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Women Empowered seminar instills Jiu-Jitsu, self-defense strategies

Eve Torres, Gracie Academy Women Empowered self-defense seminar instructor, demonstrates a kick drill as Rener Gracie, Gracie Academy Women Empowered self-defense seminar instructor, acts as an assailant. Gracie is a third degree black belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and the second eldest grandson of Grand master Hélio Gracie, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu creator. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen)

Eve Torres, Gracie Academy Women Empowered self-defense seminar instructor, demonstrates a kick drill as Rener Gracie, Gracie Academy Women Empowered self-defense seminar instructor, acts as an assailant. Gracie is a third degree black belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and the second eldest grandson of Grand master Hélio Gracie, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu creator. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen)

Nearly 100 Team Malmstrom members pose for a group photo on the first day of the Gracie Academy Women Empowered Gracie Defense Systems seminar at the fitness center Nov. 11. The weeklong class was taught by Eve Torres, Gracie Academy instructor, and Rener Gracie, Gracie Academy head instructor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen)

Nearly 100 Team Malmstrom members pose for a group photo on the first day of the Gracie Academy Women Empowered Gracie Defense Systems seminar at the fitness center Nov. 11. The weeklong class was taught by Eve Torres, Gracie Academy instructor, and Rener Gracie, Gracie Academy head instructor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen)

Eve Torres and Rener Gracie, both Gracie Academy Women Empowered self-defense seminar instructors, demonstrate a shrimp drill and jump-back base get-up during the weeklong seminar Nov. 12. They taught nearly 100 Team Malmstrom members how to neutralize the 15 most common sexual assault attacks. (U.S.  Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen)

Eve Torres and Rener Gracie, both Gracie Academy Women Empowered self-defense seminar instructors, demonstrate a shrimp drill and jump-back base get-up during the weeklong seminar Nov. 12. They taught nearly 100 Team Malmstrom members how to neutralize the 15 most common sexual assault attacks. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen)

Nearly 100 Team Malmstrom members practice a self-defense scenario during a seminar at the fitness center Nov. 12. The program was tailored to target sexual assault scenarios by teaching Gracie Jiu-Jitsu techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen)

Nearly 100 Team Malmstrom members practice a self-defense scenario during a seminar at the fitness center Nov. 12. The program was tailored to target sexual assault scenarios by teaching Gracie Jiu-Jitsu techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen)

Rener Gracie, Gracie Academy Women Empowered self-defense seminar instructor, demonstrates a combat base pose as Team Malmstrom members follow. The weeklong self-defense seminar trained nearly 100 participants to become certified instructors. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen)

Rener Gracie, Gracie Academy Women Empowered self-defense seminar instructor, demonstrates a combat base pose as Team Malmstrom members follow. The weeklong self-defense seminar trained nearly 100 participants to become certified instructors. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen)

Adam Fruge, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron hazardous materials supervisor (left), and Master Sgt. Robert Carroll, 490th Missile Squadron member, practice a self-defense scenario during a Gracie Academy Women Empowered self-defense seminar. Malmstrom Air Force Base is the third military installation to receive weeklong seminars based on Gracie Jiu-Jitsu techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen

Adam Fruge, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron hazardous materials supervisor (left), and Master Sgt. Robert Carroll, 490th Missile Squadron member, practice a self-defense scenario during a Gracie Academy Women Empowered self-defense seminar. Malmstrom Air Force Base is the third military installation to receive weeklong seminars based on Gracie Jiu-Jitsu techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen

Rener Gracie, Gracie Academy Women Empowered self-defense seminar instructor, discusses various Gracie Jiu-Jitsu techniques to Team Malmstrom members at the base fitness center Nov. 12. The train-the-trainer course certified participants to teach the Gracie Defense Systems at future seminars (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen)

Rener Gracie, Gracie Academy Women Empowered self-defense seminar instructor, discusses various Gracie Jiu-Jitsu techniques to Team Malmstrom members at the base fitness center Nov. 12. The train-the-trainer course certified participants to teach the Gracie Defense Systems at future seminars (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen)

Staff Sgt. Virginia Garcie, 341st Force Support Squadron food service craftsman (left), simulates acting as an assailant as Airman 1st Class Casey Bennett, 341st FSS food service apprentice, practices a kick drill and scoot during the Women Empowered Gracie Defense Systems seminar on Nov. 12. In an effort to reduce sexual assaults across the Air Force, instructors from the Gracie Academy certified 100 Team Malmstrom members to teach the Gracie Women Empowered program. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen)

