BATH — When it comes to the notion that women are the weaker gender, and consequently easy prey to attackers, Ed Hall is the ultimate myth buster.
The owner of Hall’s Olympic Martial Arts on Centre Street taught his third annual women’s self-defense course at the Bath Area Family YMCA on Jan. 31. At no charge, he showed a group of about 20 women simple techniques that could very easily mean the difference between injury and escape, or even life and death.
Hall, who has earned black belts in several martial arts, said the education his female students receive is essential to helping them feel strong and “learn how to look out for each other.”
Tim Fayha, a deputy with the Sagadahoc Sheriff’s Department and a state instructor in defensive tactics, helped Hall demonstrate a variety of moves.
He echoed Hall’s sentiments, saying it is important “for everyone to do this, to have the knowledge and empowerment within themselves that they can survive an attack, they can live through it, they can fight back. Too many times you see people that just give up.”
Members of Fayha’s department train with Hall. “When the law enforcement needs the help,” he said, “why shouldn’t the average citizen?”
Some of Hall’s students have been victims of some sort of violence in the past or know someone who has suffered that abuse, Hall said. “Some people come here because it’s a good sense of togetherness, and they feel strong as a group, and some people … are islands, and they’re here to make sure they’re safe.”
Fayha said many people believe Maine is generally safe and immune from dangers more common in bigger cities. But in Sagadahoc County there were reports of four sexual assaults and one attempted sexual assault in the past year, he said, adding that the latter attempt was blocked by the female victim fighting back and escaping.
“(The rape) would have happened if she had just given in, and enabled and empowered this person,” the deputy said.
Fayha also said that in a 10-month span last year there were 30 homicides in Maine, 17 of which were related to domestic violence.
“(Residents) have this preconceived mindset, ‘we’re here in rural Maine, we don’t see this stuff,'” Fayha said. “But it happens everywhere. It happens in all facets of society. It happens across cultural lines, racial lines, everything.”
Hall taught simple but effective techniques, such as a palm heel strike, which is easier on the wrist than is a closed punch and has twice the striking zone. “I think that self-defense has to be simple,” he explained. “We can get as complex as we want, but in a crisis situation we’re not going to be able to use it.”
Keeping balanced, and generating power and speed from one’s body the correct way, are among key techniques Hall displayed.
Ines Quinones, who comes from New York and lives in Brunswick, attended the seminar with her daughter, Sharleen. She said she was pleased to learn how to fight on her own. “It makes you stronger,” she said.
Sharleen said she was glad to learn how to properly punch.
“It definitely gives you a confidence inside,” she said, adding that if a violent situation presents itself, “you may not react completely to the extent of what we’ve learned here, but (can) definitely help yourself a little better, or give you a little more of a chance than the normal person.”
Lisa Hall demonstrates a palm heel strike during a women’s self-defense seminar at the Bath Area Family YMCA last week.