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Summer program teaches self-defense techniques

Learning new skills can happen anytime for kids -- even during the summer, when they're not in school -- and the lessons don't always come out of books.

Take, for example, the students enrolled in the self-defense class offered by Farmington Community Education. The students are in class on every Tuesday throughout the summer. And for some, it's a continuation of skills they started to learn in the past. For others, the class is an introduction to what could become a long-term life skill.

The class is taught by Master Jeff Wood of the Young Americans School of Self-Defense. Wood travels the state to teach students about self defense. In Farmington this summer, he's teaching some of the basics, but readying students for future learning, as well.

"These students are learning different arm and leg defense techniques to protect themselves from different common attack scenarios," Wood explained.

The community ed class was open to kids age 4 and older, and each student progresses through the class at his or her own pace. At the same time, Wood said, the students are earning certified belt rank in the martial arts.

"We have brand new students who have never trained before, and we have students who have trained for years," Wood said.

He enlists the assistance of some of his older students who have earned higher belt ranking to help with the classes. Those students, who even include one parent, are Senseis Jamie and Bryan Scavone, Jonathan and Jacob Kingsbury and Chris Pearson.

Wood involves parents in the class when he can. This week, he planned to move students into mock attack situations so students could apply some of the skills they have learned. That's where the parents come in -- to help with the scenarios.

"All this only really means something if they can apply it to a scenario," Wood said. "Students can either spar with another student or a parent. The parent comes out, we script an attack for students, then the students can use their technique."

The Young Americans School of Self-Defense is not new to Farmington. It's been around since about 1995, Wood said. The skills learned through self-defense training can stick with a person, too. Wood started learning martial arts in 1964; he's been an instructor since 1981.

"I see my role as trying to pass on to these students as much of what I've been taught over the past 49 years as possible," Wood said.

The summer session runs through August, but it is now closed to new students. However, Wood said, a similar class will be opened in the fall.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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