Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Rigan Machado reinforced a message of empowerment to a group of 38 women who graduated from a free, four-week self-defense course at Krav Maga Cayman in George Town on Wednesday.
“I think it is very important for women to know how to defend themselves. Today you need to know how to defend yourself no matter what. [Krav Maga] is creating coaching to open people’s minds to learn how to defend themselves and how to get confidence. It’s amazing. I love to see that,” Mr. Machado said.
The 8th degree red and black belt has trained celebrities including Ashton Kutcher and Vin Diesel at his academy in Beverly Hills, California, and has maintained a 13-year winning streak in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition.
When Mr. Machado began his fighting career, he said women were restricted from learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. His first female students had to prove themselves against male fighters, who often doubted their ability.
“With time, this changed. Now in every school, almost half of the academy is female. We see girls now competing. You see in the UFC, Ronda Rousey changed the view and [showed] females can fight,” Mr. Machado said.
He said 500,000 women now train in Jiu-Jitsu worldwide.
On the final night of class, women in the course, sponsored by the Flowers family, learned basic self-defense techniques to fend off armed attackers. Trainer Ronnie-James Hughes said around 80 percent of sexual assaults involve a weapon.
“We introduced them to techniques and principles that they could apply in various situations, simplistic techniques that are very functional, very accessible. You don’t need to be athletic or in great shape to do them,” Mr. Hughes said.
“Obviously, the curriculum is vast and different situations arise. We just wanted to give them a little bit of exposure initially to give them a bit of confidence about what they can achieve and learn.”
Krav Maga Cayman has been a longtime supporter of the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre. Executive Director Ania Milanowska attended the course’s closing ceremony and told the women that by completing the training, they were taking back their power.
“In my opinion, it is extremely empowering to learn how to defend yourself, especially when you are coming from a situation where you were told there is nothing you can do and you can’t help yourself.… Now suddenly you are learning these tools and how to defend yourself and your loved ones,” Ms. Milanowska said.
“I think the biggest benefit, apart from the physical side of it, is the psychologic[al] and mental benefit, when you know you have those tools and you know what to do in a situation where otherwise you would feel powerless.”
Student Chanda Glidden echoed the sentiment and described a newfound sense of confidence.
“It’s a little intimidating sometimes to think about doing something like this, but it’s been a really great experience because Ronnie makes it really fun. He adds some play and fun into what can be an awkward and challenging situation,” Ms. Glidden said.
“It’s great to have someone of his caliber train you and make you feel safe. Every class, we walk away feeling a lit bit stronger, a little bit more confident.”