Senior citizens learn self-defense is easy with Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh in Akron

AKRON, Ohio - Dozens of Summit County senior citizens learned how to defend themselves from criminals.

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh hosted a senior safety self-defense techniques class. It took place at Firestone Park Community Center on Girard Street in Akron Thursday morning.

"Our senior community is often targeted by criminals, so I think it's very important for me as the county prosecutor to educate them as much as possible on how to stay safe and that includes teaching them some practical tips for how to protect themselves," Walsh said.

Techniques included how to break out of a wrist hold, how to break free from a choke hold, how to kick and where to strike an attacker.

"A number of seniors after the class are so appreciative and surprised that the moves are easy to do," Walsh said. "But I know that they enjoy the class. I believe they walk out of here feeling more confident when they're out and about."

Being confident is one of the lessons taught in the class. Walsh said that projecting confidence, walking with a sense of purpose and paying attention to your surroundings are important signals that tell attackers to stay away.

Walsh emphasized to the seniors the point of the class is self-defense and not "purse defense." She said that people should simply give up property that a criminal is trying to steal. Fighting for that purse could lead to a violent confrontation.

 "We're not making you ninjas. So this is not a ninja class," said Lt. Chad Cunningham of the University of Akron police, who instructed the class.

Cunningham also urged the seniors to yell and scream the moment someone grabs them. Putting up a fight helps to discourage attackers.

Cunningham showed how to break free from a wrist grab by pulling your arm away from the attacker's thumb, which is the weakest part of the hand. He also urged the seniors not to be shy about targeting your attacker's groin. In fact, he had the entire class practice on him, while he used a sparring pad for protection.

Although the class had fun today, Walsh views self-defense as serious business. In fact, she credits such a class with saving her life when she was 25.

A serial rapist had attacked her and wrapped his hands around her neck.

"And the reason I was able to escape is because I had taken a self-defense class," Walsh said. "I was being grabbed by the throat. I knew how to grab and get his hand off my throat."

Her office tries to hold these self-defense courses on a monthly basis. More information can be found at: https://co.summitoh.net/Prosecutor/

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