Fighting to prevent sexual assault
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- In an attempt to reduce the frequency of sexual assaults on base, dozens of teens took to the mat alongside Yokota Airmen to practice Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, July 23, 2016, at the Taiyo Community Center.
The Gracie Defense Systems is a new program specifically designed to increase awareness and reduce the frequency of sexual assaults in the U.S. Armed Forces. In June, Gracie Family Jiu-Jitsu instructors traveled to Yokota to teach a one-week instructor certification course to more than 30 Airmen.
“By sharing the techniques of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu with teens on base, we hope to eliminate sexual assaults before they ever occur,” said Maj. Tyrone Bess, 374th Security Forces Squadron commander.
Bess, a certified Gracie Defense Systems instructor, is working to refine the skills and teaching presentations of new jiu-jitsu instructors so they’ll be able to service everyone on base.
“With the instruction we received from the Gracie Family, we were able to educate 24 Yokota teens on sexual assault situations,” Bess said. “Our goal is not to make fighters, rather, individuals who are able to recognize and stop sexual assault acts before they happen.”
The course teaches 15 self-defense techniques to students that will make them less vulnerable to a sexual assault perpetrator in real life situations.
“Having these techniques is like having locks to your house,” Bess said. “People have locks on their homes not because it will stop someone from getting into it, but because it makes their home a harder target. Predators want easy targets. So, if you can give people locks to their physical self, you dissuade and prevent them from causing harm.”
In late August, Yokota’s own Gracie Defense System program will offer 10, one-hour classes to everyone on base.
“It’s important to note is that these classes aren’t just a good thing for the students going through it,” Bess said. “With of their heightened awareness, they’re able to recognize someone else who may be in a difficult situation and further step help them out.
This training can help someone remove themselves from the triangle of victimization: the target, opportunity and predator, should it ever arise.
“The challenge is that people often associate self-defense with victim blaming or aggressiveness,” Bess said. “People will often not set boundaries that they are not will or capable of enforcing. By giving people tools to help them enforce the boundaries that they set, you change lives.”