Cannon offers self defense course

USAF: Tech. Sgt. Deidre E.E. Hines U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chuck East, 27th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, uses Raejean Toledo, base Shopette assistant shift manager, to demonstrate an effective arm-bar technique to another student during a self defense class on April 29 at Cannon. The class was offered during April in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

By Tech. Sgt. Deidre E.E. Hines: 27th SOW Public Affairs

The warm, New Mexico wind is blowing tumbleweeds and trash around the parking lot. Night falls as she walks to her car. Startled, she looks over her shoulder. It’s only the shopping carts rattling in the wind … this time.

Raejean Toledo, a 60-year-old Shopette employee, refuses to become a statistic. “I’m getting older, and people tend to attack older women. I thought, hey if I can surprise somebody at my age, why not.”

Raejean and eight other women, including 7-year-old Allura Thomas, attended the self defense class on April 29 at Cannon Air Force Base. “I’ll only use it if a bad guy grabs me” said Thomas. Giggling, she promises not to use these techniques on her classmates.

The sexual assault response coordinator hosted the class with Staff Sgt Chuck East, 27th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, confinement NCOIC, instructing. “This is the tip of the iceberg. It’s an abbreviated class. But if used correctly, what you learn in this 60-minute class will protect you against would-be attackers” said East, who further explained to his students that these self-defense techniques can also be used to help defend others.

“There’s a lot of physical contact,” continued East. “But you also want to vocalize to draw attention to yourself. That way other people can hear you and help you out. It doesn’t really matter what you yell, just as long as it’s loud enough to draw the attention of others.”

East loves teaching, but this class is about his students, he said. He wants them to take something away that gives them confidence. If they get into a situation, they’ll have a basic idea of what to do to protect themselves. There’s a positive psychological impact that comes along with that.

“I have a lot of confidence in it,” said Toledo. “I have rheumatoid arthritis so it was a little more difficult to get the stance, but once I got it I felt good about it. I’m a true survivor. I’ve survived cancer, and I can survive attacks.”

Wind-rattled shopping carts may startle this survivor, but should she look over her shoulder to find an attacker, chances are she won’t be surprised or afraid.