FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Standing before a self-defense class of more than a dozen women and girls, Megan McCall began with a message of empowerment.
“What I want you to take out of this, if nothing else, is that you are worth defending,” said McCall, an instructor for Han Mi Martial Arts, which opened its first martial arts school in 2012 in Damascus.
With the start of the new year, Han Mi Martial Arts officially began offering classes in Frederick, too.
Han Mi Martial Arts, at 190 Thomas Johnson Drive in Frederick, offers several programs that teach Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, a form of martial arts founded by the late Hélio Gracie and now led at the international level by his grandsons Ryron and Rener Gracie, according to gracieuniversity.com. Han Mi Martial Arts first opened its doors in Frederick in October, though only with a limited schedule.
The class was a Gracie self-defense program called Women Empowered, which Han Mi Martial Arts offers for women ages 13 and up. This form of self-defense was created to help people defend themselves when they are likely to be smaller or lighter than their attacker, which makes it especially beneficial for women, McCall said.
With head instructor Matthew Thompson serving in the role of the attacker, McCall demonstrated for the cohort the skills and techniques of self-defense against a larger and stronger adversary.
The training is meant to prepare women for attacks from strangers and those they know and protect themselves against multiple forms of abuse, including sexual assault and domestic violence.
“If you try to fight your attacker, you’re going to wear yourself out. But, what you can fight is their objective,” McCall said.
Yvonne Diaz, a Frederick resident, enrolled her 14-year-old daughter in the class to build up her confidence.
“She’s very shy,” Diaz said of her daughter, who was on the matted floor of the Jiu-Jitsu studio practicing self-defense with a partner in the class.
But, the class was about more than helping her daughter break out of her shell, Diaz said.
“I just want her to have some kind of defense,” she said.
J.P. Lunn drove from Hanover, Pennsylvania, to attend the class with his daughters, who are 16 and 13 years old. Lunn learned about Women Empowered by following Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
“I’d like them to be a little more alert than they are,” Lunn said of his daughters, especially considering that the older one plans to leave home to attend college in the near future.
Lunn said he hopes that neither of his daughters will ever be in a situation in which they’d have to use the self-defense training they were learning.
But, he said, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu will prepare them for if they ever do.