BANDON - While parents hope their children will never have to employ self-defense techniques, most will agree that they want them to know the basics of how to protect themselves.
That was the premise behind free self-defense classes offered at the Bandon High School gym for students in grades sixth through 12th.
Harbor Lights Middle School seventh-grader Jessie Morones learns a self-defense manuever from RJ Rapelje at a free class held at the Bandon Hi…
The classes were held in mid-November in the area above the main gym. With mats on the floors and mirrors to check their positions, students appeared to awkwardly enjoy moves that their parents would likely tell them at home to stop practicing on their siblings.
The teachers, Chris Wiggins and RJ Rapelje took time from their regular jobs to teach the students. They also offered a class to the public that may be repeated if the interest is there.
HLMS and BHS PE teacher Jordan Sammons helped set up the class with Wiggins and Rapelje. Sammons said the two asked if they could use the BHS gym for their community class and Bandon Schools Superintendent Doug Ardiana agreed, but asked if the two could teach self-defense to the district's students in exchange for use of the gym.
Wiggins and Rapelje ended up coming to all three BHS PE classes and all three HLMS PE classes.
"All the kids seem to really enjoy it and told me they had a lot of fun," Sammons said. "They've been very respectful and they all participated and engaged with the two instructors."
Sammons said the purpose of the classes was to teach self-awareness, as well as some specific self-defense maneuvers.
"Things such as being more aware of your surrounding while walking home," Sammons said.
Harbor Lights Middle School students learn self-defense maneuvers from Chris Wiggins at a free class held in November at the Bandon High School gym.
Students learned the correct way to defend themselves, should the need arise, by doing kicks to the groin, choke holds and open hand strikes as well as learning how to escape when grabbed from the back by the hair or clothing, all without hurting themselves in the process.
Matt Yarbor, a senior at BHS and PE aide for Sammons' class, said he also learned a lot.
"I learned basic techniques on how to defend yourself in certain situations," Yarbor said. "I think it's helpful for students of all grades. Some of these kids are a lot bigger than their classmates and the smaller ones might be susceptible to become targets. I also feel like this should be a requirement every year, for everyone (all students at the school.)"
Wiggins said one of the techniques she taught - how to get out of a hold if someone pins you to a wall - has helped her in the past.
"It could happen to anyone," she said.
Rapelje, who lives in Coos County, has 20 years of defensive training in various forms and styles and has been teaching high school students for 10 years. He said the class is an introduction to just a few techniques and is not enough training to obtain certification.
"If they want more, they can take a taekwondo or karate class," Rapelje said. "We actually highly recommend it. It's good for your physical fitness and for your self-confidence."
Wiggins, who lives in Bandon, has been working with Rapelje as a co-instructor. She also has about 20 years invested in learning and teaching martial arts and basic self-defense.
Harbor Lights Middle School seventh-graders learn self-defense techniques from Chris Wiggins, left, at a free class held held at the Bandon Hi…
"I do it as a volunteer for groups that want it," Wiggins said. "It's just something that's important to me because men and women, girls and boys need to be aware of their surroundings and what to do to protect themselves. For example, not going places alone, looking around you and using your senses and voice too, to bring attention to yourself."
Wiggins hopes to teach classes in the community again this year. She will get the word out when the next class is scheduled through the paper, Coffee Break and social media. Those who are interested in scheduling a class can call her at 530-383-2905.
Sammons said while Bandon is a fairly safe community, the techniques could still come in handy, and especially when the students travel or leave the area, such as going away to college.
"I think it's really important for all these kids to have self-defense and self-awareness training so they can always protect themselves," Sammons said. "Just a little bit of training like this could be of value now and even later in life. I hope to keep it going each year so as many kids as possible can go through it."