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December 15, 2014
Ill. responders get free martial arts training
By Linda N. Weller
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — Owner of a martial arts studio is teaching self-defense skills to Edwardsville firefighters for free so they can better avoid injuries from combative people at response scenes.
“The idea is to make sure we are able to get out of a situation in the presence of an aggressive person,” said Capt. James Whiteford of the Edwardsville Fire Department. “Unfortunately, when we are in someone else’s home; in someone else’s vehicle; or someone else’s bus we are not familiar with, we are at a disadvantage” if someone is aggressive.
Beginning Friday afternoon and continuing Saturday, Rich Grogan — owner of Grogan’s Academy of Martial Arts in Edwardsville — is teaching various techniques to on- and off-duty firefighters who opt to take the class.
Whiteford said he also invited firefighters from some neighboring fire departments to participate, if they desired.
The two, two-hour class sessions are being held at the Academy, 310 Hillsboro Ave.
Whiteford said he wants to recognize Grogan for offering to provide the classes for free, which is the first time EFD firefighters have received such instruction.
Grogan, a former public school teacher, previously has provided self-defense instruction to police hires before they go to academy.
“As far as firefighters go, this is something a little different,” he said, as opposed to other moves he teaches, such as in women’s self-defense classes.
“Firefighters usually are the first responders to a scene, which sometimes puts them in a fairly dangerous situation,” Grogan said. “The big thing is awareness of the scene. We teach how to get out of a grip, or get your partner out of a grip safely for the person attacking and the firefighter.”
Just prior to Friday’s session, he said he hoped to attract at least 100 emergency responders to the class.
Not everyone who is aggressive toward paramedics intends harm.
Some combative people have just regained consciousness and are confused as to their surroundings; others have head injuries, low blood sugar, low oxygen level or are having a seizure, Whiteford said.
Among the self-defense techniques firefighters are learning, is be alert to possibility of dangerous situations; know locations of exits; and how to quickly setting up barriers in event someone rushes an emergency responder.
“You can use furniture, your (medical) bag or your hands as a barrier,” Whiteford said. “They talk about if they get hold of you or your partner, how to make them let go.” He said he has been kicked and exited an ambulance until police could arrive because of a combative patient, but has not experienced anything more dangerous while working as a paramedic.
“I haven’t had a situation I was uncomfortable with,” he said.
Grogan, who opened the studio in 2005, said his giving back to the Edwardsville community by providing the firefighters’ classes fits with the philosophy he interweaves with martial arts instruction at the studio.
“The biggest part is life skills and character development, doing something for the community, and becoming a better person,” he said. “What we try to focus on is developing better character. I am giving back to those who do so much for us.”
Classes are available for children age 4 and older on up to adults.