Tag Archive | "epic martial arts"

Girl Scouts Learn to “Fight to Survive” at Sag Harbor Self-Defense Workshop

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Cecilia Blowe practices her palm-strikes as Sensei Michelle Del Giorno supervises at a self-defense workshop organized by Girl Scout Troop 1480 and co-hosted by The Retreat and Epic Martial Arts in Sag Harbor on February 25. Photo by Michael Heller.

Girl Scout Cecilia Blowe practices her palm-strikes as Sensei Michelle Del Giorno looks on at a self-defense workshop organized by Girl Scout Troop 1480 and co-hosted by The Retreat and Epic Martial Arts in Sag Harbor on February 25. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, about one-fifth of high school girls report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average, according to the Department of Justice.

With those statistics in mind, Senior Girl Scout Troop 1480 of Sag Harbor organized a workshop to educate themselves on self-defense methods and raise awareness about the prevalence of violence against women. “There’s so many unexpected things that can happen and the rate is really high,” said Ariana Moustakas, a 15-year-old from Sag Harbor.

On Tuesday, 15 girls from East Hampton and Southampton attended a class at Epic Martial Arts in Sag Harbor, an event sponsored by the troop. Troop leader Diane Bucking asked Sensei Michelle Del Giorno to lead the workshop, and Ms. Del Giorno enlisted the aid of The Retreat, asking participants to give a suggested donation for the East Hampton center for victims of domestic violence. Telling the girls “silence breeds violence,” Helen Atkinson-Barnes of The Retreat was on hand Tuesday with information and resources.

The idea stemmed from “Girlstopia,” a book Girl Scouts use to envision community service projects and take “a leadership journey toward an ideal world for girls.” According to “Girlstopia,” violence causes more death and disability worldwide among women ages five to 44 than war, cancer, malaria or traffic accidents.

“I realized that I’ve got two high school girls who live in a very small town and they’re going to be going off to college and need to have a few skills to keep themselves safe,” said Ms. Bucking.

“You never know what to expect when you’re out of East Hampton and you’re at a new college, so knowing self-defense mechanisms is really helpful,” agreed Laura Field, a 17-year-old senior at East Hampton High School who attended the workshop.

“You could be walking down the street and you could get attacked,” added Ariana. “You think it’s not going to happen, but it could happen to you and you need to know what to do.”

Sensei Del Giorno started the workshop by telling the girls self-defense has many forms, such as putting your seatbelt on and eating healthy. “But right now,” she said, “we’re going to focus on physical self-defense, safety and awareness and really being out there and being focused in the world, paying attention.”

Telling the girls no one can protect yourself as well as you can, Sensei Del Giorno said you must be aware and suspicious at all times. She said to walk with confidence with your head up, looking others in the eye. “If you feel in danger, if you feel threatened, you use your voice and you put your hands up,” she said.

“I think it’s good for all these girls to be aware of their surroundings, the dangers that are out there, and be prepared to address them if they have to. They have to be confident,” said Linda Blowe, a troop leader whose 16-year-old daughter, Cecilia, attended the workshop.

When confidence and awareness fail to deter an attacker, however, the physical fight must kick in.

Sensei Del Giorno told girls to trust their gut instinct. “If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If the guy looks like a creep, he probably is,” she said. “If you think it’s wrong, it’s wrong. Get out.”

“None of this working?” Sensei Del Giorno asked the girls. “Good. Then you know what you have to do. You have to jam your fingernails through his eyeballs and kick him here and kick his ass—’cause that’s what you need to do to survive,” she said, with “here” referring to the groin area.

“You have the value in you, you’re worth it, you have to fight to survive,” she said.

Epic Martial Arts to Host Self Defense Workshop

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Epic Martial Arts (sagharborkarate) on Main Street in Sag Harbor has invited local high school girls to participate in a self defense workshop on Tuesday, February 25 at 6:15 p.m.

The goal of the workshop is to raise awareness and empower young women with reality based self-defense skills. The workshop is being sponsored by Senior Girl Scout Troop 1480 who have been working on projects to empower themselves and their females peers.

“The fact is that everyday there are many acts of violence committed upon innocent individuals who thought it could and would never happen to them,” says Sensei Michelle Del Giorno, of Epic Martial Arts. “There are many people that became mentally and physically brutalized because they were at the mercy of another. The only thing that will protect us is the knowledge and training we have in the areas of self-defense and the reality of crime.”

Sensei Michelle is donating her time, but has suggested that participants make a donation of $15 – $20 to benefit The Retreat, a domestic violence prevention agency that offers shelter, counseling, legal advocacy and hotline services to victims of abuse. To reserve a spot in the workshop, contact Katie or Diane at 725-0481 or dm.bucking@gmail.com.