Staff Sgt. Virginia Garcie, 341st Force Support Squadron food service craftsman (left), simulates acting as an assailant as Airman 1st Class Casey Bennett, 341st FSS food service apprentice, practices a kick drill and scoot during the Women Empowered Gracie Defense Systems seminar on Nov. 12. In an effort to reduce sexual assaults across the Air Force, instructors from the Gracie Academy certified 100 Team Malmstrom members to teach the Gracie Women Empowered program. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Hundreds of feet pounding the wrestling mats echoed in the Malmstrom Air Force Base Fitness Center. A stern man instructed the students to not remove their hand from the ground before planting their feet on the floor.

"Base!" the participants yelled as they stood in the position of combat base.

"Get low and maintain a perpendicular base," said Rener Gracie, Gracie Academy Women Empowered self-defense seminar instructor.

In an effort to reduce the frequency of sexual assaults in the U.S. Armed Forces, the Gracie Academy created the Women Empowered Gracie Defense Systems. The program is tailored to target sexual assault scenarios in the military by teaching Gracie Jiu-Jitsu techniques to nearly 100 Team Malmstrom members from Nov. 11 to 15 at the base fitness center.

"What makes the Gracie Defense Systems so unique is that the techniques are effective both in stranger related sexual assaults and in non-stranger sexual assaults," Gracie said. "Those are the most common assaults that take place because so many people are out with their acquaintances, coworkers and senior leaders and a lot of times the perpetrators are people they are very familiar with."

Gracie, a third degree black belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and the grandson of Grand Master Hélio Gracie, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu creator, taught the seminar with Eve Torres, three-time World Wrestling Divas Champion and Gracie Academy Women Empowered self-defense instructor.

"My grandfather created this self-defense system specifically to defend himself against larger, more athletic opponents in Brazil," Gracie said. "After perfecting the techniques in Brazil, he taught it to my father who brought the art to America in 1978. My father taught in his garage in southern California for 11 years before opening the Gracie Academy World Headquarters in Los Angeles. In 1993 my father created the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Ironically, it was November 12, 1993. Today marks the 20th year anniversary for UFC and we're here celebrating with the men and women of Malmstrom Air Force Base and we couldn't be more honored."

During the seminar, the participants learned different strategies as well as the triangle of victimization - the three components of a sexual assault: a predator, target and an opportunity.

"We are also teaching a lot of techniques regarding the boundary setting and the psychological aspect of sexual assault so that these men and women know essentially how to put up the barriers that make them hard targets," Gracie said. "Sexual predators are very particular about who they chose because they want a target that guarantees them the result they're looking for and [an opportunity] that prevents them from getting caught."

After successfully completing the self-defense seminar, participants became certified instructors to teach fellow service members on the installation.

"This week's course is a train-the-trainer course," Gracie said. "By the end of the week they will all be certified to teach this self-defense program to hopefully thousands of men and women to help neutralize these [sexual assault] threats that are becoming ever too common."

Though the techniques Gracie and Torres taught during the week proved to be effective, he emphasized the importance of prevention and empowerment so there is never an opportunity for a predator to attack.

"In a fight, whoever manages the distance manages the damage that can be done," Gracie said. "We teach students how to manage the distance, avoid getting injured in a fight and we remind them that victory during a sexual assault isn't to beat anyone up; it's to neutralize the threat, disengage and get home safely at the end of the day."

With nearly a foot difference in height, Torres removed the doubt from any skeptics as she proved that minimum force can go a long way when she demonstrated the maneuvers with Gracie.

"It's extremely important for women to learn self-defense not just for the techniques, but for their confidence; the confidence to set boundaries for themselves," Torres said. "I think people have a misunderstanding of what self-defense really is and what it can be. I think people are blown away by what they're learning and are realizing these [techniques] can actually work against much larger, heavier and stronger opponents."

For Staff Sgt. Sheena Smith, 341st Medical Group unit training manager, the seminar proved to be a fun and serious learning experience.

"This seminar is making women feel more confident in what we're doing because before, some of us wouldn't know what to do if someone tried to attack us," Smith said. "Now we know the stance, where to put our hands and what to verbally say."

"These self-defense techniques are great for women and men - to both learn and share the knowledge at future seminars," Torres said. "They are protecting our country and we're here making sure that they can protect themselves."

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