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Aspire Taekwondo to help high school students regain confidence in wake of Oxford shooting

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Posted at 6:12 PM, Jan 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-28 19:28:14-05

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — Weeks ago, Roger Willard and Len Lawrence received a message through Aspire Taekwondo’s Facebook page from a student at Oakridge High School requesting that they hold a special self-defense class for teens.

“She was scared to go to school,” said Willard, who’s a master instructor and co-founder of Aspire Taekwondo. “She felt that by doing something proactive, you know... It’s not going to stop a shooter. We don’t suggest that it will. But, in her mind it made her feel like she was doing something to help herself.”

So, Saturday at Anchor Point Church, Aspire will be hosting a seminar for high school students, teachers and school staff members to help them gain their confidence back. They partnered with Oakridge High School and Fruitport schools to organize a few seminars.

“We’re really gearing it for high school students and older. I do know a couple of my staff members did take their middle school daughters with them and said it was so valuable,” said Beach Elementary Principal Courtney Stahl during an interview at the school on Friday. “[It] really made them think about situations that they’d never thought about before. So, every staff that has gone has only had positive things to say about it.”

Willard said participants will learn a number of self-defense tactics like how to use their palm heels when an attacker approaches, how to break away from choke holds, and what to do when they grab your wrists tightly. Willard and Lawrence will also teach them the basic levels of defense: awareness, avoidance, break away/get away, defend/fight, and support and report.

However, awareness is the big one, Willard said.

“They’re going to learn how to really pay attention to your surroundings,” Willard said. “‘Cause if we can avoid the situation to begin with, the self-defense or the physical portion may be unnecessary at all. So, we try to get it so that everybody keeps their head out of their phones and pays attention to little things like that.”

The series of seminars is being sponsored by Michigan Mortgage. Willard said because of their sponsorship, fees dropped to $20 per person, instead of the usual $50.

Willard reiterated that their seminar does not stop active shooters, and they recommend following law enforcement's advice and rules in those situations.

As for Saturday, they hope that the teens and school officials walk away feeling a little more confident than they did before, and a little more scratched up too.

“When they’re all done, there’s some redness on their arms and all over their bodies really ‘cause we do choke holds and all kinds of different things,” Willard said. “We have a process though where we work through where all of our techniques build off the next technique. So, when they leave here they have the ability to remember more of the material.”

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