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Free self defense classes for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Gainesville residents can take free Aikido self-defense classes.

A form of martial arts, Aikido teaches non-violent self-defense techniques. Classes, held in the Unified Training Center with Aikido of Gainesville, are on Thursday nights from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.. Sensei Tom Huffman teaches the classes with assistance from Keith McInnis.

“In Aikido, we choose to design techniques and to train them in ourselves and to teach them to people so that you don’t have to hurt somebody,” McInnis said. “We’re not interested in punching anybody’s lights out, we’re not interested in pinning somebody or holding them for the police.”

Huffman said Aikido has two different styles, iwama and nishio. He said iwama style is the foundation of Aikido that teaches very solid techniques and very strong attacks. Nishio is more flowing, but he said the styles are similar because both twist the attacker.

“And that twist just busts up all of their balance. And so I incorporate that into a lot of what I’m doing and I’m taking them down with a twist,” Huffman said. “And its not the fancy high falls and flying throws that you see in the other styles of Aikido, but its very effective.”

McInnis said students leave the class with a heightened sense of awareness and safety.

“They learn right away that to have a good composure and confidence and be aware of the environment is the best way to prevent being a victim of a violent crime,” he said.

During classes, students will learn the initial reaction to being attacked.

“The body is going to respond, the mind is going to respond, and they’re going to have an initial shock. That’s OK, that’s normal,” McInnis said.

Aikido student Rossana Passaniti, who attended the class Thursday, said she felt like they could help in real-life situations.

“The moves that they showed us were things that were grips and holds and being able to get out of something very quickly,” she said.

Passaniti said students were also taught to be aware of their surroundings and get their head away from cell phones to pay attention.

“So you can be more aware of you surroundings, be more confident and be less likely to be looked at as a simple prey,” Passaniti said.

Sarah Brand wrote this story online.

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