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Billings martial-arts studio offers self-defense tips

Posted at 1:01 PM, Sep 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-13 11:10:19-04

BILLINGS — It can be a dangerous world out there and with the recent discovery of a Tennessee woman murdered while jogging, MTN News found some tips and practices people can use to protect themselves from predators.

At Shepherd-Warrior Martial Arts in Billings, women are learning to protect themselves by taking self-defense classes.

“I guess I just kind of got sick seeing myself as a victim and I was sick of letting fear control me,” Billings resident Sarah Hill said last Thursday.

Hill has been training at the studio for five years. For her, it’s much more than just palm strikes and shin kicks.

“It’s been a place where I can face a lot of triggers because I do have triggers from some previous trauma and it’s a place where I’ve overcome lots of them,” Hill said.

Dennis Forleo has operated Shepherd-Warrior Martial Arts at 1212 Grand Ave. for the past 20 years.


“Taking a class like this actually helps a person learn how to deal with the stuff that’s going on inside, as much as the stuff that’s going on outside,” said Forleo.

Attacks like the one in Tennessee, where teacher Eliza Fletcher was attacked and killed by a stranger, are rare, but they can happen anywhere and to anyone. Students Shepherd-Warrior learn how to be more aware of their surroundings and how to set appropriate boundaries. They’re also taught how to effectively communicate and how to not come across as a victim.

Leslie Dunaway has taught self-defense for nearly six years. She said there are simple moves everyone can learn to stay safe.

At a recent class, the first tactic she demonstrated was the classic palm strike.

“Nice thing about a palm strike, your palm is solid. You just shove your palm right in their chin or nose, think PEZ dispenser. You just boom, you blast it,” Dunaway said.

She said you want to start with a strong stance, with your dominant leg planted behind the other.

“We have our palms out because it sends a message of stop. And it also creates this physical boundary,” said Dunaway.


She said you also want to make eye contact with the assailant and be as loud as you can. Attracting attention to this kind of situation could save your life. Her next tip was to kick the assailant’s groin.

“You can slam that shin right up between the legs. If they grab you and you can get a hand and shove your thumb in their eyeball, that’s really gross but those are the vulnerable spots,” Dunaway said.

For hill, the classes have helped her regain confidence, especially when it comes to using her voice.

“It’s not something that I’m very good at yet. But I know that there is power in your voice and speaking up for yourself before things even become physical can make a huge difference,” Hill said.

Shepherd-Warrior Martial Arts offers free self-defense classes on the second Saturday of every month. You can find more information at BILLINGS SELF DEFENSE - Women's Self-Defense.

First Look: Tips and practices to protect yourself against assailants