Dawson Walton, a personal trainer and black belt jiujitsu instructor at the Greater Rumford Community Center  in Rumford, demonstrates jiujitsu techniques for self-defense Monday with student Phoenix Burbank. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

RUMFORD — Using “situational awareness” can help protect from a potential physical attack, Dawson Walton, personal trainer and black belt jiujitsu instructor at the Greater Rumford Community Center, said during a class this week.

“I’ve taught a lot about ways to prevent becoming a victim,” but having “situational awareness” is really important, he as he taught self-defense techniques to Phoenix Burbank, 14, on Monday.

“So, it’s really easy to think about defending yourself and that has something to do with a victim mind-set,” which affects everything.

As an example of how to be proactive, he said people who walk or run with earbuds are eliminating their ability to hear, “taking away three-quarters of your ability to detect if someone is attacking you or coming up on you.”

Some jiujitsu techniques useful in protecting from physical harm include using the attacker’s arms and legs as leverage, forcing an attacker into a joint lock and learning how to move someone who may be bigger and stronger off-balance, Walton said.

Burbank began jiujitsu classes when she was 10 and recently attained her fourth belt, a green one. She  said the training helps her have “more of a sense of awareness” and even makes her feel she can protect herself if necessary.

She also agreed with Walton that her training has given her more self-confidence and, along with playing soccer and softball on her school’s team, help keep her fit.

Her mother, Lealyn Burbank, who has taken martial arts classes, watched her daughter and Walton demonstrate self-defense methods.

“It’s like equal and opposite; that’s like the best way to describe it,” she said. It’s like moving in the opposite direction and doing the opposite motion to move an attacker’s joints where they’re not supposed to go, she said.

Burbank said she learned from her martial arts training that by gaining control of someone’s thumb “you can essentially twist them away from you. Their whole body you can control with their thumb.”

“When it comes to protecting yourself,” Walton said, “I want to change the mind-set from self-defense to personal protection. Because personal protection is like protecting yourself. The best defense is a good offense, right?”

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