Self defense class making a difference beyond the classroom

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Maryville, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The self defense classes at Smoky Mountain Self Defense are taking an entirely new approach to self defense. It's not about how hard you kick or punch, it's about putting the students in real life, high risk situations.

"A lot of females will say, 'I'll just claw their face and eyes out,' and I'm like, 'Okay, have you ever practiced that?' And most of them say, 'Well, no,'" Head instructor Roy Shields said.

His classes specialize in helping children, teens and women, giving them the confidence to protect themselves from any predator, even through the initial fight or flight stage.

"I don't want women or teenage girls to freeze up," he said. "If you freeze up, you get abducted. If you freeze up, you get violently hurt. I need them to have an effective skill set that they don't have to think about it. It's just a natural reaction to do."

"This is about the women, and how they can not be a victim so they can get back home to their family," student Judy Hermsdoffer said.

Shields' theory on how to protect yourself includes first identifying the situation and your surroundings, and then using verbal altercations before things turn violent.

"Put your guard up, 'Back off,' 'Stop,' 'No.' That scares them sometimes, they're probably not ready for something like that," Judy Hermsdoffer

Shields said the inspiration for his class came when the father of Channon Christian, who was murdered in 2007, approached him and asked him to teach women what he couldn't teach his daughter. Now, Shields is the director of the "No More Victims" Foundation and offers scholarships for his classes to those in need.

"Domestic violence shelters, children in placement homes, safe houses, that can't financially afford to take our courses," said Shields. "If we feel like they're in need, we want to alleviate the financial burdens so we can offer courses to them through scholarships."

In the case a situation turns violent, Shields suggests women focus on attacking four key areas of the body: knees, groin, throat and eyes.