By Rebecca Rose
Killeen Daily Herald
"No! Run away! Tell your parents!"
The simple phrase was echoed over and over again as local children gathered Saturday for a day of self-defense lessons and safety tips in Killeen.
Twenty-five youngsters, all of whom were from a local group of home-schooled students, joined the seminar at Absolute Self Defense and Fitness of Killeen to learn how they can spot potentially dangerous situations.
The class offered a lengthy session on stranger danger, including how to identify who qualifies as a stranger and what to do should such a person try to make contact.
Jim Mahan, a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and co-owner of Absolute Self Defense and Fitness, took the children through several scenarios designed to teach them how to spot a situation that could be problematic.
In one example, Mahan played a stranger trying to bribe a child with candy to get them to come with him. Children repeated the same response each time, yelling out "no," and running back to the arms of their parents, seated in the back of the studio.
The skits proved entertaining for the crowd of children and their parents, often emitting a chorus of laughter or quiet giggles as kids acted out scenes or forgot some lines.
But behind the giggles and fun were very serious themes, especially for concerned parents.
For Mary Wiley, the day was about teaching her son, James, the importance of recognizing a stranger to keep him safe.
"Children can get tricked," said Wiley. "We don't want them to become a statistic."
If approached by a stranger, James, 11, said he was confident he would do one thing.
"Run and tell my parents," he said.
Parent Elaine Clyatt's twin son and daughter, T.J. and Donielle, joined the seminar. It's part of an on-going discussion the parent engages in with her 8-year-old children.
"We talk about this topic, on some level, at least weekly," said Clyatt.
Learning the difference between good secrets and bad secrets topped the list of the day's valuable lessons for several parents.
Wiley said learning how to tell a good secret, such as a surprise gift or party, from a bad secret that involves lying to a loved one is an important lesson for all children.
"We want them to know there's a distinction between secrets between friends and what rises beyond that level," she said.
Missy Mahan, Jim Mahan's wife and partner in the self-defense studio, said the seminar was about teaching children simple techniques to keep them safe from predators.
"Every time you turn around, you see a story about someone trying to hurt or take a child," said Missy Mahan.
"We're offering some simple, easy tips that parents need to learn, too, so they can practice along with their children," she said.
In addition to the lessons on safety, children got a chance to try out some simple self-defense moves, which thrilled James Wiley.
"I can't wait to punch that bag," said the excited homeschooler.
"We're teaching techniques for how to get away if someone should grab them," said Missy Mahan. "These are simple, easy things to help them get away if someone attempts to kidnap them."
Missy Mahan said kids at the seminar learned some moves influenced by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, because the martial arts form focuses on a grappling style of self-defense.
"It teaches you how to get out of a hold if someone has you on the ground," she said. "You can throw them off and get away."
Contact Rebecca Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7548. Follow her on Twitter at KDHBusiness.
Take a class
Parents who want to learn more about talking a self-defense class with their children can go to Absolute Self Defense and Fitness's website: KilleenFitness.com.