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Two-hour self-defense class could save your life

Gloria Marcott wasn’t always a bad-ass. The former Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy and current Rio Rancho police officer and self-defense instructor remembers clearly when she was in her “young 20s.” And how, as a former University of New Mexico softball standout, Olympic hopeful and a then-rising pharmaceutical rep who thought herself young, fit and capable, she got a serious wake-up call on how personal safety can turn on a dime.

Self-defense instructor Gloria Marcott shows students how to fend off a knife attack by Rio Rancho Public Schools security chief Larry Tafoya, who often poses as “the bad guy” in her classes. (Courtesy of Glorial Marcott)

She found herself at what was supposed to be drinks with 13 other reps but ended up being a gathering of three – Marcott, her female boss and “Mr. Corn-fed,” a vice president of East Coast sales, at his penthouse. When her boss went to the restroom, Marcott found herself in an unsolicited bear hug by a man who was 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds. She says she “shut down completely.”

And though she was able to buy herself the time it took her boss to return from the bathroom and get out of there, she understood “never wanting to feel that defeated. I went blank. I didn’t have any resources to draw on.”

It was what she calls “a mind-shift event.” And so began her journey teaching self-defense to give others “a damn chance.”

She joined law enforcement after 9-11 for much the same reason, starting with BCSO, then moving over to RRPD 2½years ago. And often what she sees in her work “breaks my heart and infuriates me. If I could just have gotten them in a class. …”

To be clear, self-defense training is not about protecting your stuff but protecting your safety, i.e. you can get another purse but you can’t get another life. That’s where Marcott comes in.

Marcott is owner of and master instructor at Soul Punch Self-Defense. Her focus in each two-hour class is non-strength-based defensive tactics rather than martial arts fighting-style training, because most of her students don’t have the time or desire to dedicate to mastering such a craft. They just need to get “safely from point A to point B” if they are being threatened.

And in a #MeToo, Parkland world, that’s a bigger concern than ever for many. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), “every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.”

The TigerLight Defense Alert Device (aka D.A.D) is housed in the same polycarbonate that helmets and bullet-proof vests are made of, and a hit to the head with it is going to ring an attacker’s bell. Its handle keeps it from being knocked out of your hand, and it includes a blinding flashlight, military-grade pepper spray and a silent Bluetooth GPS beacon that alerts people on your specified contact list as well as everyone within a mile who has downloaded the TigerLight app. (Jim Thompson / Albuquerque Journal)

Marcott trains her students in defensive body mechanics that protect and/or recover your personal space in the event of a choke-hold, knife or gun attack, as well as the proper use of a TigerLight Defense Alert Device (aka D.A.D). The D.A.D includes a blinding flashlight, military-grade pepper spray and a silent Bluetooth GPS beacon that alerts people on your specified contact list as well as everyone within a mile who has downloaded the TigerLight app. It’s housed in the same polycarbonate that helmets and bullet-proof vests are made of, and a knock to the head with it is going to ring an attacker’s bell. Marcott calls it a “force multiplier” with a “96 percent stop rate,” because it not only puts an attacker “into rescue-breathing” mode, but gives those contacted your exact location so they can call 911 for you.

(Marcott’s class is $30. The D.A.D is $129 online with a $30 discount for SoulPunch grads; a portion of all sales go to the Elizabeth Smart Foundation and Operation Underground Railroad, which helps sex-trafficked children around the world. The app is free.)

Josh Parkins is retired from BCSO, a Marine Corps veteran and state firearms and Taser instructor. He usually plays “the bad guy” in Marcott’s classes and says the techniques she teaches are “basic, but they work. (Students) leave empowered … (no matter if they are ) small or in bad health, they can use these techniques, and the D.A.D ramps them up 8,000 percent. A gun isn’t the only answer.”

Joellen Beller-Hudgins with Keller Williams Realty took the class a few months ago because “open houses freaked me out.” Now, she says, “I can defend myself enough to get away. I have my D.A.D in my hand with my phone through the open house. … (The handle means) I can’t drop it, don’t have to fumble in my purse.”

Beller-Hudgins says she carries it wherever she used to feel vulnerable – the ATM, gas pumps, dark parking lots. One evening “I was pumping gas, and a man started walking up. I held up my hand (with the D.A.D); he saw it, waved and turned around.”

At one open house, she unknowingly hit the beacon, and within minutes “there was a pounding at the door and ‘this is the police. Are you Joellen? Are you safe?'”

Someone had called 911 after getting the alert. After she sent a “Joellen is safe” update and explained to the officer what happened, she says, he took down information on the D.A.D to get one for his wife.

Jeanette Perez teaches at the Albuquerque Charter Academy and took the class “to feel more empowered. In this day and age, and especially as teachers, we are living in a more heightened state. We just don’t know what will happen.”

Afterward “I felt stronger, more capable to defend myself.”

Heidi Kenworthy is the program manager at Rio Rancho Cyber Academy and took the class with several teachers. She says it helped them “take control of fear. You don’t want it to control you. You get a sense that you have greater odds of keeping (yourself and your students) safe.”

She and her colleagues now “have a game plan and don’t let fear interfere. We have that as a mind-set.” School districts each have their own policies; Rio Rancho like many does not allow pepper spray, but Kenworthy and her co-workers are allowed to take their D.A.Ds on campus without the cartridge.

Larry Tafoya was a homicide detective and member of the CSI unit for BCSO, an officer in Las Vegas, N.M., and Marcott’s drill instructor before heading up security for Rio Rancho Public Schools. He says that, especially because he has sisters and daughters, he knows “it’s important for them to be confident and take control of a situation when someone approaches them – aggressively or non-aggressively. It’s huge to have the training and have the tools” in case of an attack.

And he recalls a student who took the class who had been a victim of sexual abuse. Afterward, “it was tremendous to see the confidence on her face.”

After 20 years of teaching defensive tactics across the country, Marcott says her efforts are on the brink of going national – the Today Show and others are calling – but fame isn’t why she does what she does.

“This is why I was put on this Earth,” Marcott says. “Two hours of your time. That’s all I need. (And then) yeah, you are gonna be OK.”

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to editorial page editor D’Val Westphal at 823-3858 or dwestphal@abqjournal.com. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

 

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