After a spate of female harassment reports, Sawbridgeworth karate instructor offers one month's free self-defence
A former police officer who runs a karate school in Sawbridgeworth is offering women and girls one month of free self-defence classes in light of crimes targetting females in the town and neighbouring Bishop's Stortford.
Grant Nicholls, 46, sensei or teacher at Impact Karate Academy, was reacting to a spare of incidents involving a masked man indecently exposing himself to schoolgirls and women, and a report of a stabbing at Bishop's Stortford railway station.
"People have car alarms for their cars and burglar alarms for their homes, but how are they protecting themselves?" he asked. "If your car is stolen or you're burgled, you get over it, generally speaking. But when it comes to crimes that are committed against ourselves, with some of them you never recover fully. My question is 'why aren't you investing in self defence?'"
Karate Academy has been going since 2010 andis affiliated to the British Karate Association. It offers Shotokan Karate and self defence based on Grant's real world experience as a police officer in Holloway and Edmonton. Grant believes martial arts lends practitioners an air of confidence that dissuades attackers, as well as the skills and fitness to fend them off.
Angel Driscoll began taking classes with Grant at age 6 with her father, who was into self defence. The petite world champion kickboxer, who secured her title in Italy last year, appreciates the protection the sport affords her - as well as the medals. "It feels good to walk down the street knowing that I would know what to do if something happened.
And its not just girls who benefit. James Meerloo, 11, says karate is good for getting his anger out - and his mum Nicky agrees. "There's been a lot of trouble in Sawbridgeworth recently and knowing my sons can handle themselves gives me a lot of confidence," she said. Fed up of spending 3-4 hours per week watching her four boys, she signed up in September, since when the 49-year old has lost 9 lbs.
Karate Academy offers pay-as-you-go classes to children as young as four on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings in Sawbridgeworth and Mondays in Hertford. In the 8 years-adult class, several mums have taken the opportunity to work out with their children.
Claire Goddard, 40, trains with her 11 year-old daughter Neala. After being instructed how to fend off a choke-hold, she said: "These sorts of exercises are great for my daughter. She'll be going to school in Stortford next year, getting the bus on her own."