a chance to get away from a bad guy.”
“The classes have been wonderful,” Kristen C. told the Buzz in an email. She said she had been thinking about taking self defense classes for a long time. “Knowles made it very accessible and affordable. I felt comfortable right away and really got the sense that they are running the courses because they believe this is vital knowledge that women of all ages should have. Along with the techniques that you learn on how to create the opportunity to get away, my biggest take away is learning the ability to remain calm in a very stressful situation, read the energy and rely on what I have learned. I will be continuing to take classes to make sure I practice so it ever there is the need I can be prepared.”
Knowles opened his studio about a year ago after a long career as an actor, writer and director in both television and film. Knowles explained he was first introduced to Dojang Karate when he trained with Grand Master Dominick Giacobbe in New Jersey in his late twenties. At the time, he was playing roller hockey for Team USA and studying acting in Philadelphia. After attaining his second degree black belt, Giacobbe, offered to open a school with Knowles. But his heart was already set on going to New York and becoming an actor. The idea remained in the back of his mind that he could run a school, however, partially because of former master’s belief in him and partly because Knowles had a very strong passion for the art.
During a break in his acting career, with time on his hands, Knowles said he knew he needed to get back into Martial Arts. He found a studio here in Los Angeles that was teaching basically the same style he’d trained in 13 years earlier. Last year he and his wife Kathy decided having a studio of their own would be a good for their family, and would provide their son, Logan an opportunity to be part of the supportive environment that meant so much to Knowles.
“So we did it,” said Knowles, “And we are very happy we did!”
Knowles Academy is a great addition to the Saint Andrews Square neighborhood. The corner location is now filled with activity and Knowles has become an expert on all the locals. For what it’s worth, I found the class very enlightening and fun. It was also really good exercise and it was empowering. As I reflect on the simple techniques he taught us, I realize that I’m just a bit more confident and feel a bit less vulnerable.
Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.