Don't be a target - learn how to defend yourself

A self defence course, aimed at helping people protect themselves against predators, has been held in the city.

Sheffield’s Academy of Self Defence, which launched in 2008, held the free two-hour workshop at Sport Sheffield recently.

Managing director Garry Smith, along with senior instructor Jayne Wharf, put over 100 participants through their paces at the session, which saw them teach the academy’s hierarchy of defence: avoid, escape, de-escalation and, finally, physical force.

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“Force of any kind is always a last resort,” said Garry, aged 57, who teaches several self defence classes a week in the city.

“We teach men and women how crime works as a process. Once you understand the process, you can establish whether you’re being selected as a victim. It’s like the old fire triangle rules - heat, fuel and oxygen. Fire needs all three in order to establish; crime is the same. We look at intent, ability and opportunity. If you remove one of these sides, there’s no crime. Criminals will always select the easiest option, so we teach people how to make themselves a high-risk target, and minimalise their opportunity of being selected.

“We then teach practical skills; effective striking, how to escape from grabs and restraints, how to escape if you’re taken to the floor, which is often the case if you’re dealing with a sexually-motivated attack - and we try to do all this with some humour. At the end of the day, if you let the bad guys into your head, you’ve lost already. We tell people to train because it’s fun, because they’re learning something useful, but don’t let the bad guys in.

“The academy currently teaches self defence to about 2,500 people a year. Our classes are mixed, though we do have women-only classes if participants prefer. The majority of people who sign up for a course like these are doing it preventatively, though we have had people come to us who’ve had some nasty experiences.

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“We’re here to help people learn how to keep safe. Aelf defence training is like learning to swim. No one is ever planning to fall of a ferry, but if you did, you’d wish you’d taken some swimming lessons.”

Visit or call Garry on 07738 909125 for more details on future sessions, or for more about the academy.

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