Taking self-defense to the children
For about 10 years, martial arts instructor Ken Bowers has taught women to defend themselves. All the while, he has been haunted by the the 1961 disappearance of his sister, then a teen-ager.
More recently, the 1991 abduction of South Tahoe’s Jaycee Lee Dugard again struck Bowers with the tragic loss of a child.
Combining his profession and his anguish, Bowers teamed up with videographer Mitch Manina to teach children to defend themselves.
“We want to provide awareness to people and kids, knowledge of things that can work,” said Bowers, who is friends with Jaycee’s mother, Terry Probyn. “A lot of what works for adults (in self-defense), works for kids.”
Bowers, owner of Street Smart, and Manina, owner of Videoquest Productions, recently released “A Child’s Life,” a self-defense video for children.
“I wanted to do this because of what’s going on in the world,” Manina said. “There are so many kids being abducted and not knowing what to do. It’s for awareness.”
In their research on what tools were already available for children, the video team found a major gap.
“None of the programs we researched went farther than the scenario, run and tell,” Manina said. “There was little or nothing about what to do if someone actually grabs you.”
The 16-minute video includes the basics of prevention such as staying in a group, not getting close to cars that stop, being ready to run the opposite way the car faces and not being lured by such attractions as puppies.
Working with a group of children, Bowers also teaches techniques that could help children break an adult’s grip on them.
The video begins with Jaycee’s story told by her mother, who now lives in Southern California.
When a car pulled in front of Jaycee, “she froze,” Probyn says in the video.
Bowers and Manina feel the video can help children keep their wits about them.
“The key is practicing the techniques,” Bowers said.
“A Child’s Life” has already received recognition. A partially edited version recently received a Communicator Award for 1998 from a field of 3,209 entries worldwide.
Bowers and Manina hope “A Child’s Life” will be used in schools and by law enforcement as well as parents. Part of the proceeds go to organizations that help find missing children.
“Any type of constructive training for a child to avoid abduction is worth it,” said El Dorado Sheriff Sgt. Jim Watson, who led the investigation of Jaycee’s abduction.
Watson had not yet seen the video, but noted that educating children is only part of the solution. He encouraged more community awareness.
“There needs to be a whole community orientation, not just the child. Everyone needs to be a good neighbor, to be aware of the neighborhood, of strange cars in the area or something different.
“What I see since the kidnapping, is a lot more parents at bus stops.”
For Bowers and Manina, their awareness of the dangers began with the loss of a child. Now they want to help other children become more aware of staying away from potential abduction situations and also aware of techniques that could help them get out of it.
For information on “A Child’s Life,” call (800) 374-9222 or (800) 309-5432.
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