Women go for self-defence

A number of Jamaican women, spooked by the horrific experiences of other females in recent times, are actively seeking out self-defence training, a local instructor has revealed.

“There is not a day that I don’t receive a phone call from a female asking about some form of self-defence training or awareness,” Patroy Jones, a trained self-defence instructor operating out of central Jamaica, said during a recent appearance on virtual talk show Heart to Heart.

“There is not a day when I don’t get a call from females who are suffering from fear as a result of crime and violence in the country, and the fact that women in recent times seemingly, and unfortunately, have been targeted, and we would have seen some brutal killings, a number of very unfortunate situations,” Jones added.

Last December, banker Andrea-Lowe Garwood was shot dead during a praise and worship service in a church in Trelawny. In March 20-year-old Portmore resident Khanice Jackson was abducted and murdered by a man who police say has confessed to the killing. He is now before the courts.

Also in March, 44-year-old teacher Nattallie Dawkins was kidnapped from her home in Clarendon. On April 8, police find the badly decomposing remains of a female in a shallow grave in Sandy Bay, Clarendon believed to be those of the teacher.

Jones, whose services have also been in demand from groups across several parishes, said not even the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has seen a ban being placed on large gatherings, has deterred the women who have no objections to learning the potentially life-saving tactics via online platforms.

The instructor, who is the dean of discipline at a prominent educational institution in central Jamaica and managing director of Jones Empowerment Mission the platform he uses to provide self-defence training and motivational empowerment coaching is also a volunteer chaplain for the Jamaica Constabulary Force and a paramilitary officer in the Jamaica Combined Cadet Force.

In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Jones described as disheartening the level of fear expressed by women.

“It is pretty much as a result of what has been happening in terms of the level of crime and violence within the society, but more so based on the number of events we would have seen in recent times with the attack on women. We have seen cases where women were attacked, some were injured, some were killed, kidnapped, cases of women being missing, and so the calls I would have received are as a result of these activities,” he told the Sunday Observer.

He said the events have caused women “to be fearful about even living, conducting daily business, leaving their homes, and even while they are in the home they are paranoid they are paranoid about going out in the public [and] the likelihood of being attacked”.

“Case in point, I had a session last week with a group of primary school teachers, directly as a result of the incident [involving Dawkins]. We had about 20 participants in the training and the question afterwards was when are we going to have the next training,” Jones told the Sunday Observer.

“I think it is in demand, and not to blow my own trumpet, but I am willing to offer the training as a volunteer service, and persons are grateful,” he said, noting that in recent times he has been training more women than men.

“I would say last year into this year the majority of the requests have been from females. I recall training a group of about 25, which included 20 females and five males; females are in the majority. I wore my martial arts shirt to an event and I was approached by about four females who wanted to know where my classes were held,” he added.

Jones said when he asked the women why they wanted to enrol they said it was because they wanted to be able to defend themselves, given the experiences of their female counterparts.

He further noted that women of all ages have been seeking his expertise.

“I am looking from the low teens, like 15, 16, 17 years of age, and I have had females 60 plus in my sessions. I was contacted by a lady from abroad last year, she is probably close to retirement, and she was asking about self-defence training. I think there is a pressing need for it, and it is directly connected to the crime and violence against women in our society,” he said.

“Why I am so concerned is that on a daily basis when I am interacting with these women and I am hearing from them that they are afraid to go to work, the incident where Mrs Garwood was killed in church, they are saying no place is safe anymore, we don’t have anything to protect ourselves, even the pepper spray is an offensive weapon, we are basically at the mercy of criminals,” Jones said further.

“It pains my heart when I talk to these females and this is what I am hearing. A case in point, like for instance, the case of Miss Dawkins, where she was allegedly kidnapped and killed, you have persons saying I am not even safe in my own home… It is distressing. I don’t believe that law-abiding citizens should be living in fear driven by criminals. I don’t believe we should be at the mercy of criminals,” he stated.

Asked whether any of his students have ever had reason to use their training recently, he said: “I had dialogue with about three who have seen sufficient red flags to form the decision that this is a threatening situation and so they applied some basic components of self-defence; not the physical, but basically like risk assessment to determine whether it’s a fight or flight situation. In one case, where one student was being manhandled, she used some of her self-defence skills and the situations turned out to her advantage.”

Jones, who is also a trained counsellor, said he has had to employ those skills and has made referrals to colleagues in the field.

“Some of the cases are very depressing. I try not just to encourage them to pull on the self-defence training, but I also have provided some amount of counselling, because where the fear factor is a driving force and is causing depression and causing persons to experience anxiety, I have to provide some amount of counselling.

”I want you to get to a place where you manage the fear instead of allowing the fear to manage you… here are some skills that if you apply them they may help you to survive life-threatening situations,” he added.

“I was born and bred in church, but I also believe there is a practical side that we should pay attention to. We should not leave ourselves open to being attacked and overwhelmed by criminal forces. There are practical steps we can take, and self-defence is one of them. Whether you are going to go to the extent of arming yourself legally that’s a separate matter, because self-defence transcends just arming yourself; it is an attitude, it is a way of life, it is a way of thinking,” Jones pointed out.

“So when I train my students I don’t train them to rely on the use of a weapon. I want them to practise risk assessment, how about situational awareness, it’s not just about how to use weapons or different weapon systems, but it is a mindset. How do you react if you realise you are being trailed? So it goes beyond just the use of a weapon,” he said.

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