Women's Self Defense

Daily Bulletin, September 10, 2004

Women learn to take self-defense into their own hands -- and minds

Head Instructor, Gary Goltz

by Diana Sholley, Staff Writer

Once upon a time not too long ago, Susan Cooper walked carefree around her Claremont neighborhood. She didn't think about what cars surrounded hers when she parked at the mall or at local sports fields. She was unconcerned about who was sitting in the same restaurant or movie theater. Not anymore. She still goes where she wants, but after taking the self-defense seminar for women at Claremont's Hughes Community Center, she is no longer unaware of her surroundings.

"My husband used to tease me about how unaware I was," Cooper laughed. "I'd just go around not paying attention to anything around me." Cooper was a prime target. To take the giant bulls-eye off Cooper and other women like her, judo veteran Gary Goltz has developed a self-defense seminar.

The course focuses on avoiding potentially unsafe situations. If a woman is faced with an attacker, Goltz teaches practical judo techniques of throwing, grappling and striking to gain escape. Goltz has studied judo for 39 years and heads Goltz Judo Club. He also serves as a defensive tactics consultant for the Los Angeles Police Department. The other instructors are Tony and Ashton Farah.

Cooper knew Goltz because her boys, 7 and 9, learn judo with the veteran instructor. "I wanted to take judo, but I felt too intimidated," she said. "Then he offered this class that empowered women and taught strategies on how to protect yourself. I decided to take it." Cooper goes out into the world with a new sense of awareness. She feels safer and is vulnerable no more. "Things I didn't think about, now I think about," she said. "I practice prevention and don't put myself in bad situations." If some day she needs the techniques taught, she believes she will be ready to use them. "We practiced them in class," she said. Cooper admits that for years she was one of the many women who walk around sporting an unrealistic sense of security. She was unaware -- and that can be dangerous.

"The goal is to avoid bad situations, to have a plan," Goltz said. "The goal is to get free, get safe and go for help. It's not to beat up anyone." Goltz believes women should go out being aware of their surroundings and "what to do if..." "I say in the beginning of the class that this is not a martial arts class in the traditional sense," he said. "I am going to show you simple moves that may work for you - if you remember to do them."During the class, Goltz has his students practice the techniques so they become familiar and students know their feel.

Special uniforms are not needed, but Goltz does suggest women attend in comfortable clothes. "We do scenarios on the ground and with the women on their backs," he said. "It's a common position a victim could find themselves in." He also has them simulate being trapped in a car, in a car trunk and what to do if they're carjacked. "I teach how to avoid being strangled. Most guys go for neck," he said. "We go over how to use weapons you may have on you like pepper spray and I do teach some judo techniques. Judo is ideal for self-defense. "I also advise them not to let themselves be taken to a secondary crime scene," Goltz said. "Fight for your life."

Goltz invites guest speakers, including a United States Marine shooting instructor, to speak on the pros and cons of gun ownership. This is a fairly new course, only in its third offering. If attendance is good, Goltz plans to offer it once a quarter. He's passionate about safety and hopes women will attend to learn some potentially life-saving skills. "I'm just a guy who doesn't like to see anyone bullied," he said. "I don't like to see a weaker person taken advantage of. Through this class I believe I have something important to offer."

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