Greece, N.Y.— On Monday night, a dozen women were kicking, punching and shouting at the Arikata Martial Arts Studio in Greece. However, these women weren’t martial arts students—they are the people who teach and care for our children everyday.
That evening the studio hosted a special and free session for educators who wanted to learn skills that could help them during an attack similar to the one at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.
“I want to be as prepared as I can be for my own kids and students,” says Stephanie Calvaruso, a teacher at St. Lawrence School in Greece. “I think our whole faculty feels that way. Our students are our second children.”
Barb Keiser, owner and instructor at Arikata Martial Arts, says she decided to offer the course after the shooting in Newton and so far, the response has been positive.
“We absolutely hope that no one will have to use [these skills],” Keiser says. “But it doesn't hurt to play what I call the ‘What-if Game’-- to think it through if it ever does happen you, will have options and a better chance of success.”
A local police officer led the class and taught the educators good target points on a person’s body. The teachers took turns punching the volunteer “attackers” in the chest and head and putting them in choke holds. Then the “attackers” held prop guns and the teachers learned ways to disarm them all the while screaming “He has a gun! He has a gun!"
The instructors told the teachers they realize not everyone would make the decision to face a gunman in this way, but if you do, it’s best to have a plan.
“That's a personal decision,” says Kaiser. “Not everyone would be geared towards going to the attacker. But if you thought it through beforehand, you can say ‘I am ready for this and this is what I'm going to do.’”
The teachers at the class said they all feel safe at their respective schools. They never hope they will never have to use their newly learned skills, but say it’s better to learn just in case.
“[A shooting] is not something I worry about on a daily basis,” says Tina Cooney, a teacher in the Greece School District. “But after the tragedy at Sandy Hook, it is on all of our minds. Honestly, it's not something I thought I would need to know but the more these things tend to happen; the more I think we should all know how to defend ourselves.”
Cooney just hopes that when faced with a crisis like the Sandy Hook shooting, she would be as brave as the Sandy Hook educators were.
“Those people were tremendous heroes,” Cooney says. “We pray that we would all have that kind of courage and strength in a situation like that.”
Many of the teachers in Monday’s class plan to take what they learned and share it with their colleagues at school. Some schools like the St. Lawrence School in Greece, plan to bring in Arikata Martial Arts for a faculty wide seminar.