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Women’s self-defense priority for martial arts instructor

By Loni Newby
Associate editor

Heather Braegger is an instructor at Defiance Martial Arts, she is a wife, she is a mother, she is a petite woman and she is a childhood domestic violence survivor.
“I started training at the age of twelve in Funakoshi Karate. After earning my black belt, I began training in: Kickboxing, Kali, Jeet Kune Do, and Krav Maga. I love what I do, and my passion is to teach others to defend themselves,” said Braegger, “This is how I give back every year.”
Each year since 2009, in April Braegger uses her self-defense know-how and a strong grasp on the realities of attacks on women to host a community Self Defense Seminar. April is Sexual Assault Awareness month,Braegger believes that prevention and the ability to make cognitive choices which may enable a woman to fight off the advances of an attacker in order to get away from the situation can and will save lives.
According to the Utah Department of Health one in three women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. Rape is the only violent crime in Utah that occurs at a higher rate than the rest of the nation.
“In 2014, Utah’s reported rape rate was significantly higher than the U.S. rate (67.7 and 51.9 per 100,000 females). However, the majority of rapes (88.2%) are never reported to law enforcement, indicating that sexual violence in Utah is grossly underestimated.”
The sold out seminar itself will be led by Braegger and a few advanced female students who will serve as mentors and be used in demonstrations. By using an entirely female instruction team the goal is to create a safe space without intimidation.
The techniques that will be taught fall in line with those Defiance Martial Arts has taught for military and law enforcement officer seminars. The goal is to be able to create an effective escape to gain safety. Self-defense training is just that, training. With experience and practice, training can cause a proper response out of habit. “It’s mental conditioning and awareness. You need to be aware of your surroundings. You need to listen to your gut, your instincts, if something doesn’t feel right, you’re right,” Braegger said.
“It’s simple and effective, it’s not [an] overcomplicated technique…effectiveness with simple drills that can be used from multiple angles, and then highly effective hyper aggression, counterstrike,” said Braegger of the escape-to-gain-safety techniques taught which are designed to be effective for anyone of any size. Targeted strikes to the eyes, genitals and throat are places that can’t be conditioned.
“If you give them your purse and they drag you down an alleyway, good things are not about to happen to you,” Braegger said, “This is why the training the mindset is important. You can’t hesitate, you have to react…You get that adrenaline dump, you can’t mentally shut down, if you shut down you could be dead in the water.”
For past assault victims it can be somewhat traumatic, but working through the process is healing beyond measure. Braegger said, “It’s about learning to move forward, it isn’t about shutting the world out. This way gives those victims a way to fight back and strike things and get their power back.”
The seminar will not hold back or shy away from facts. Braegger uses surveillance videos from actual attacks, statistics and even stress drills where she will wear protective gear to roleplay as the attacker and let the students respond as trained.
Blaming the victim, however, is not on the agenda with Braegger. She said, “I don’t care if your name is Diamond and you spin on a pole for a living. No one walks around with a sign that says ‘please sexually assault me’…no one has the right to touch you.”
Often Braegger has heard women say that they are too petite to be able to fight back. However, she has found that FBI statistics support that 86 percent of the time an attacker is engaged by the victim fighting back the attacker will flee, even when the attacker is armed.
Awareness of environment is something that Braegger can’t stress enough, put down the phones in public, report situations that seem ominous rather than face them alone, if you see something say something, and above all else, Braegger says to trust your gut. Instinct is there for a purpose, it is better to be overly cautious than to have to engage in a physical confrontation.
Braegger teaches to avoid those situations whenever possible, but if the situation has escalated to the point of becoming physical no amount of talking will stop the situation, this is when there is no choice but to use physical force for self-defense. She encourages compliance when it comes to objects such as purses or cars; but when it comes to your person or your children the ability to fight back is a must. “Don’t play dead, fight to the death is my opinion.” said Braegger “I have kids; my kids need their mom. I have a husband; my husband needs his wife.”


‘Oklahoma!’ musical now playing at the Heritage Theatre in Perry

Oh, what a beautiful evening at the Heritage Community Theater! Presenting: Oklahoma! running from April 21- May 13. There is something for everyone: romance, comedy, drama and dance.
The wide open spaces of the Oklahoma frontier are dwarfed by the drama and romance of Roger and Hammerstein’s first collaboration. Set in 1906 on the plains of Oklahoma, Rodgers and Hammerstein tweeze out a story filled with drama and romance, song and dance that has delighted theatergoers for over 70 years. The classic themes of love and changing times still strike a chord with audiences today.
Spend the evening with Aunt Eller, relaxing and taking in the twists and travails of romance and a changing world. Under Aunt Eller’s watchful eye young lovers experience a bumpy ride on the way to true love, and what an adventure it is. Laurie and Curly can’t ever seem to see eye to eye and never miss the opportunity to enjoy a joke at the other’s expense. Ado Annie, on the other hand has a different problem, she can’t seem to stop falling in love much to her fiance, Will Parker’s chagrin. In the end, it all wraps up like your evening: happily.
‘Oklahoma!’ is directed by Marilyn Whipple who is a long time performer and director. This is her second stint as director at Heritage Community Theater. She is returning after her success last year with “Fiddler on the Roof.” Marilyn has assembled an all star cast highlighting the talents of: Joe Burgan as Curly, Emily Jensen as Laurie, Mike Jensen as Will Parker, Janine Mickleson as Aunt Eller, Makayla Porter as Ado Annie.
Oklahoma! opened on April 21 and play Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays through May 13 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee performance on June 10 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and children 12 and under. The Heritage Theater is located at 2505 South Hwy 89 in Perry. Tickets may be obtained online at www.heritagetheatreutah.com by phone at 435-723-8392, or at the box office Mondays and Wednesdays through Saturdays between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The box office also opens on show nights at 7 p.m.