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Kids learn self-defense

Free interactive workshop teaches about stranger danger, emergencies

Posted: May 10, 2009 10:02 p.m.
Updated: May 11, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Fifth degree black belt Tae Kwon Lee, right, leads a group of children in basic self-defense moves as part of the Kidz 'n Power safety workshop at ATA Martial Arts in Stevenson Ranch on Saturday.

Several children left Gavin Espinosa's ATA Martial Arts studio on Saturday feeling more empowered to flee an unknown stranger should one ever approach them.

"I learned all about how to become really safe and to know the difference between good and bad strangers," said 10-year-old Haley Lohrli, of Valencia. "I learned how to get away from people in a bad situation."

As she thrust each of her elbows to her side and then threw her arm down and behind her, Haley demonstrated the "Leave me alone, I am safe" technique she had practiced in a free self-defense workshop on Saturday.

ATA Martial Arts, in Stevenson Ranch, hosted a Kidz ‘n Power Child Safety workshop for children and parents to help minimize the risk of child abduction.

Everyone who attended the open house, which was endorsed by, participated in an instruction of simple breakaway self-defense moves, role-playing to practice what to do in dangerous situations and received child identification resources.

Espinosa led dozens of participants of diverse ages through an interactive DVD, created by Kidz ‘n Power, showing them the moves and enabling them to take pop quizzes on safety.

But the kids weren't the only ones who learned from the instruction.

Dallas Jones, father of 8-year-old Michael Jones, said the open house made him more aware of the types of danger his son could face.

"Watching the video - it really made sense to me how vulnerable kids are and opened my eyes to the techniques that predators use like driving up and asking for directions or saying ‘Hey, my dog got away, can you help me find my dog?'" said Jones, of Newhall.

Jones was also grateful the workshop addressed drug peer-pressure.

"They talked about drugs and how medication can be abused too," he said. "They told them if someone walks up and offers you a pill, if it didn't come from a parent or a doctor, don't take it."

Fire and police officials also instructed the kids on safety tips.

Engineer Dan O'Neill from the Los Angeles County Fire Department discussed the 911 service and how to use it in case of an emergency, as well as the importance of reviewing exit drills in the home with their parents.

Melinda McNamara said it was great to see the kids really get into the self-defense steps.

McNamara's son Jack, 8, and daughter Moriah, 4, both participated.

"Child predators can strike any age, any gender. It helped me raise my own self-awareness about the dangers my children can encounter and not to let my guard down," McNamara, of Valencia, said. "Danger can happen anywhere and any time. You always need to be aware of your surroundings, even in beautiful Santa Clarita."

A second open house will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Gold Medal ATA Martial Arts, located at 29487 The Old Road.


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