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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/LYNN KUTTER Heather Laster (right) of Belleville in western Yell County, works on techniques with her daughter Caitlyn Laster that she could use if someone tried to attack her. Laster was one of about 15 visually impaired students who participated in a self-defense class at Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative in Farmington.

FARMINGTON -- An area martial arts school recently gave basic, self-defense lessons to a group of students who could be vulnerable during an altercation.

The blind and visually impaired students attended a one-day workshop sponsored by Chuan Fa America-Arkansas at Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative.

"Individuals who are blind or visually impaired are physically vulnerable in public places," said Angyln Young, state coordinator for the Education Services for Visually Impaired.

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Students with visual problems can fear being out in public places, which limits their exposure to vocational, social and self-determined experiences, Young said.

"Learning self-defense skills, students can gain safety skills, confidence and independent movement in the community without fear," Young added.

Shawn Wilson, president of Chuan Fa America, said the goal of his school is to teach realistic self-defense to men, women and children. He especially wants to help latch-key kids and victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. His school is a nonprofit organization and classes are free to the public.

Wilson and two of his staff first worked with teachers, parents and other staff members to show them the self-defense techniques, and then these partners worked one-on-one with about 15 students at the training. The partners guided the students' hands and arms to show them what to do.

Young said she organized the self-defense class because students have asked for help.

"They're at the age where they are going places and wondering how do we stay safe," Young said.

Wilson, a deputy with the Washington County Sheriff's Office, told the students self-defense training is all about surviving.

"The only way a technique works," Wilson said, "is if it is a surprise."

Wilson pointed out a person who might attack them would not know their limits and would not know how much sight they have.

He showed techniques to use if someone grabbed their shirt, grabbed their wrist or across their chest or threw an arm around their neck.

He pointed out several techniques with different options are important because if one doesn't work, there are others to try.

"When a technique doesn't work, the last thing you want to do is to panic," Wilson said. "These techniques are tools. If one tool doesn't work, try another one."

When dealing with an altercation, Wilson said victims should make lots of noise to attract attention to themselves. He also encouraged the students to practice the techniques at home.

"All of these techniques are joint manipulations," Wilson said. "If you do it fast and hard you will hurt somebody, but none of these will work if you don't practice. The important thing is making lots and lots of noise."

Caitlyn Laster of Belleville in western Yell County attended the self-defense class with her mother, Heather Laster.

Caitlyn plans to attend the University of Arkansas, and her mother said it's scary to think about her daughter leaving and being on her own at college. Caitlyn also plans to fly to Michigan by herself.

"This makes me feel a little better," Heather Laster said. "We need to see more of this for our kids. This gives them self-esteem and self-confidence."

Wilson said the class was his first one with visually impaired students.

"This was amazing," Wilson said. "It went really well."

NW News on 06/25/2017

Print Headline: Chuan Fa America offers self-defense training for visually impaired students

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