Teaching a Passion for Helping

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web Pennies for Pushups_7802

By Emily J. Weitz


As kids make out their lists for Santa Claus and tick through the many things they want to receive, it’s an opportunity to also teach them the value of giving. And not just in a material way – the value of giving of your efforts and your heart. This is the idea behind AOKs at Epic Martial Arts. AOKs – or Acts of Kindness – are incorporated into the curriculum as kids work towards their black belt. And no matter how well they can kick and punch, they won’t be considered advanced martial artists until they learn how to give of themselves.

The idea of practicing AOKs is “part of martial arts philosophy,” says Sensei Michelle Del Giorno, who runs Epic Martial Arts.

“When you’re a black belt, you’re a leader in the community. The philosophy of martial arts is all about respect, and perseverance. We try to use these core values and apply them to everyday life. We’re taking our teachings out of the dojo and into the world by showing our kids how to be kind to each other.”

This kind of teaching helps kids deal with issues that come up as they grow older.

“It transcends against bullying, helps with self defense,” Del Giorno said.

Every class, Sensei Michelle brings the kids together for mat chat.

“We talk about things that are happening and whatever we’re focusing on that week,” says Del Giorno. “Because of the holidays, our focus is these Acts of Kindness. Chats change month to month, but right now we’re talking about what we can give back to the community.”

Each year at this time, Epic Martial Arts engages students in leadership projects as a way to teach these principles. This year, Del Giorno decided to work with Alex’s Promise, a foundation close to her heart.

“Alex’s mom, Lisa, works at the desk at the karate school, so all the kids know her,” says Del Giorno. “And they are longtime family friends of mine.”

Alex Koehne, the foundation’s namesake, was a young Sag Harbor resident who lost his battle with a rare form of cancer a few years back.

“We were all shocked and saddened by Alex’s passing at such a young age,” says Del Giorno. “But we’ve found a great way to give back.”

Koehne, for her part, finds the kids’ spirit for giving back heartening.

“This means so much to me and my husband, and our girls,” she said. “It means so much that these kids care about other kids who don’t have what they have. It’s great to see.”

At this time of year, dealing with the devastating loss of her son is particularly hard, and when she sees the community coming together in his name, “It makes me feel good,” she says. “I want people to remember him. Sometimes people don’t know what to say, but for me it helps when people talk openly about the child I lost.”

Alex’s Promise raises money for scholarships for graduating seniors at Pierson as well as for cancer research through St. Jude’s Hospital.

“Alex always loved helping children,” says Del Giorno. “He was like a big brother to a lot of cousins and he comes from a big family. Being the oldest of four, he was always helping the kids, and the foundation honors Alex’s memory by continuing that legacy.”

This year, Del Giorno and the students at Epic are participating in Push-Ups for Pennies, where participants will do one push-up for every penny donated to the organization. Del Giorno kicked it off on Thanksgiving by doing 1000 push-ups throughout the day. She filmed herself in action so kids and donors could tune in to her web feed to see how she was committing herself.

“I kept going into the bedroom at my mom’s and doing push-ups,” says Del Giorno. “Every couple hundred I’d do another update. In the middle of one of my push-up sets my cousin came in and was like, ‘Michelle, dinner!’”

By 11:45 p.m., she had finished 1,000 push-ups, and now she’s asking the kids to join her. In sets of 25, even the four-year-olds are joining in.

“They all feel like they’re giving in some way,” says Del Giorno. “It’s exciting.”

And they are. Not only that, but they are loving it. When asked if they’d like to contribute to this article, the kids lined up to weigh in on why this is such an important cause.

Tori Markowski, Sara Schoen, and Lili Knibb, who are ages 8 and 9, wanted to share how good it makes them feel to help children in the hospital. Simone Batiste, age 9, feels strongly because of a personal connection to the cause.

“My friend had cancer and she was in 7th grade when she died,” she says, “and I like to help.”

Jhoziel and Erik Guanga, brothers, feel like they’re really making a difference.

Colin Harrison, age 8, says that “Each push up we do is worth a penny, and so far we’ve got $200. All that goes to St. Jude’s, which helps kids with cancer and other diseases.”

Carson Tompkins, age 8, really likes it “because it gets kids exercise and it’s for a good cause. You’re not just doing exercise,” he explains, “but you’re giving to kids who are less fortunate. My mom won’t give to Cheetah Serve or special fabric making companies, but she will give to St. Jude’s. This one is special.”

Johnny Nill, who just celebrated his 8th birthday, is Alex Koehne’s cousin. He was a toddler when he lost his older cousin, but he still remembers him.

“It’s a lot of work and it’s hard,” he says of the push-ups, “but I do it for Alex, and for the kids who are in the hospital. I remember Alex.”

To make a donation to Push-Ups for Pennies or Alex’s Promise, stop by Epic Martial Arts at 75 Main Street in Sag Harbor, or go to http://www.hicksvillekarate.com/sagharborny/ or www.alexspromise.org.