When it comes to keeping your family safe, one unfortunate fact of life is that unexpected things
can happen, even in small communities like Ithaca—or, even smaller, Candor, where Fay’s Fitness is working to relieve some modern day anxiety by teaching self-defense techniques for women and girls. The class is for ages 11 and older, and the most recent class, held April 6, included Keanna Fay, gym co-owners Barb and Ron Fay’s 11-year-old granddaughter.
“Oh my gosh, it was a relief,” Ron Fay said of teaching his granddaughter self-defense. “It’s one of the main reasons I ran this class. She can pack a wallop, but she needs to learn about the other things.”
Barb Fay said the class is an activity that family members such as mothers and daughters can do together. She said she can still remember the lessons taught to her in her eighth-grade gym class: how to walk confidently, “like you know where you are going,” as Fay put it, as well as how to defend yourself with your keys. “I still remember this palm strike to the nose,” she added, and it is a move the Fays teach their pupils.
“People in their 60s might not think you can do something like that, but it’s focused on things women of any age can do,” said Sue Heavenrich, who participated in the class.
For older individuals, especially if they travel, awareness and avoidance is key, said Ron Fay, as is being healthy and strong “because that makes you less of a target,” Fay said.
Heavenrich added that one of the most important aspects of his teachings is awareness, which is a skill people can develop at any age.
“The best defense is having awareness of the dangers that are out there,” Heavenrich said.
Ron Fay considers this so crucial, in fact, that he spends a considerable amount of time talking about how to be more aware before the class even starts with any physical exercises.
Local Taekwondo instructor Aaron Reagan, who teaches out of the Memorial Baptist Church in Candor, helped lead the class.
Ron Fay helped develop a pamphlet he hands out to his self-defense class called “Practical & Empowering Self-Defense for Women.” The cover highlights the four a’s that all women should remember: Attitude, awareness, avoidance and action.
“They can go away knowing that the basic thing they are going to do is avoid the situation, and the second is going to be to scream really loud,” Heavenrich said.
“A problem never encountered is the best kind to have,” as the pamphlet says. Ron Fay then had the class learn some self-defense moves that can be used in dangerous situations if an altercation can’t be avoided.
“We punched the bag; that was fun,” Heavenrich said. “It’s to get over the fear of punching something.” The class members learned how to do a groin kick and an elbow strike. “An elbow strike is a very strong move because you’re not just hitting with your elbow but using your whole body,” Heavenrich explained.
“We wanted to make sure the women got to hit things,” Ron Fay said. “Even though awareness and avoidance are really kind of the cornerstone, they come to hit, and that builds confidence.”
He also showed them how to get out of a wrist grip and how to escape a situation where someone puts their arm around your neck.
“I actually think this stuff should be taught in PE (physical education) classes for girls in middle school or junior high,” Heavenrich said. “It’s great for seventh and eighth graders to learn it and feel a little more confident.”
But staying safe is not just about the physical side of things. “Some martial arts studios just focus on the action part, and that’s a myth,” Ron Fay said. “You can actually train yourself so that you become more aggressive and get yourself in more trouble thinking ‘I’m all that,’ and that’s not the idea at all. The idea is to walk away unharmed.’”
Confidence is a key component to self-defense, Heavenrich said she learned. “If you stand up straight and look purposeful,” she said, “you’re not going to be as easy of a target.”
Another useful piece of advice for not becoming an easy target: don’t talk on your cell phone if you are in a situation where you feel vulnerable to an attack.
“It can certainly be used to call for help if you’ve got it at your fingertips,” Ron Fay said, but he added that talking on it while walking is not a good idea. “People feel comforted talking on their cell phone, but then they get distracted and their intuition and awareness is down,” he said.
Fays Fitness will be teaching another self-defense class in the fall, and even those who already took the class could find taking it again useful as a refresher. “You want it to become automatic,” said Barb Fay. “For me, it’s a scary topic, but every time I practice it I feel more confident, every time.”
For those who are located closer to Waverly and would like to learn self-defense techniques, the Fays recommend Tioga Tae Kwon Do, which has classes for children as young as five years old.
To learn more about Fays Fitness and their biweekly group exercise classes as well as other classes, visit Fay’s Fitness on Facebook, facebook.com/FaysFitness.