Center offers self defense for seniors

 Messenger photo by Rachel Scofield
Grandmaster Jon Stephens of the American Free Spirit Karate Association and his students perform a self-defense demonstration for senior citizens at the Jewish Community Center Aug. 15.

Grandmaster Jon Stephens, a seventh degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, clutched a key chain tightly in his fist. The keys projected between his clenched fingers like brass claws.

Most people who use keys to defend themselves stab their attacker when a scratching motion is more effective, Stephens explained as he slashed the air.

"Tear the skin across their face and you’re gone," Stephens said.

Several area senior citizens gathered at the Jewish Community Center on Aug. 15 at a special self defense class for seniors. They nodded their heads in understanding and listened intently as Stephens continued to explain how any small object held firmly in a fist would strengthen a punch.

They gasped when 8-year-old Kami Tibbles of Canal Winchester snapped a board with a well-placed kick.

A few of the more adventuresome seniors even thwarted "bad guys" by sweeping their arms in wide windmill-like circles when the "bad guys" grabbed their wrists.

However, to Mike Erlich of Columbus, none of the self-defense techniques that Stephens had thus far demonstrated would have protected him the night when he almost lost his life.

"What if the attacker has a gun?" Erlich asked.

Stephens hesitated. He would demonstrate a technique to defend against an armed assailant, however he cautioned that it took advanced training.

With Master Robert Tuttle in the role of gunman, Stephens feigned compliance and raised his hands into the air. As Tuttle relaxed his guard, Stephens grabbed the gun.

Disarming techniques would be included in a new class Stephens plans to teach at the JCC, he said.

"I would have liked to know how to get the gun," Erlich said. "I would not have hesitated to kill him."

A similar incident happened to Erlich when he drove a taxi. He had reached the destination and turned for his fare, when the passenger brandished the gun.

A childhood spent in the rougher parts of Pittsburgh followed by a stint as a boxer made Erlich not one to step down from a fight. He "jumped" the man and the gun fired. 

"The bullet went in here and out there," Erlich said pointing first at his right cheek and then his left.

The police caught the man, who was found guilty.

For more information on Stephens’ self-defense classes at the JCC or at other venues throughout central Ohio, visit his Web site at:

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