When Girl Scouts participated in a martial arts class recently, they weren't just learning lifesaving skills for their own protection.
Members of senior Girl Scout Troop 20309 organized a self-defense class at Augusta Martial Arts for teen girls and their mothers as a community service project for part of their Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award earned by the organization. The girls hope to instruct their own martial arts class.
"They're going to take what they've learned and teach it to others," said the troop leader, Dr. Amy Ekechukwu, who is a black belt. "They wanted to do something for girls their own age."
In addition to the community service projects, the girls must earn badges and perform other leadership activities before receiving the Gold Award, a multiple-year project. The troop is made up of six ninth-grade students from county high schools.
"This is the first community service project that has to do with this Gold Award," she said.
Four of the troop's six members attended the class and seemed eager to teach others what they learned.
"It doesn't matter how big or small you are, you still can get away from someone," said troop member Emma Hoelscher, a ninth-grader at Greenbrier High. About 20 other participants, including two Girl Scout troops and some mothers, attended the course.
Dr. Veena Pannu, the leader of Troop 20711, said four girls from her troop were at the class. She said it is important for the girls to learn the material because she believes kidnapping is most prevalent among preteen girls.
"It's survival," she said. "You don't trust everybody in the world."
Her 10-year-old daughter, Rubani, participated in the course with her.
Rob Blandenburg, the owner and chief instructor of the martial arts studio on South Old Belair Road, taught the girls self-defense, awareness tips and techniques.
"It's about them getting away and getting help, not necessarily fighting back or agitating the attacker," he said.
During the class, the girls learned how to escape a number of grabs and were taught how to spot and avoid any type of confrontation.
"I want them to be aware of themselves and to trust what they've learned and to be assured that they can actually survive some type of confrontation," he said.
Ekechukwu wants the girls to understand how to avoid dangerous situations.
"When they have that kind of confidence and self-assurance, they're much less likely to be intimidated, or have somebody take advantage of them, or do something that they shouldn't be doing," she said.
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