In an age of bear spray and tasers, one gym is taking a hands-on approach to the topic of self-defence, with a series designed to utilize leverage over physical strength.
On Saturday, the Sudbury Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai Academy hosted the most recent in a long line of free Women Empowered Self-Defense seminars as an introduction to their year-round program.
This and past events are offered every six months at Gracie Jui Jitsu certified training centres worldwide, in accordance with the schedule dictated by the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu head office said Steve Joncas, owner and head instructor of Sudbury BJJ.
He said an average of 5,000 women across the globe are introduced to martial arts every time the class is hosted.
Locally, that includes the talent of Sudbury's Penny Brosseau, a graduate of the Women Empowered Self-Defense program in attendance Saturday to lend a hand with the new recruits.
It's been a little more than two years since Brosseau was introduced to Sudbury BJJ through an introductory seminar, but she said she can still remember the nerves.
"I remember it like it was yesterday thinking, 'Oh my God - this is crazy. I'm too old. I'm too fat. I can't do this. I'm probably going to quit,'" she said, but there was no stopping now.
After her introduction to the program, Brosseau said she began taking any class she could, reaching her weight loss goal in no time and a new sense of confidence she couldn't have expected.
"I feel strong, calm and empowered all at the same time," she said. "It's a nice feeling to have to go through life and just have this confidence now that I never really had before."
The Gracie Self-Defense Program for Women is a 10-lesson series designed based on what instructors at Gracie University deemed the 20 most common attacks. Four moves were taught in Saturday's introductory seminar.
Techniques, for the most part, are standard moves found in the Jiu-Jitsu curriculum, said Joncas, but some have been adjusted based on the questions and past experiences of participants.
Joncas said women have always been welcome in Sudbury BJJ co-ed classes, but this allows them to explore martial arts in a comfortable, supportive and fun environment designed with them in mind.
"We all know that women are strong, we all know that women are athletic, but you don't have to be strong or athletic to use these moves," said Joncas. "Once you learn that you can resist an attack with the proper mindset, technique and strategy, (it can be) very empowering for them."
The majority of participants join the program to feel more confident and capable in their daily lives, he said, but for some, it can be a great source of healing.
"They've been attacked in the past and they feel better knowing that there's an answer," he said.
As a result, Joncas said Sudbury BJJ makes it a point to avoid language that could be considered victim-blaming, such as "you should do this" in the event of an attack. He said this implies that if the technique was not performed correctly, the victim is responsible for the outcome - which is not the case.
"These are just suggestions," he said. "These techniques have been proven over time and you'll do your best to perform the technique in the moment if you can and if you choose not to, or you can't, then that's fine too."
It takes about eight to 10 months to complete the full program, said Joncas, but once you do, graduates are welcome to participate at any of the 160 Gracie Jiu-Jitsu certified training centres across the globe for the rest of their life, free of charge. Allowing students the opportunity to keep sharp, the moves, that could save their life.
Joncas said that at Sudbury BJJ, Jiu-Jitsu is considered a method of self-defence first and foremost, with the option for sport application.
All beginner programs are 100 per cent self-defence oriented, said Joncas. It is only when an individual begins to progress to more advanced classes that more sportive techniques are introduced.
Individuals interested in joining the program are welcome to do so at any time, there is no start date.
Find more information on Sudbury Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai Academy's website and Facebook page.