Published:  12:01 AM, 18 February 2020

New location, new class family martial arts offers women empowerment

New location, new class family martial arts offers women empowerment

Josephine Moore

The New Year is often seen as a time for fresh starts, and that goes for people as well as businesses. This year, Family Martial Arts in Beckley kicked off 2020 by moving into a new facility in the Beckley Plaza Shopping Center as well as the addition of a new class tailor made for women. The class, called Women Empowerment, is a self-defense program that is based on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques.

Jason Wilcox, owner and head instructor at Family Martial Arts, said this type of Jiu-Jitsu is designed to teach techniques that allow a smaller, weaker individual to survive and attack against a much larger, more athletic individual. "The techniques taught in the class are specific to women ... with leverage-based techniques that they can use to survive and escape an assault situation," Wilcox said.

Although he has been in business since 2004, Wilcox said the size of his former location prevented him from offering more classes. "At the new location we were able to expand our mat size and it gave us the opportunity to be able to do classes simultaneously and have two different rooms," he said.

The Women Empowerment class initially kicked off Jan. 4, a few days after the opening at the new location, with a free self-defense seminar attended by nearly 60 women.

Following the seminar, Wilcox said roughly 25 women signed up to take a 10-week Women Empowerment boot camp in order to be taught 15 lessons and 20 techniques. Melissa Jensen, 33, of Mount Hope, said she joined the class in an effort to be more prepared in the event that she was put in a dangerous situation.

"Obviously (the class) is something that has an appeal to a lot of ladies because all of us feel nervous whenever we're walking out to a parking lot and it's dark and there's no one around. I think every woman has felt that anxiety," Jensen said. "I know people in my family who have been assaulted ... if I could bring every woman I know to this class, I would.

This is something every woman should do." According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), one in six women in America has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Jenson said in the few short weeks that she has been a part of the class, she has felt empowered by what she has learned.

"The actual class itself was very nonthreatening," she said. "I'm not the most athletic person so I was worried that it was going to be overwhelming and that I wasn't physically going to be able to perform the maneuvers, but it is very friendly for people of all ability levels and body sizes."

While the class is made for women, Jensen said it is also unique for other reasons."The class is very supportive," she said. "If you're worried that you're going to come in and do something wrong and people will make fun of me or be really cocky, it's not like that ... There is no top of the class, bottom of the class here.

We're not here to be a black belt. We're here to learn how to defend ourselves and help each other." Aiding Wilcox in teaching the class is Elizabeth Holley, 29, who has been training at Family Martial Arts for over five years. Though she has been a part of coed programs taught at the center, Holley agreed that this class has a different feel altogether. "It's an awesome program for the area because there is none like it," she said.

"I think Jiu-Jitsu is great for every woman to learn and this is a perfect setting to do it." She added that the great thing about the Women Empowerment program is that the class is designed for beginners and everyone can learn something whether they attend all the class or only a few sessions. As a husband and a father of a 14-year-old daughter, Wilcox said he wants the class to help all women to feel confident no matter the situation.

"I want women to have this (class) because it is empowering in the sense that you feel confident when you're out that you can avoid bad situations and survive," he said. "They might not be attacked ever but what is more important - to have (the techniques) and never need them or to need the techniques and not have them?" The Women Empowerment classes are offered Tuesday from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon.

For those interested in learning more about the Women Empowerment class or other classes offered at Family Martial Arts, Wilcox said they offer a 10-day free trial so people can try out a class before fully committing. "If they like it, they can get signed up and if not, there is no strings attached," he said. "We extend that to all students for every program we offer."

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