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Monday, December 03, 2012 7:34 PM

Free self-defense course planned Saturday at ORC

By BOBBY BURCH, Herald Staff Writer

The Ottawa Recreation Commission is hoping to empower Franklin County women with a nationally renowned self-defense course.

The commission has partnered with the Ali Kemp Educational Foundation to offer a TAKE defense training course, which will be taught Saturday in Ottawa by Jill Leiker, executive director of the foundation.

“The course isn’t a lesson in judo or martial arts — it’s a lesson in how to get home at night,” Leiker, who also is the foundation’s lead instructor, said.

Leiker and her husband, Bob, have taught TAKE defense training courses to more than 49,000 girls and women since 2005, she said. During the past seven years, she’s traveled across the nation to colleges and universities — most recently Yale University — to offer the courses, which typical garner a crowd of more than 100 women, Leiker said.

Differing from other self-defense classes, the TAKE defense training course also focuses on techniques to ensure one’s security before a physical altercation.

“The main thing is safety awareness,” Leiker, who said she has 26 years of martial arts experience, said. “How can you change some things that you’re doing every day that actually might be putting you in harm’s way? [Through] behavioral changes. The last thing we want people to have to do is fight back. We hope that they make changes in the way they do things and how they think — not to change who they are — but change the way they think to keep them more safe. ... Our hardest job is convincing someone that this could to them.”

The Ali Kemp Educational Foundation was founded in 2002 after the death of Ali Kemp, a Kansas City-area 19-year-old who was murdered while working at a neighborhood pool in nearby Johnson County. The foundation, according to its website, is designed to “forever carry on Ali’s legacy and ensure that what happened to her doesn’t happen to another.” The TAKE defense courses have been featured on America’s Most Wanted, ABC’s “20/20” and CBS Prime Time.

President Obama also discussed the foundation’s founder, Roger Kemp, during the presentation of the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medals.

“Roger Kemp lived every father’s worst nightmare when his daughter, Ali, was taken at a young age,” Obama said. “Through immeasurable pain and grief, Roger devoted his energy to building a safer world for future generations. His foundation has provided women of all ages with valuable self-defense training, and his billboard campaign to post the faces of wanted criminals has led to multiple arrests, including the conviction of Ali’s killer. The United States honors Roger Kemp for his unwavering efforts to ensure the safety of his fellow citizens.”

The class, Leiker said, is designed for women 12 and older, but is suitable for people of all physical abilities. Since her time with the foundation, Leiker has taught girls and women ranging in age from 12 to 90, she said.

 “This is a program for every girl and woman,” Leiker said. “We’ve taught women will all different types of physical capabilities, including physically disabled people.”

The class is set for 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Don Woodward Community Center, 517 E. Third St., Ottawa. The course is free, though the foundation accepts donations.

“Every woman should know how to defend herself,” Leiker said. “We take CPR to learn how to save somebody else’s life, so I think it’s important for us to take personal protection skills to learn how to save our own.”

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