Recent crime stats here, have revealed a spike in the incidence of rape in Saint Lucia. Just this week the case of two young women who were gang raped not only added to this horrific state of affairs but reopened public debate on the matter. On the one hand some are calling for stiffer laws, a working crime lab and the enforcement of penalties to deal with the perpetrators when they are caught. On the other hand there are those seek greater protection for our women and recognition of their right to protect themselves to prevent such incidents.
One such individual who believes in more women taking the defensive approach is 8th degree black belt and Saint Lucian-born Timmy Francis. Francis is putting his best foot forward to come to the rescue of Saint Lucian women of all ages by offering vital self-defence skills that can help to save their lives.
Francis, who has worked extensively in London with schools, independent programmes and public projects, recognizes the susceptibility of women and has initiated an ongoing solution to address the major problem of crime directed toward them as the physically weaker gender. “Women island-wide now have the opportunity to undergo free self-defence training by means of my Fit Defence Programme which seeks to empower them with practical self-defence skills and techniques while helping them to become more physically fit,” Francis told the STAR this week.
For a while, Francis says, he had been pondering the question “how do we address something of this magnitude?” His answer: “Find a venue in order to achieve the following goals:- tackle and address the obesity problem here and teach self-defence techniques to women while helping them to build their self esteem.” And now he says his prayers have been answered through the use of the Castries Town Hall.
In his interview with the STAR Francis explained that women in Saint Lucia are at risk of crime initiated against them because many are not in shape and the majority do not know where to begin with regard to fitness training, particularly because of their busy schedules. Giving us some insight into his programme Francis says, “The programme was first launched in the Mabouya Valley and Palm Valley in Deniere Riviere, Dennery. Martial arts techniques help build, develop and strengthen not only the body, but the immune system as well, so participants must refrain from alcohol, drugs, tobacco, smoking, marijuana and late nights while undergoing training. Apart from the major health and safety benefits, it teaches discipline.”
He went on to explain that he believes in encouraging moderation, as opposed to total elimination, in order to be consistent with the programme and ultimately to become successful. “While it takes five to ten years to learn karate, for example, one can successfully learn self-defence in six weeks to three months,” Francis says. “Martial arts teach control over natural reactions to potential attackers and help to develop control defence mechanisms.”
The programme, which began with three fitness instructors and two police officers, has been steadily growing, with new instructors being trained and certified as the programme expands. Aside from the ‘Fit Defence’ classes, other programmes offered include the popular pedi gresse classes and keep-fit and self-defence classes for seniors. Participants have reported physical rehabilitation and disabled patients have reported steady recovery since starting the programme, Francis claims.
“The best thing about the classes is that they are only ten minutes long, so very easy to fit into even the busiest schedule.” Francis highlighted. According to him these classes enhance strength, develop reflexes, and improve fitness and flexibility n women, while making their awareness more acute. “The bonus is that the training helps develop women’s sixth sense (intuition),” Francis adds.
For Timmy Francis it is all about empowering women all over Saint Lucia to defend themselves against potential attackers while simultaneously having fun when they keep fit. Classes are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Castries Town Hall and are open to the general public.