TRURO, N.S. – Tracy Vallis enjoys hiking in the woods. But she wanted to be prepared in case she encountered a threat.
“I like walking and hiking by myself, and it’s not wildlife I’d worry about, but people,” she said. “When something about this course popped up in my newsfeed on Facebook, I decided it was a good opportunity to learn techniques in case anything happened.”
The 52-year-old has just completed the seventh of a 10-week women’s self-defence program, put on by the Town of Truro. James Finnie is the instructor.
“This has helped me become more aware of my surroundings,” said Vallis. “As a society, we tend to walk around unaware.
“I’m finding the course very empowering. He makes it fun but real.”
Christina Harding, who is 60, decided to take the course in preparation for some upcoming travel. She had an unpleasant experience during a recent trip, and although she was able to deal with it, she wants to be more prepared if anything similar happens.
JC Swallow has been in situations where she felt fear, and signed up for the program so she could defend herself and her young children if necessary.
“It’s been really fun, and I’m learning a lot,” said the 30-year-old. “I feel I can handle myself a lot better than I could before.”
James Finnie understands the importance of making learning fun.
“If something’s not fun, people find reasons to stop doing it,” he said. “There’s lots of merriment and laughter during the evening.”
Finnie, who is from Scotland, began studying martial arts when he was 16, as a way to protect himself against bullying. He has more than 20 years of active martial arts experience.
“I’m teaching no-nonsense, easy-to-learn techniques,” he said. “There’s practice to build up muscle memory, so when somebody grabs you it’s a natural reaction to break their grip. You don’t end up in a situation where you freeze.
“It’s about women and girls taking control of situations and turning the tables on would-be attackers.”
He provides information on being aware and understanding signals that something is about to happen.
“I teach women how to avoid getting into trouble, how to get safely out of trouble, how to fight back and how to leave a situation safely,” he added. “It lets them experience life without the fear.”
With the popularity of the course, the town has decided to run it again.
“It was more popular than expected,” said Shannon Jarvis, active community coordinator for the town. “This was the first time we’ve offered this through the town, and the class filled. We hope to have both an introductory and intermediate course this spring.”