Kids won't be soft targets

Kids practise techniques during a self-defence class at Kids Academy in Midrand. /SUPPLIED
Kids practise techniques during a self-defence class at Kids Academy in Midrand. /SUPPLIED

Many will agree that South Africa, with its high crime rate, has become an unsafe environment for children.

This is due to the spike in abductions. We were all shocked when the 2013 crime statistics revealed that a child goes missing every five hours.

Since then, there have been many horrible examples of child abductions.

Many will remember the story that made headlines when parents in Winterveldt, north of Pretoria, removed their children from three schools in June following a surge in kidnappings in the area.

Self-defence skills can come in handy

Last year, media reports hailed an 11-year-old boy from Dublin as brave after fighting off a kidnapper who snatched him from his home's back yard.

According to reports, the boy was playing in his back yard at the Moy Glas Estate in Dublin when a man attempted to snatch him.

The boy allegedly fought back, and the kidnapper was only able to get as far as the bus stop before giving in, giving the child a window of opportunity to escape.

The boy's mother said that she was very shaken by the incident, but praised her son for the bravery he showed.

Many parents are concerned about the safety of their children. But what if there was a way for your children to fight back and protect themselves?

Some institutions offer self-defence classes for kids, with the hope that your child will be able to defend themselves effectively should disaster strike.

One such institution is the Kids Academy, which runs classes across the country.

The academy's regional instructor for Western Cape, Clarissa Berndl, says their classes empower children to deal with most life-threatening situations.

"It is a cruel world that we live in," says Berndl.

"Children should have the opportunity to learn life-saving skills. Self-defence classes at Kids Academy give children the knowledge and the skills to be able to deal with any life-threatening situation."

"The self-defence which we teach children is an age-appropriate version of Krav Maga, which is taught to the Israeli Special Forces. We teach children to be able to defend themselves against chokes, grabs, holds, guns, knives and also teach anti-rape techniques.

"Kids Academy is a well-rounded programme which focuses on a variety of skills such as self-defence and life and safety skills. It enables children to protect themselves physically in case of a threat.

Bare hands techniques to the rescue

Berndl says in the case of an attempted kidnapping, they have various techniques they teach children to defend themselves.

"This would depend on whether there is one, two or even three attackers; whether they have a gun or knife or whether the kids are being choked or pinned down."

Gun: bicycle wheel disarm tactic;

Knife: hook and lock tactic;

Choke: the hair gel tactic;

Bully choke: kids are taught the crab pinch and push technique; and

Pinned on the floor: the hug and bridge manoeuvre.

"Not only this, the programme teaches children valuable life skills like what to do if you get lost at the mall, beach, etc. What to do if there is a fire at home.

"We teach children skills on stranger danger - what to do, what not to do. If you or your family or friend is hurt - what to do, calling for help, etc."

Berndl advises parents to not be apprehensive about signing their children up for self-defence classes for fear of exacerbating the situation when they are attacked.

"I personally believe that every situation is different and would need to be dealt with as such.

"Our core focus is preservation of life. We teach the children to be able to analyse the situation. Only if it is safe to do so can you then defend yourself, ultimately get yourself out of the situation and seek assistance."

Also, if parents are concerned about some kids using the techniques to bully others, Berndl says the academy has strict rules on when children can use their techniques.

"We have class rules and a school pledge which the children have to adhere to. One of our rules is that the children can only use the techniques taught in the event of an emergency.

"If they use the techniques inappropriately they can be kicked out the school."

The academy has a once-off registration fee of R170 and the cost of the classes ranges between R270 and R370 a month.