2013-09-06 / Business

Gun safety offered at Kosho karate center

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – A local martial arts training company offers a variety of courses for women and gun owners to learn more about keeping themselves safe. Kosho Karate owner Bryan LaBrecque, a former U.S. Air Force security specialist who used to guard nuclear weapons and fly helicopters, said his courses seek to heighten people’s awareness about their surroundings.

“The goal is not to make people paranoid, but just make them aware of what’s going on.”

On Sept. 14, Kosho Karate will teach a one-day National Rifle Association basic pistol/concealed carry weapons course that includes shooting at a range in Kennebunk, and free ammunition; a gun will be provided for participants who don’t own one. On Sept. 28, the center will offer a oneday airsoft force-on-force course that uses “airsoft” rubber pellets shot from exact replica firearms, to “teach people how to shoot in reality-based situations,” LaBrecque said.

The force-on-force course allows people to go through “play-by-plays” of what they would do in certain situations, and to test their reaction times with the guns, LaBrecque said.

“We teach people who have never handled a weapon before,” he said. “The biggest response I’ve got from people is how it brings out awareness.”

In addition to teaching cardio kickboxing and martial arts, Kosho Karate also offers personal protection just for women.

Laura Giguere, 43, of Biddeford, used to work in law enforcement as a dispatcher. She took both the women’s self-defense and force-on-force courses because she realized that “police are all good, and they mean well, but they’re really there for after the fact … the major factor in protecting yourself is – because things can happen very quickly – you need to have greater awareness.”

LaBrecque said 23 women took the last personal protection course. The course is offered every few weeks. There are also multiple skill levels, so repeat students can advance to a higher level over time, up to five or six levels.

One portion of the personal protection class is to learn how to defend with tactical pens – regular writing pens made out of steel and with sharp ridges, “because you can carry them anywhere,” LaBrecque said.

Students start by practicing exercises in situations with the pen already in their hand. At level two, they practice using multiple weapons, or drawing a weapon from wherever they carry it.

“Can you get to it? If you’re on your own, where do you keep your weapon?” LaBrecque asked.

Women role play during scenarios such as being at an ATM, in a bedroom, or even in a restaurant.

“From the time you hear that bedroom window break, you have about six seconds on average before that person is on you,” LaBrecque said.

In the bedroom scenario, the women enact situations with a pistol at different locations in the room – on the nightstand, in a box, in a safe, under the bed, or on the other side of the room.

“Each time, it takes a little longer (to get the gun),” he said. “They are all realitybased scenarios based on real-life situations.”

Amanda Boucouvalas, 28, said she took the women’s self-defense course in March because “living where I live (in downtown Biddeford), it’s not the best for safety.” Now, she’s a regular student of Kosho Karate’s adult martial arts classes.

Boucouvalos said the important thing she has learned is to be “very aware – not being absorbed in your phone while you are walking. These days everyone has a million things on their minds, and they’re all walking around with their heads in their phones.”

“Avoidance is the best method of protection,” LaBrecque said.

Giguere said any woman can benefit from taking the self-defense class; when she took it, there was a woman in her 80s in the class.

“There is no age limit or health limit,” she said. “There are simple things you, or anybody, can do (during an attack) to help yourself.”

Boucouvalos said that as a 112-pound, 5-foot, 3-inch woman, she was often frightened walking at night because she felt small and defenseless.

“Bryan taught me that if I was ever attacked, even with what I was, as long as I was doing the right things, it wouldn’t matter how big the guy was,” Boucouvalos said. “If I hit him in the right places, I could give myself enough time to run away,”

“I’m glad to be learning this stuff,” she added, “but hopefully I don’t ever have to use it.”

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