07/19/09 — Taking safety into their own hands

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Taking safety into their own hands

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on July 19, 2009 2:00 AM

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Gloria Kennedy, 72, left, practices her self-defense moves on Judy Corderio, 69. The class, which was taught by Brenda Calloway -- herself a Tae Kwon Do black belt -- was designed to give seniors the skills they need to stop an attack.

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Brenda Calloway explains to the group that a quick and aggressive response can sometimes be enough to get the upper hand and ward off a theft or assault.


The yell came from 19 throats, but it still wasn't loud enough for Brenda Calloway's satisfaction.

"Try it from here," she said, gesturing lower on her chest.

This time, the students in the senior citizen self-defense class put some oomph into it.

Yelling loudly was one of the first things Ms. Calloway taught the group Thursday afternoon at the Senior Center in downtown Goldsboro, where the black belt martial artist gave a free lesson to show seniors ways to protect themselves.

A fierce cry, such as the one she had the class practice, often discourages an attacker, she explained.

"Don't you feel that rush? You've got to holler, that'll scare the average person off of you," she said.

A veteran of many fighting tournaments, Ms. Calloway is a first degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a third degree black belt in traditional karate. She began learning to defend herself with martial arts more than 30 years ago and today is passing on the teachings that others shared with her.

Besides the yelling practice, Ms. Calloway taught the students a technique to use if someone grabs their neck. With just four moves -- knocking away the attacker's hands, chopping at their neck, grabbing their earlobes and slamming their head down into a flexing knee -- they could make muggers regret their actions, and possibly save their own lives.

And there are many other things seniors, and everyone, can do to keep themselves safe, Ms. Calloway told the class.

Wrapping the strap of a purse around a shopping cart handle while in a store makes it hard for anyone to snatch it, and carrying a handbag with the strap wrapped around the wrist provides an opportunity to catch a would-be thief's hand and bend the pinky finger backwards, a painful maneuver that could even immobilize the attacker.

And grandparents can play an important role in helping to keep their grandchildren safe, too, Ms. Calloway said. Practicing safety measures like code words with children can protect them from kidnappers or others who might seek to harm a child.

"Make sure children have a code word before they go anywhere with anyone," she said. When someone comes to pick up the child, "if they don't have the password, tell them to holler."

Changing everyday behaviors, such as paying attention to surroundings, especially when getting in or out of a car, and keeping hedges around the house trimmed too short for anyone to use as a hiding place can help. Any handy item, whether it be car keys, a pen or pencil, a high-heeled shoe or even the stem of a pair of glasses can be turned into an impromptu weapon and used to stab or gouge an attacker.

But just being assertive and forceful can go a long way toward protecting yourself, Ms. Calloway told her students.

"Just a split second can save your life, but you've got to not be afraid," she said.

The self-defense lessons will continue on a weekly basis at the senior center on William Street. For more information, call the Wayne County Services On Aging 731-1591.