Five years ago Emerald Barkley, below at center, was attacked and nearly raped. She escaped but afterward decided to learn how to defend herself. "One out of four women have to deal with it," she said. "It's not the end of the world and there's things you can do to overcome the experience and prevent it from happening again."
On a late Wednesday night, Barkley focuses intensely on learning pencak silat, an Indonesian martial art taught by Rocky Twichell, a firefighter who teaches out of his garage. His silat lessons are offered free to women. He does not know Barkley's story behind being there as he teaches her. Having been the victim of bullying himself as a child he hates injustice, especially against the elderly, women and children. "If I can teach a student, especially a woman, to stand her ground or fend off an attacker from being raped, beaten or manipulated, I feel I'm doing a great service to that person and the community," he says.
Twitchell's extensive training in various forms of martial arts begain in 1982 when a neighbor encouraged him to train in order to defend himself against bullys at school. At age 14 he began learning savat, a French form of kick-boxing. He fought back against his attackers and suddenly no one touched him again. He continued in martial arts, eventually training under a student of Bruce Lee in the art of Jeet Kune Do, which incorporates kicking, punching, trapping and grappling. Though he teaches multiple forms of martial arts, the values that he seeks to impart to his students remain the same: that of what he calls the "Peaceful Warrior."
A Peaceful Warrior has values, morals and ethics. They will also stand up to defend others who may be harrassed by bullies. They will not use their fighting skills to start fights, but to protect and defend themselves or others, or to run away from their attacker. "Woman are easily manipulated because men are normally stronger," he said. That's why his way of giving back to the community is to offer free classes to women. Learning martial arts teaches more than physical skill alone but also teaches confidence, which permeates into every aspect of someone's lives. Having confidence can prevent a women from being manipulated into paying too much for car repairs, Twitchell uses as an example. "I think women should not be manipulated and told what to do."
Barkley believes that the confidence she has gained from her martial arts training has helped keep her out of dangerous situations. Preditors are looking for weak people to attack she says. "You have to make it immediately clear that you're not going to take it." Since Barkley began training five years ago, she's not been in another altercation. She's more aware of her environment and of the people around her.
Twitchell also enjoys instructing women because it's a male-dominated sport and he likes to bring balance to the classroom. "I like to equip women with the ability to stand up for themselves which then gives them confidence, strength and ability to overcome prejudice, pride and being subservient."
"Rocky wants to do the right thing." says Barkley. "He wants to be fair and just."
To learn more about Twitchell's classes please visit his website at www.silatman.multiply.com.
Do you know someone who gives of themselves to help others? Please send suggestions for the I Care column to Autumn Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org.