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A self-defense class pays tribute to Pride Month’s origins

(From left to right) Jess Hall, Cindy Kelly, Anisa Lavender, Ashley Stahl, and Sandra Ayala get into fighting positions after taking a self-defense class at the Cook Inclusive offices on June 11, 2024. Participants learned how to get out of a wrist hold, establish boundaries with their voices, and block a punch.
Halle Zander
/
Aspen Public Radio
(From left to right) Jess Hall, Cindy Kelly, Anisa Lavender, Ashley Stahl, and Sandra Ayala get into fighting positions after taking a self-defense class at the Cook Inclusive offices on June 11, 2024. Participants learned how to get out of a wrist hold, establish boundaries with their voices, and block a punch.

Cindy Kelly enrolled her daughter, Leanna, in Jiu-Jitsu classes about a decade ago. She began learning the Japanese style of unarmed combat after receiving a diagnosis.

“My daughter had sensory processing disorder,” Kelly said before teaching a self-defense class at Cook Inclusive on Tuesday. “In her case, she didn't like to be touched. We had a really phenomenal doctor at the time, and he actually recommended wrestling. And I said, ‘I don't think you heard what I said.’”

But once her daughter got involved, Kelly started to see the benefits, and she figured she’d join in on the fun, too.

However, Kelly said acquiring these skills at gyms or dojos isn’t necessarily accessible to everyone.

“Like the rest of society, if you're not white, straight, Christian, it can be hard,” Kelly said. “I feel like the groups that could probably benefit the most are the least likely to even go to the dojo or feel welcome in the dojo.”

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of violent victimization of lesbian, gay, and transgender people is roughly two times more than that for straight people, and domestic violence was eight times as high among bisexual people as those in straight relationships.

In an effort to serve these vulnerable populations, Kelly taught self-defense to some of the staff at Cook Inclusive in their offices last week, where their team provides various services to deaf, queer, neurodivergent, and disability communities.

She started the lesson talking about consent because even though she was modeling various violent scenarios, she wanted the participants to remember that they were always in control of their own bodies.

“So much of self-defense is also just about boundaries and feeling comfortable in our own bodies,” Kelly said. “I want everybody to feel very comfortable saying, ‘Hey, I need a break.’ You can just take a break.”

Jess Hall demonstrates a neck hold with Cindy Kelly, who is teaching a self-defense class to staff at Cook Inclusive on June 11, 2024.
Halle Zander
/
Aspen Public Radio
Jess Hall demonstrates a neck hold with Cindy Kelly, who is teaching a self-defense class to staff at Cook Inclusive on June 11, 2024.

When starting an exercise, Kelly asked each participant for permission before touching them and let them choose exactly which exercise they wanted to practice.

In a big part of the lesson, Kelly taught everyone about using their voice, coaching the participants to be loud and clear when they set boundaries in an uncomfortable situation.

She also reviewed wrist holds and showed everyone how to get someone to let go of their arm when they have a strong grip.

Anisa Lavender, who has done this before, explained how it felt the first time she learned these maneuvers.

“She taught me how to break away from a grip,” Lavender said. “I left work, and I got catcalled, and I looked at him and I said ‘No! Nuh uh!’ I got in my car, and I wouldn't have done that if I didn't have the confidence of knowing I could get out of a grip.”

Kelly emphasized that people are more willing to set healthy boundaries for themselves when they have the skills to back it up, and Lavender agreed.

“I feel more confident just being in public spaces with this information and with this knowledge.”

Despite the heaviness of the topic, the afternoon was filled with laughter and encouragement.

While LGBTQ+ people face discrimination and violence at higher levels than straight communities, Kelly hopes these lessons can be a source of empowerment for everyone.

Copyright 2024 Aspen Public Radio

Halle Zander
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