For most people, giving back to the community involves volunteering their time or money for a good cause. For black belt Chris Schwartz, it means sharing the self-defense knowledge he has built over roughly 30 years of studying the martial arts.
Since opening Northwest Wado-ryu Karate dojo in downtown Moscow in 2016, Schwartz has hosted free monthly seminars intended to prepare his fellow community members for the worst. This is in addition to the full schedule of lessons and classes his dojo offers already.
“I feel a duty,” Schwartz said. “I have this knowledge of how to defend myself ... (and) with where the world’s going right now, to not share that is a crime to me — I mean, not everybody can afford martial arts, but people need it. If they pick one thing from a seminar and remember it and it helps them, it was worth it.”
The seminars typically run from 45 minutes to an hour and cover everything from self defense for young adults to techniques for helping parents and children deal with bullying at school.
This month, Schwartz said he will offer his “bully buster” seminar to children and their parents Aug. 17 and a self defense seminar for new college students Aug. 24. While many people might think themselves too diminutive to effectively defend themselves, he said these are exactly the people who may benefit most.
“Martial arts aren’t designed for big, huge guys to learn how to fight, because they’re big and huge — they’re not necessarily the ones that are getting picked on,” Schwartz said, describing a technique where he, a man of slight build, can force three 200-pound men back a step with a single push when executing the move properly.
“Martial arts, especially my art that I teach here, are not based around strength, they’re not based around speed — they’re based around technique and timing.”
Schwartz’s most recent seminar was a “stranger danger” class centered on teaching children and parents how to prevent an attempted abduction. While he said the majority of kidnappings are carried out by someone who knows the child, Schwartz said the abductions that have severe outcomes often involve strangers.
He teaches escape strategies for children, including simple wrist breaks, going suddenly limp as a would-be captor tries to carry them or hard, fast kicks to the shin. But having a plan for such emergencies is just as important.
Schwartz said children and their parents should always have safe words to signal that an adult is trustworthy, and safe houses, like the fire department, hospital or even a good neighbor where the child can flee if need be.
While it’s easy to feel insulated from the horrors of the world in a small community like Moscow, Schwartz said that sense of security can be misleading.
“In the last two months, we had six perpetrators in Washington County, Wash., which is about 100 miles away from here, that were arrested by police stings for under-age soliciting,” Schwartz said. “There was one that was an attempted abduction down in southern Idaho — in Jerome, Idaho — just last month, and so these things are happening right here.”
Those interested in classes or free seminars offered at Northwest Wado-Ryu Karate dojo can go to www.nwwado-ryu.com.
Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to email@example.com.