Downtown Martial Arts Academy's chief instructor Doug Bedsaul helps teach Mississippi State University English lecturer Leslie Pevey how to defend herself if needed during a class in Starkville Saturday. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
September 11, 2017 9:52:53 AM
After planting her feet in a firm stance to prepare for the next move, Leslie Pevey threw a right jab towards her opponent.
Seconds later, her opponent was on the ground after a strong hit to the knee.
"There ya go!," Pevey's sidekick, Casey Reeves, shouted, impressed by her friend's quick instincts.
Determined by nature, Pevey, a 24-year-old English lecturer at Mississippi State University, said she refuses to be the victim.
To that end, she joined a combined almost 30 other participants for self defense classes for women Starkville Police Department hosted Thursday and Saturday at Downtown Martial Arts Academy. The course focused on teaching basic self-defense skills and techniques.
Although Pevey, who attended Saturday's class, has yet to encounter a situation where such skills were vital, she said she has been placed in potentially dangerous situations where having them would have made her more comfortable.
"I live alone, and I'm constantly on-the-go and in town by myself," Pevey said. "In Starkville, especially, I think people should seek out this kind of information. Even on game days at MSU, I've been followed by drunken guys in the Junction, and if something would have happened, these self-defense skills could have helped."
SPD Officer Brandon Lovelady said the idea to organize a self-defense class catered to woman came after a local Realtor contacted the department and requested it.
Lovelady said that many people -- such as Realtors showing someone a house for sale -- regularly find themselves in situations with strangers, which is why self-defense is a valuable skill for anyone.
"Not only does this provide individuals with basic self-defense skills, but it can also increase their confidence," Lovelady said.
On Saturday, class participants learned beginner-level skills, including the most effective areas to strike -- like the knees and ribcage -- and the proper ways to defend themselves when attacked from behind through a series of interactive drills.
Doug Bedsaul, chief instructor at Downtown Martial Arts Academy, acted as an opponent for the duration of the class, so students could experience fighting off an actual person, rather than just a punching bag.
Not wasting any time, the women attending the Saturday afternoon class, started directly with a series of punches and elbow jabs.
Corp. Josh Wilson, who organized the class, said it was important to begin with heavy action, because it puts the student in the right mindset.
"The first few seconds of any attack is when you will use the majority of these skills," Wilson said to those attending the class. "Just remember the mindset you are in now. When you practice these skills next, think about if someone were actually grabbing you or trying to cause harm, and bring that aggression it would take to survive the event, even while you are practicing."
During the class, students like Pevey and Reeves, 21, increased their basic skills. However, Officer C.J. Winship encouraged them to seek out more advanced training classes.
"Attacks can happen. You don't always hear about it on the news or see it on Facebook, but it happens," Winship said. "Whether you're jogging at night, or it's a game weekend, it is always possible, and this is just an introduction class."
Currently, there are not any other self-defense classes scheduled, but Pevey and Reeves agreed the knowledge they gained was so valuable, they would attend the next class offered.
"People need to know that even in Starkville, it can happen to anyone at any time," Reeves said. "You always say 'it won't be me,' but the reality is that, one day, it could be. I know that I already feel a lot safer with this (training)."
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