In self-defense: Instructors add classes to safeguard community


In response to the Chelsea King tragedy, self-defense experts are stepping up to show women what they can do when approached by an attacker. The nonprofit Just Yell Fire is running a North County training session on March 27 in Del Mar for teachers and coaches on how girls can protect themselves from sexual assault and abduction.

Just Yell Fire was founded by Dallas Jessup, 18, five years ago as a community service project to teach her classmates at an all-girls school, streetwise skills to fight sexual predators.

Since then, her nonprofit, based in Vancouver, Wash., has become worldwide with coverage on TV and in print.

Jessup’s San Diego-based self-defense coach, Chad Vondette, will lead the training session. The all-day workshop will be split in two parts with a lecture on stay-safe strategies and practice drills on street fighting get-away techniques to pass along to students.

“You don’t teach girls how to fight. You teach them quick maneuvers so they can get loose and get away,” said Jessup’s mother, Maggie. That’s at the core of the training course, which will include demonstrations of a variety of techniques using the element of surprise, such as eye gouges, ear slaps, ear pulls and groin slaps.

Ken and Trish Church are giving free child safety and self-defense classes at their Carmel Valley and Encinitas martial arts studios as a service to the community.

“Everyone should have some martial training and understanding of safety,” said Master Ken Church, who holds a sixth-degree black belt and ATA World Championship title for 2000 in sparring among other titles.

Lessons for all

The key to safety, Church said, is awareness. It’s important to be aware of one’s surroundings and potential dangers. Church advises not wearing an iPod on both ears when out jogging, so you can stay aware of what’s going on around you, and recommends jogging in groups.

Lori Larocque sees it as her mission to equip people with self-defense strategies so they don’t become a victim. While Larocque worked as a court reporter for the San Diego Superior Court, she heard about assaults to women day in and day out, and decided to take martial arts classes so she wouldn’t be the next victim.

Larocque now holds a first-degree black belt and teaches martial arts, including an EZ Defense course for adults, teens and kids. She teaches the course with her husband, fifth-degree black belt Joey Larocque, who was inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2004 and is headmaster of Shaolin Kempo Arts in Sorrento Valley.

“Not everyone wants to do martial arts as a hobby, so this course gives street-practical techniques,” Larocque said.

One of the best self-defense weapons is your voice, Larocque said. “You want to let them know you’re not going to be easy prey.”

She advises trusting your intuition; if it’s not a good situation, get out. The course demonstrates techniques to surprise the attacker and get away. “You want to stun them quickly, so you can run,” Larocque said.

The course focuses on what to do to avoid fighting and then teaches hands-on physical defense solutions, including practice drills for attacks from the front and behind and what to do if you’re pinned down on the ground.

“The idea is to turn your fear into power and make you feel stronger instead of scared,” Larocque said.

Personal safety tips

  • Run at the first sign of trouble and in a zigzag pattern.
  • Scream as loudly and hysterically as possible.
  • Wriggle, twist, turn, jump — anything to make you hard to hold and control, then run toward any source of help and safety.
  • Effective physical maneuvers include jabbing, clawing and scratching at the eyes with one or both hands in a continuous and violent manner and BITING. Anything carried, such as a purse, should be tossed at the legs to make a predator slow down or trip, dodge, stumble.
  • NEVER go anywhere with a stranger. Do everything to make yourself a hard target.

Tips for teens

  • Party cautions: Young women in particular are drawn to gatherings where rape is a distinct possibility. The combination of lots of alcohol, possible drugs, adolescents, provocative outfits and behavior, intoxicating music and no parental supervision is a formula for disaster.
  • Young men often do not know the meaning of the word “No,” and interpret it as “I need to be a little more aggressive.” Women must learn how to say “No” in a way that is not subject to interpretation. Many rapists are convinced it was “consensual” simply because the girl agreed to dance or hang out with him


  • If you don’t want anything to happen, make sure you are never alone. You came to have fun, fine, stay with a group of friends, there is strength in numbers.
  • Be careful about who drives you home. Many girls who agree to a ride home end up as rape victims. Arrange your ride ahead of time with someone you trust, someone who has not been drinking. Pay for a cab if you must; it is well worth the investment.
  • Know your surroundings. This rule applies everywhere. If you are at a party, in the park, in a dorm building, know the quickest way out.
  • Have your cell phone handy and fully charged.
  • Don’t let a rapist con his way into your house. Rapists pose as repairmen. If someone claims they are from some organization, ask for a name and call up the organization. If they are not legitimate, odds are they will be gone before you even finished dialing the number. The same applies to people claiming they represent charities; call the organization first and ask if their people are on a collection drive in this part of town.

Headphone dangers

Although it is fun to have headphones on and tune out the world while listening to your favorite music, sometimes this can be a problem. If you are walking around like this, you’re not only totally oblivious to what is going on around you — including the presence of potential assailants — you are also making it obvious that you are unaware and unprepared. Stay careful and alert when using these musical devices.

Always examine your surroundings: Be aware of dark areas from which an attacker can suddenly emerge. Prepare yourself by looking for potential paths of escape, should you need one. Look for obstacles that may interfere with your exit. Be aware of where you are; near a bus, a car, a train? How long will it take you to get to safety? Can you run that far? Is your level of physical fitness high enough to make that run? Try and eliminate doubt and uncertainty. Check to see if there are security guards present.

— Source: Lori Larocque, instructor at Shaolin Kempo Arts

Self-defense classes

What: Twin Dragons Sports Center

When: Ongoing classes in Chinese Kenpo Karate, a system for self-defense on the path to self-improvement and self-discovery

Where: 6924 La Jolla Blvd., La Jolla

Registration: (858) 454-5413,

What: Frank McCarroll’s self-defense workshops

When: Ongoing, as requested

Where: La Jolla Yoga Center, 7741 Fay, La Jolla

Registration: (858) 456-2412,

What: Just Yell Fire presents a Train the Trainer course for teachers and coaches to give teen girls skills to stay safe and fight back against attackers

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 27

Where: Dream Wellness, 1217 Camino del Mar, Del Mar

Cost: $300; includes manual, instructional movies, handouts and drill gear

Registration: (360) 521-0437,

What: EZ Self Defense classes for adults, teens and children taught by fifth-degree black belt Joey Larocque and first-degree Black Belt, Lori Larocque

When: Check Web site for classes; group workshops can be requested

Where: Shaolin Kempo Arts, 11633 Sorrento Valley Road, Suite 1-A

Cost: $60 per person for two-hour session

Registration: (858) 794-0022,

What: Church’s ATA Martial Arts

When: Free self-defense classes at 7:30 p.m. Mondays at the Carmel Valley Studio and a free child safety program is at 1:30 p.m. Saturdays starting April 24 at the Carmel Valley Studio and alternating between Carmel Valley and Encinitas. Call to reserve a spot. Check Web site for other classes.

Where: Carmel Valley studio, 3810 Valley Center Drive, Suite 904; and Encinitas studio, 165 S. El Camino Real, Suite G

Registration: Carmel Valley: (858) 720-8531, Encinitas: (760) 634-3638;