They may have only started coming here two months ago but the FAST Defense instructors have already made a big impression on the Cayman psyche.
Bill Kipp and Debra Thomas want to empower all 60,000 in Cayman with their unique brand of self-defence, acknowledged as the finest form out there.
Fear Adrenal Stress Training was introduced to children and teenage girls this time in a total of 10 classes over two weeks and no one left disappointed.
Even nine-year-olds were talking about feeling empowered. So that’s about 300 down and 59,700 to go!
Kipp is a martial arts expert, former marine, stuntman and all-round good guy. Equally enchanting wife Thomas has assisted him for years having found her niche after being subjected to all sorts of physical and sexual abuses in her younger life.
Cayman’s karate instructor Bob Daigle brought the American pair over in March for the first FAST Defense seminars and they were such a success that they’ve snowballed from there.
The FAST Defense instructors wear ‘bulletmen’ suits to allow students to attack them with full force. They also act as predators, aka ‘woofers’ to simulate real attacks. Kipp, Daigle, Troy O’Neil and Ian Richards were the bulletmen throughout. Paulino Rodrigues also assisted.
Daigle is now the Caribbean director of FAST Defense. Cayman-based Stef Pieroni and Risa Ebanks are being coached by Thomas to be instructors themselves.
There were four children’s classes this time, for the general public and for Savannah Primary and Prospect Primary.
The FAST Defense philosophy is that by using verbal skills and body language initially, this could be effective enough to ward off a potential attack. If all else fails then students are taught how to ‘flip the switch’ and fight like a cornered lion.
Before leaving on Tuesday, Kipp said: ‘It’s been an incredible trip this time with getting our mission to empower Cayman really underway.
‘We’ve made some great contacts and been tripling the amount of people we’ve made each trip and this time around we really made an impact, not only on the adults but the teens and children’s programme. I’m really excited about that.
‘We’re very excited too about dealing with the bullying programme here in Cayman. We feel we’ve got a really powerful resource which will make a big difference to the entire island.
‘So all in all, here we are at the end. Very exhausted but content, absolutely enamoured with the amount of work Bob put in. He worked tirelessly to make this monumental thing happen and because of it more and more people are trained.
‘The beautiful thing is that for everyone who takes this programme, their lives change at least a little bit and for a lot of them their lives change dramatically.
‘So for all the people who have been trained on this trip, this beautiful nation will have been changed quite a bit – and we’re just getting started.
‘One of the highlights was the children’s seminars, dealing with a wide variety of kids, some born here and others the children of ex-pats and the response was absolutely incredible.
‘They had so much fun but at the same time they learnt invaluable life skills. The children’s programme is the one we all should have had as children. Now we can bring them to the kids of Cayman.
‘I think another highlight was the armed assailant course. That put the exclamation point of the trip with all the training. There are weapons used, of course, here in Cayman, not so much firearms, but certainly machetes and knives.
‘I think the next big thing in the campaign is to train the teachers so that they can learn to have more control on these children when they act out.’
Thomas was equally enthused. ‘The high point for me was to launch the kids’ programme and watching the little guys getting fired up,’ she said.
‘There were some really great kids who we were able to turn around who even claimed that they were bullies. We honoured them and got them into a next class the following day, brought them back and made them kind of team leaders and that really changed their way of thinking.
‘And that’s what it’s all about, going in and teaching these kids that it’s not cool to be a bully and that they can turn it around and it’s cooler to be a good person.
‘The teachers say that they have a problem with dealing with bullies and they’re looking forward to us helping them. They want to learn how to handle it in a more appropriate way.’
How realistic is it that the whole of Cayman can be empowered by FAST Defense?
‘I’m totally visualising and believing it and without that conviction it won’t happen,’ said Thomas. ‘We’re dedicated enough to say that whatever we can we must make it happen and just keep pursuing it and see how far it can go. I believe it is possible.’
They returned to Boulder, Colorado and will be doing a three-day courage course in the Rocky Mountains this weekend. They’ll be back here for more seminars at the end of June.
With a rash of stabbings and a shooting in recent days, Daigle is going to recommend that that they increase the number of armed assailant courses.
Kipp added: ‘Another highlight was doing a programme with the women of the Monetary Authority. It really affirmed what a powerful team building this programme is as well as helping them to communicate with one another.
‘For them to come in and see each other in the light that shines so strongly in a FAST Defense course which brings people together in an incredible way, that same camaraderie comes right into the corporate workplace in a very powerful manner.
‘Plus they really enjoyed it and they feel much safer and happier. For this to really work, we need the support of corporate funding to pull off this mission to train everybody that we can in Cayman.’
The special seminar for teenage girls went well.
Angela Sealey is the CEO of Children and Youths Services Foundation, responsible for providing foster care for children taken out of their family homes. Most of the girls in the class were under her supervision.
‘Bob indicated that someone was visiting and he provided the information for us to do this class and got a sponsor for us from the Business and Professional Women which they did and we’re very grateful,’ Sealey said.
‘I think this is an excellent start and Bob should try to get it into the schools. I think that it is something that we should extend to as many females as possible. And not only at the school level, we need to get the women on a whole to understand the whole concept of it.’
One student was Tiffany Rankine, 15. ‘I really enjoyed this and learnt a lot and would definitely take more classes in the future,’ she said.
‘This is a really good idea. We really need something positive in Cayman. The culture has become negative and FAST Defense can help. I think other teenagers, especially bullying types, should take the class because they will really learn from it.’
Kizzie Codlyn, also 15, said: ‘I took this class to learn new things, which a young lady would want to know to protect herself.
‘There is a high level of rape in the United States and there is rape in Cayman so I want to defend myself. I got what I wanted out of it and actually wanted more because the instructors are such experts.’
Daigle is pleased with the response this time round, the third series of FAST Defense classes.
‘This teen programme is so important and we need funding for it, whether it’s from government or the corporate or the public sector, these are the kids that need this programme more than anyone.
‘They’re the ones that we can turn around and create future leaders. We have no idea what these poor kids have gone through but we do have control over where they go with the rest of their lives.’
Two little nine-year-olds from Savannah Primary certainly enjoyed their sessions. Jassinah said: ‘I thought it was great fun and wish I could do it every day. When I was told I was doing this class by my mum I thought I would have to do karate and self-defense and I said: ‘Alright!”
Aryana chirped: ‘I think it was really active. I think it would help me if I was in a bad situation. The coolest thing was when we got to fight with the bulletmen.’
Daigle added: ‘I’d like to thank all our sponsors, including Rob Player at Seven Mile Beach Resorts for providing accommodation, also Lisa Ebanks who did the same at Villa of the Galleon who also sponsored two teen girls.
‘Thank you also to Ursula Glatzeder at Dollar Car Rentals and Coldwell Banker. I really appreciate support from Bob Watler of Watler’s Metal Products and Mark Scotland’s Advanced Road Construction and Paving in sponsoring a class for Savannah Primary.
‘Thank you to David Reid at Cayman Islands Yellow Pages for sponsoring the seminar for Prospect Primary. I also appreciate Ray Singh allowing us to use King’s Sports Centre for the Savannah Primary class. King’s even provided lunch for the kids buying them pizza. The kids really appreciated that.’
Kipp and Thomas have not surprisingly fallen in love with Cayman. They enjoy diving and on Sunday hired a boat to go to Stingray City, the Sandbar and to find a prime snorkel spot. No wonder they’re coming back so soon!
* For more information and to book the next round of FAST Defense classes, contact Bob Daigle on 925-6946 or [email protected]