First published in the April 7 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
In public, more and more people, especially teenagers, walk around with their heads down while engrossed in their electronic devices.
David Kerr, owner of FitSport Kinetics in Pasadena, has a friendly safety tip.
“When you are out and about and not in the safety of your business or your home, you need to have your awareness and you’ll be surprised about how easy it is to spot danger,” he said.
For Kerr, who is a fifth-degree blackbelt and co-author of “Idiots to Monsters: The Essential Guide to Surviving Common Threats and Violent Encounters,” being attentive and trusting your instincts are keys to self-defense, especially for teenagers.
“Kids nowadays are so buried in their cellphones, they are not looking at the dangers around them,” Kerr said.
These concepts are at the core of Kerr’s class at FitSports Kinetics, called “Student Life Self-Defense: Street Smart Self-Protection for Teens.”
“When a son or daughter comes and trains with me, I’m going to show them how to look for danger to where they are going to spot anything that is going to confront them,” Kerr said. “It’s that easy. This is not rocket science. It’s learning how to spot little indicators.”
Avoidance aside, Kerr also teaches about 20 applicable techniques should an encounter turn toward physical confrontation.
“I teach this proactive methodology,” Kerr said. “I teach how to strike certain areas of the body … that cause immense pain and then you get out. … If you can’t avoid, strike first and strike fast, be proactive (and) cause pain. Pain is the great equalizer… I’m going to inflict pain on you, so for the next five or 10 seconds, the only thought in your mind is how much pain you are in and, in that time, I’m getting out, I’m running.”
For Kerr and his business partner, Luke Strockis, the idea for “Student Life Self-Defense” grew from the desire to protect their own flock five or six years ago.
“We each have three children. Mine are all boys and [Luke] has two boys and a girl, and they are all about the same age; today that makes them 22 to almost 29 years old,” Kerr said.
“Luke’s youngest child was a junior and she was going to Flintridge (Preparatory School). He said, ‘Dave, you don’t train high school kids.” I said, ‘Yes, I do, but they are part of the regular class.’ So, he says, ‘Why don’t we put together a program that is made for any teenager, is geared more toward females, but it’s made for anyone to present them with some training that would make them feel safer when they go off to school?’ and that is how we first started.”
As the curriculum and scope of the project evolved, the groups served grew from not only those headed off to a college campus, but to all teenagers, boys and girls, who might want to develop self-defense techniques. The class is made up of 10 one-hour sessions working directly with Kerr.
“In those 10 sessions, you learn techniques: you learn how to spot danger, self-awareness, these are things I talk about in my book,” Kerr said. “A lot of it is physical. A lot is learning techniques.”
Kerr, who will soon turn 52, enjoys one thing the most about working with teens. “Their energy. They are like sponges. These kids can learn techniques and it’s so much easier to teach them. Compared to older people, (teens’) minds are just a little bit more open,” he said. “That’s the best part of it.”
The intent is not to produce any martial arts experts or build a student base for martial arts classes, but much simpler.
“In 10 hours, (members of this class) are going to be competent enough to protect themselves,” Kerr said. “Should they have more training? Yes, but that is my baseline. In 10 hours with me over a two-to-three-month period, you should feel secure that they will be prepared for most situations.”
“Student Life Self-Defense” is offered Wednesdays 4:30-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at FitSport Kinetics, located at 801 S. Raymond Ave. in Pasadena. The tuition is $300 for 10 one-hour sessions and a copy of Kerr’s book.