It’s not just the cops that are bound to serve and protect. Four of St Lucia’s top martial artists are now getting in on the action. Danny Augustin, Samuel Decaille, Andre Murray, and Karim Sifflet have joined forces to create Shield Self-Defense System; an outfit dedicated to providing comprehensive self-defense courses specifically targeting women.
With the escalating incidents of crime against women permeating the island, the most recent of which being the murder of a 19-year-old Monchy resident, the group realized it was time to step forward and put a different spin on the regular classes being offered.
“We found that there are a lot of martial artists around providing self-defense on the island, but ours comes from a unique approach because this is an instance where we will be having martial artists from different organizations and different styles coming together not to promote their organization or any self-interest but for a common cause,” Sifflet explained.
Augustin added, “When the (latest) incident happened, all of us figured we should gear it towards women. Everyone wants a quick fix but in terms of martial arts it’s kind of hard to do that because in self-defense you need a lot of practice, a lot of repetition. That’s why you learn self-defense later on when you start martial arts. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn. So we’ve decided to do it in the space of a month. It’s going to be very intense but it’s enough time for you to get in there and get out and still know how to do something, rather than a one day workshop or a week where we put everything into your head and you go back out there unable to defend yourself. So our whole aim is to be able to get the women to defend themselves at some level. We don’t expect them to learn everything but they will pick up some things along the way. It’s not just for them to defend themselves but also to help other people as well. And in addition also to teach them self-confidence and situation awareness.
“Women generally should step up in terms of defending themselves. People see women as the weaker sex. I disagree,” Murray chimed in.
Decaille agreed reasoning that, “Most of them don’t want to go in a formal setting like a martial arts school. All they want to know is just the practical aspect of it.”
The moniker ‘Shield’ sounds like something straight out of superhero lore and Sifflet laughingly admits he was inspired by his childhood love affair of comic books.
But the quartet is no joke. All the martial artists are highly proficient in their respective crafts. Between them they have eighty-one years of experience and thirteen belts of varying degrees. Sifflet’s roots are steeped in shotokan karate, where he holds a first degree black belt. Recently he has taken a more active role in mentoring youth in his style. Murray has four recorded black belts in shotokan karate, taekwondo, kenpo karate and combat jiu jitsu. He also practices capoeira and kickboxing. Augustin has experience in karate and taekwondo, but is most versed in capoeira, in which he holds seven belts. The unquestionable grandmaster of the group is Samuel Decaille who has been in the business for thirty-two years and is a fourth degree black belt in taekwondo and is currently integrating aikido into his arsenal.
Armed with this wealth of knowledge, Shield promises to cover all the bases including defense on the streets, defense at home, defense against weapons, defense using easily accessible items such as pens and keys, and probably most critical, escaping danger from the onset.
“Self-defense starts with avoiding so we’re not just going to teach them all the fun stuff. But we’re going to show them how to avoid it altogether and that is very important. So there’s a lot about awareness and dealing with situations that a lot of people just don’t know how to deal with. When I read statistics about violence against women more of it happens in the home. And women don’t know how to defend themselves from that so we’ll try to focus on that as well,” said Augustin.
It’s a wide canvas to cover but the team has no doubt that come November 11th, which is the projected start date for classes at the Carellie Gym, they will be fully prepared.
Augustin described their camaraderie in a nutshell.
“That’s the whole reason for getting different martial artists because we all have different ideas, different things, different methods. You put them together you get something amazing.”