GREENFIELD — They squared off, hands raised and steady.
Clara Clemens lunged forward at her friend, Jessica Deubner, who quickly blocked the advance. The pair went back and forth for several steps in a kind of dance of the martial arts, a waltz in self-defense and safety.
After a series of jabs, they paused and exchanged words of encouragement before setting up for another round. Practice would make perfect, they said; and perfection meant protection.
Clemens and Deubner, both of Indianapolis, were among a group of about 30 women who gathered Tuesday at the Fraternal Order of Police post in Greenfield for a charity self-defense class that served as a fundraiser for various programs benefiting the families of Hoosier police officers killed in the line of duty.
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The class, presented by the Noblesville-based company Self-Preservation Training, offered tips for protecting oneself in a dangerous situation, when self defense is needed. Each participant was asked to pay a $20 reservation fee that was donated to Indiana COPS, or Concerns Of Police Survivors, a nonprofit that aims to connect the families of fallen law enforcement officers with counseling and other bereavement programs, organizers said. The event raised about $600.
Jeff Riley, the owner of Self-Preservation Training, works as a police officer on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. For more than 12 years, he’s mastered an array of law-enforcement training he believes can be used in everyday, civilian life.
During Tuesday’s class, Riley taught the participants a series of punch, kick and escape maneuvers — many of which he learned from his years of training fellow police officers — to help in a dangerous situation, such as a robbery or attack. The self-defense class combined lessons to boost mental agility with physical techniques.
Riley said his background in law enforcement gives him an unmatched understanding of criminal behavior and his on-the-job experiences give him plenty of real world examples to use during the classes, he said.
He told the participants Tuesday there was not single method to ensure a safe escape from an attacker, but being aware of your surroundings, trusting your instincts and practicing fighting maneuvers can help you stay prepared, he said.
“The most important thing to remember is ‘no’ is a complete sentence,” Riley told the class. “If (the attacker) is a stranger, you don’t have to worry about what they’ll think about you; if it’s someone you know, they should respect that you said ‘no.’
“You don’t owe anybody anything,” he said. “If you say ‘no,’ that’s the answer.”
The two-hour lesson was packed full of tips and tricks participants said they were glad to have learned. Knowing the funds went to a worthy cause made the class even more worthwhile, participants said.
Cathy Sherman of Greenfield, who organized the fundraiser, said she was looking for a unique way to collect money to fund COPS efforts when she approached Riley about hosting self-defense classes that served a dual purpose.
Sherman became involved in the COPS program after her brother, Indiana Department of Natural Resources Sgt. Karl Kelley, died in 1998 after being injured while trying to save fellow officers during a water-training exercise.
COPS aims to create a network of survivors who can lean on each other after an officer has been killed in the line of duty, Sherman said. The organization’s leaders help connect the surviving family and other loved ones with educational and financial resources.
The group has helped the families of the more than 300 Hoosier police officers who have been killed in the line of duty, organizers said. The group’s goal is to ensure the officers’ and their families’ sacrifices are never forgotten, organizers said.
Betty Taylor of Lapel lost her husband, Indiana State Police Trooper Roy Jones, in a car accident while he was working as a police officer in 1979 in Madison County. COPS didn’t exist in those days, Taylor said. She said she often wonders how the group might have helped her and her four children cope with Jones’ death.
Now, Taylor volunteers with the organization to stay connected with other survivors, like Sherman, with whom she’s formed a good friendship. They’ve attended a self-defense class together in the past and participated Tuesday as a refresher course, she said.
“It gives you a lot of ideas for if something were to happen,” Taylor said. “I learned even more than the last time.”