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Billings martial artist teaching free self-defense to youth

Posted at 5:40 PM, Sep 15, 2022

BILLINGS — Dennis Forleo, who operates Shepherd-Warrior Martial Arts, started teaching self-defense classes through Tumbleweed years ago and this year, after learning how much the kids loved it, decided to make it a monthly class.

“Our goal, my job, is to show up there and honestly love on these kids by showing them how to protect themselves and keep themselves safe,” Forleo said Thursday. “Learning some skills and things that can help keep them safe has been, I want to say, life-changing for some of them.”

The Tumbleweed program provides services to homeless, vulnerable and runaway youth. And this self-defense service is essential.

“It helps them build their self-confidence, not only knowing that they can go out and feel that they can defend themselves, but also it builds their confidence in terms of applying for a job or talking to people about resources they may need,” said Tony Sandoval with Tumbleweed.

And at a time when there seems to be a rising amount of youth violence in the city, being able to protect one’s self is imperative.

“It is a resource; it is a life skill for the youth to have but as a last resort,” Brandon Warren with Tumbleweed said.

The classes are free through Tumbleweed.

One of Forleo’s main goals is to teach the youth to not be in a dangerous situation in the first place, but he understands that it can happen. In the series of classes, he also teaches how to react if a weapon is involved.

“It’s sad that these things keep popping up and keep popping up but having people have the tools and skills to deal with it is what we’re all about,” Forleo said.

And in addition to life-saving skills, Forleo also teaches an important message, that these kids are valuable.

“Hopefully I can be an example to them that someone in the world believes they’re worth it. That they’re worth defending. That they’re worth spending the time to teach and train the kids,” said Forleo.