Fort McCoy News April 24, 2015

Students SHARPen self-defense knowledge, skills

Public Affairs Staff

A free self-defense class at the Rumpel Fitness Center helped members of the Fort McCoy community learn and understand how to protect themselves and others.

The class was coordinated by the Fort McCoy Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program in observance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, said Garrison Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Jamie Cram. The instructors were from Three Rivers Martial Arts Academy of La Crosse, Wis.

Fort McCoy community members participate in a self-defense class at
Rumpel Fitness Center.

"A main goal of the SHARP program is to prevent sexual assault," said Cram, who also participated in the class.

"Simply put, it means you have to stop offenders from offending. The offender is always the person at fault and responsible for an assault. It is never the fault of the victim. One thing we can do for ourselves to help reduce our risk of becoming a victim is to learn how to fight back."

Master Larry Klahn led the class, which is called Women Initiating Safe Environment, or WISE. The techniques taught in the class can be used by men or women. Klahn is a black belt in martial arts, including taekwondo, kyuki-do, judo, and hapkido.

"We developed the WISE program in 1980," said Klahn, who also has served as a La Crosse County deputy sheriff. "Since its inception, we've had more than 4,000 graduates with 27 documented saves and zero downtime injuries to students. We've taught this program to students … as young as 6 years old to 72, and they've all found it beneficial."

Klahn first spoke about home, vehicle, and personal safety. He offered ideas on how to reduce risk factors of becoming a victim of a crime or an assault. He refers to those ideas as "common sense prevention."

"If you reduce your risk factors, you lessen the chances of becoming a victim," he said.

In the physical-training portion of the class, Klahn and three assistant instructors focused on self-defense moves that could help end an attack.

"The moves we teach are not meant for a person to be in a long, sustained fight," Klahn said. "They are meant to be used to end a fight or assault quickly so the victim can escape."

The self-defense moves included hand, arm, and leg movements that could be used to fight off an attacker. Whether it was a hand strike or a kick, the objective of a physical response is personal survival.

"They learned strikes that are immediate and effective," Klahn said. "You want to end the fight in the quickest, most-effective way possible."

Escaping to someplace safe is just as important to fighting off an attacker. "The escape techniques we teach are an additional set of skills that enhance survivability," Klahn said.

Cram said she found the training effective.

"I learned a lot of great self-defense moves and feel confident in my abilities to get away from an attacker," she said. "The 'A-team,' as they call themselves, was extremely professional and knowledgeable."

Assistant Instructor Brian Puent said people who take self-defense training have more confidence.

"We see the confidence of the students increase as they complete the training," said Puent, who is a retired police officer and a law-enforcement instructor. "Any way we can help people better protect themselves from attack is always helpful in increasing personal safety."

Klahn added, "If you can protect yourself and your family, you have the ability to go through life without being afraid."
Cram said a physical response to preventing an assault — especially a sexual assault — is important; however, people need to remember other prevention methods.

"There are many approaches we can take to do this, such as knowing what are appropriate and inappropriate behaviors; knowing what consent means; knowing how offenders think and operate; being an active bystander; and reporting incidents or attempted incidents so that that offenders can be held accountable," Cram said.

For more information about self-defense training at Three Rivers Martial Arts Academy, visit their website at For more information about the Fort McCoy SHARP program and assault-prevention efforts, call Cram at 608-388-8989.