Community

Self-defense classes for kids, adults to begin this month

Alex Echevarria, left, assists kick-boxing students Larissa de Ruyter (middle) and Chai Ste. Marie.  - Courtesy Photo
Alex Echevarria, left, assists kick-boxing students Larissa de Ruyter (middle) and Chai Ste. Marie.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

By SARAH LOW

The new year on Vashon will bring a new learning opportunity to islanders both young and old in the form of a self-defense course based on the American Kenpo Karate style.

Alex Echevarria, a fourth-degree black belt with more than 26 years of experience in the martial arts, will teach eight-week courses for kids and adults beginning Jan. 8 at the Open Space for Arts & Community.

“Taking care of ourselves is all about awareness, conditions in our environment, avoidance and psychology,” Echevarria said. “We just need training to remember the things we all know instinctively.”

After eight years of visiting friends that live on the island, Echevarria and his wife Jean moved to Vashon from Colorado after he retired from teaching high school philosophy and history last June.

“We’ve been wanting to move here for a long time. It’s home, it’s where we always should have been,” he explained.

Though both Echevarria and his wife are artists — she makes wood block prints and he makes concrete sculptures into Japanese folk art — martial arts have been a part of his life since he was 9 years old, and self-defense is something he believes everyone should know, he said.

“Not just women,” Echevarria said. “Men can be especially vulnerable. There is so much pressure on them to be the defenders, but many have anxiety about not being able to defend themselves or others.”

Echevarria, who is currently teaching a kick-boxing class at the Vashon Athletic Club, emphasizes that while the self-defense course will utilize principles and techniques from the Kenpo style of karate, it is not designed for conditioning or promotion within the style.

“This is not a karate class; it is strictly self-defense,” he said, explaining that the Kenpo style lends itself well to self-defense and the class is for a broad range of fitness levels and abilities.

“Self-defense is just like math,” Echevarria said. “You take variables into account; then you formulate a response like an equation. My hope is that anyone taking the course gains confidence and learns something. If that something helps them at some point, then that is success.”

Classes will be held on Wednesdays from Jan. 8 to March 5 at the Open Space for Arts & Community. The kids’ class (ages 6 to 13) costs $56 and will be from 4 to 5 p.m., and the adults’ class (ages 14 and older) costs $80 and will meet from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Registration begins 30 minutes before the first class.

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