Bullet men really made an impact

The world is becoming a more violent place by the day, that is evident. Unfortunately, recent events in Cayman reflect that disturbing trend here too.

Domestic violence, random attacks and even murder are no longer rare to the Cayman Islands.

Well at least potential victims – men as well as women – are not just waiting and leaving it to chance that if it happens they will have a good chance of coming out if it pretty well.

They attended the first FAST Defence seminar held here last week at the Cayman Prep School.

It was taken by Bill Kipp, the world renowned self-defence tutor and his partner Debra Thomas, a former victim of domestic and sexual abuse who is now a coach of FAST Defence.

It was all orchestrated by Bob Daigle, a Coldwell Banker realtor, who ran karate classes here for 14 years and still teaches martial arts.

Kipp said: ‘We’re really enthused by how quickly FAST Defence was received by people here in Grand Cayman.

‘The thing we’re most excited about is that we have an opportunity to bring some very big change to the trend of growing violence that’s happening here and to stop it before it escalates out of control as it has in other countries.’

Kipp found that people here are more receptive to FAST Defence mainly because they want to preserve the relative safe environment we enjoy here.

‘We have travelled all over the world bringing this programme to different countries and have never been so in love with a place as here.’

They’re working with Daigle to come back soon to do more seminars, possibly next month. ‘Our vision is to train every single person here,’ said Kipp.

Daigle first met Kipp in the Nineties when they attended a martial arts conference in the US. They forged a friendship and when Daigle attended a Kipp seminar years later he was so excited that he decided to get a FAST defence certification.

The intention is that Kipp will return regularly to recertify Daigle and introduce more programmes.

The next goal is to introduce a children’s programme where they teach youngsters leadership skills, give confidence training and teach anti-bullying and anti-abduction skills.

‘This is to prepare children before violence happens in their lives. We’re training leaders of the future,’ said Kipp.

‘Parents will be enthused. They do for their children what they won’t do for themselves.’

Defence against armed assailants is the next programme. ‘Attacks with knives, machetes and other weapons is on the rise everywhere and apparently that’s happening in Grand Cayman as well,’ added Kipp.

‘This programme will really help people in an armed attack and could save their lives if needs be.’

Thomas has been involved in FAST Defence for around 20 years. As a young girl she was sexually abused and got into trouble a lot as young adult culminating in being raped at knife point.

‘So I understand very clearly how it feels to be assaulted and attacked,’ she said. ‘I was taken to a secondary location and my chances of survival were pretty low. Somehow I still survived it and that is the reason why I’m supposed to be here.’

Then she landed in a domestic violence relationship for 18 years.

‘What saved my life was this programme. I got into it in Colorado at an extensive weekend course for women only.’

Thomas was able to extricate herself from the violent relationship and was inspired to pass on her new-found skills and confidence to other victims.

‘If it could save my life then it could save anybody’s life.’

She got in touch with Kipp and started assisting and many years later they became romantically linked.

‘For me, if I can give people the tools that I didn’t have then they won’t have to experience the awful things that I went through to find freedom.

‘Today, if something happens to me, then I know I could defend myself and if I was witness to a situation I could jump in and help someone. I just have no tolerance for violence anymore. I want to help empower women, it’s what changes the world.

‘This programme gives women choices. It helps them move out of bad situations. It gives them their power back. When you’re in an abusive relationship the power is taken from you. This programme gives it back to women.’

The director of the Women’s Crisis Centre Carol Graham attended the basic seminar and was enthused.

Daigle donated two spots to the Crisis Centre. Graham took one and an abused woman took another and felt more empowered at the end of it and said that she learnt a lot from it. Even the Governor’s wife, Mariko Jack, attended and she too enjoyed it.

Daigle said: ‘One of my passions is to get the children’s programme going. Many of us who were bullied as children wish we had got this type of training when we were young.

‘What happens for many is that you close up into a shell and it changes your entire future. If you can be confident and assertive and say no to that abuse then you can change the future.

‘I also want to teach the kids not to bully because it’s wrong. That will help change the future of this country.’

Daigle attended a community police forum at George Town Primary School last week and a significant point someone made was that they were trying to fix the symptoms of crime when nothing was being done with the root cause, the youth.

‘If we can change them, then the future of Cayman is bright,’ added Daigle.

In the meantime he is assembling a dream team of instructors, who will become bullet men and coaches. More classes are planned by the end of April.

‘To do this we need corporate support. It’s not that much money but it’s an investment. We spend $50,000 a year on housing one prisoner in Northward. If we invest in the youth right now, that will save money in the long run.

‘There were both Caymanians and ex-pats who attended the seminar who are passionate about the future of this country. We need their support and corporate support.’

Daigle mused that he needs more than two bullet men at seminars. He was one along with Ian Richards. Both were bruised and sore the next day but felt the pain was worth it.

‘The testimonials we received said that it has changed their lives and could save it.

‘I want to thank everyone who helped us, including Comfort Suites who provided accommodation for Bill and Debra, Dollar Rent-A-Car, Coldwell Banker, Kirk Sea Tours, World Construction and Ed Mar’s.’

Bill added: ‘Just imagine if we can empower everyone in Cayman to help themselves and come together as a national team, what a shining beacon to the rest of the world it would be. This is my pet project.

‘Because the country is so small, this is doable. Boys, for instance will have the courage and strength not to join gangs or go down the wrong path. What FAST Defence does is give them the empowerment that gangs could never do. Instead of creating the future gangsters, we’re creating future leaders.’

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