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SARC-sponsored self-defense class puts exclamation point on 'No'

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Staff Sgt. Bryan Duval delivers a powerful elbow shot into Karl Herndon, an instructor with Fullpower who wears heavy padding for the "hands-on" portion of the self defense course. Airmen at the class learned how to defend themselves to the extent necessary to escape an attacker. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Staff Sgt. Bryan Duval delivers a powerful elbow shot into Karl Herndon, an instructor with Fullpower who wears heavy padding for the "hands-on" portion of the self-defense course. Airmen at the class learned how to defend themselves to the extent necessary to escape an attacker. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Sam Rush-Walton of Fullpower, right, guides Capt. Michelle Kneupper, 50th Space Wing Inspector General office, through taking a defensive posture and fending off someone who is acting aggressively during a self-defense class Friday in the Main Fitness Center here. The class touched on ways to escape from a dangerous situation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Sam Rush-Walton of Fullpower, right, guides Capt. Michelle Kneupper, 50th Space Wing Inspector General office, through taking a defensive posture and fending off someone who is acting aggressively during a self-defense class Friday in the Main Fitness Center here. The class touched on ways to escape from a dangerous situation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Sam Rush-Walton and Karl Herndon, instructors with Fullpower, demonstrate how not to prevent an assault during their self defense class. Predators are more likely to attack someone with passive or fearful body language. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Sam Rush-Walton and Karl Herndon, instructors with Fullpower, demonstrate how not to prevent an assault during their self-defense class. Predators are more likely to attack someone with passive or fearful body language. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Airmen who attended a self-defense class at the Main Fitness Center here Sept. 15 learned how to put an exclamation point at the end of the word "no." 

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program sponsored the class, which Sam Rush-Walton and Karl Herndon from Fullpower International of Colorado Springs facilitated. 

Fullpower International teaches self-empowerment and self-protection skills to men and women around the world, said Ms. Rush-Walton, who co-directs Fullpower's Colorado Springs chapter. The organization was founded in 1989. 

Karl Herndon, the "padded" instructor, has been employed with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office since 1985, where he teaches self-defense classes. 

"When I first saw the Fullpower class, it covered so many things -- including assaults and sexual assaults -- so I asked, how do I become an instructor?" he said. "I went to a two-week instructor training course in California, and I've been getting my butt kicked all over Colorado ever since." 

Ms. Rush-Walton's decision to join the program is a reflection of her personal past. She received many unwanted advances as she grew into adulthood. 

"I would become very small and very quiet," she said. "But I saw other women in the face of assault using a very big voice and standing tall and firm." 

Fullpower offers its course to adults and to minors who have been sexually assaulted. The organization offers separate self-defense programs for young children and teens. The biggest distinction is the purposes of self-defense covered in the course. 

Attendees had various reasons for coming to the class. Capt. Michelle Kneuuper, 50th Space Wing Inspector General office, took it as a refresher for a self-defense class she had taken at the U.S. Air Force Academy. 

Tech. Sgt. Sherrie Horn, Air Force Tactical Applications Center Detachment 46, had taken Tai Chi Ch'uan previously. 

"Being a single female, (taking a self-defense class) seemed like the smart thing to do," she said. 

Fullpower teaches people how to set and enforce healthy boundaries. 

"We teach through experience; you learn by doing," Ms. Rush-Walton explained. "We want to teach you how to keep yourself safe so you don't end up as a statistic." 

The first lesson they taught is situational awareness -- taking charge of one's body, mind and personal space. 

The second lesson was balance -- keep a mental and physical stance that is neither too aggressive nor too meek. 

"Aggressive words escalate the situation to where the bad guy feels like he has to do something to save face," Ms. Rush-Walton said. 

Being meek is just as dangerous, Mr. Herndon added. Nearly 90 percent of rapes are committed by a single, unarmed assailant. 

One's stance in most situations is more important than physical attributes, the instructors said. Predators will attack someone who looks meek and shy, even if he or she is tall with well-defined muscles. 

"It's not about the size of the woman in the fight; it's about the size of the fight in the woman," Ms. Rush-Walton said. 

One of the tools perpetrators use to intimidate their victims is verbal assault. 

"You give power to language if you let the language affect you and make you freeze up," Ms. Rush-Walton said. "If your mind freezes up, your body will follow." 

The antidote to verbal aggression is to let it slide off -- "like water off a duck's back," Ms. Rush-Walton said. 

"Statistics show there can be up to 15 minutes of verbal assault before a sexual assault begins," she said. "You don't want to let it unhinge you; you want to remain centered. If you don't value what someone says, don't let it hit you in the heart. Take it and throw it away." 

Airmen who attended the class practiced self-defense postures and a strong voice to fend off an attacker. Mr. Herndon used different tactics as an aggressor, from a silent "mad dog" approach to loud, boisterous and profanity-laden aggression. 

The class also taught Airmen how to defend themselves from physical assault: beaked finger shots to the eyes, palm thrusts to the chin and kicks to the groin were among tactics Fullpower teaches to incapacitate an assailant. 

Fullpower's goal is to help foster an environment in which no means no, Ms. Rush-Walton said. 

"As men and women, if we can say no and it means no, we'll all be in a better place," she said.

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