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Martial arts class empowers Airmen to thrive

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew McConnell, 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 4 plans and integration NCO and deputy director of Kaiserslautern Military Community Gracie Defense System, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, conducts a safety brief at the beginning of a self-defense class Sept. 15, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. Safety briefings are conducted at the beginning of each class to ensure all participants are aware of the risks, safety procedures and protocols involved during the training session. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew McConnell, 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 4 plans and integration NCO and deputy director of Kaiserslautern Military Community Gracie Defense System, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, conducts a safety brief at the beginning of a self-defense class Sept. 15, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. Safety briefings are conducted at the beginning of each class to ensure all participants are aware of the risks, safety procedures and protocols involved during the training session. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew McConnell, 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 4 plans and integration NCO and deputy director of Kaiserslautern Military Community Gracie Defense System, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, briefs a self-defense class Sept. 17, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. Gracie self defense instructors from Ramstein Air Base, Germany and Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany came to RAF Mildenhall to teach a week long self-defense seminar. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew McConnell, 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 4 plans and integration NCO and deputy director of Kaiserslautern Military Community Gracie Defense System, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, briefs a self-defense class Sept. 17, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. Gracie self defense instructors from Ramstein Air Base, Germany and Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany came to RAF Mildenhall to teach a week long self-defense seminar. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

Students of the Gracie Defense System seminar practice evasive maneuvers at the Northside Fitness Center Sept. 15, 2015, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Students are given the opportunity to practice what they learned after the instructors perform their demonstration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

Students of the Gracie Defense System seminar practice evasive maneuvers at the Northside Fitness Center Sept. 15, 2015, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Students are given the opportunity to practice what they learned after the instructors perform their demonstration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Mark Tilsher, left, 86th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School commandant and director of Kaiserslautern Military Community Gracie Defense System, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, explains step-by-step techniques on how to escape from an assailant with U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew McConnell, 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 4 plans and integration NCO and deputy director of KMCGDS, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 15, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. After each demonstration, students were given the opportunity to apply what they learned. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Mark Tilsher, left, 86th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School commandant and director of Kaiserslautern Military Community Gracie Defense System, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, explains step-by-step techniques on how to escape from an assailant with U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew McConnell, 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 4 plans and integration NCO and deputy director of KMCGDS, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 15, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. After each demonstration, students were given the opportunity to apply what they learned. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew McConnell, 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 4 plans and integration NCO and deputy director of Kaiserslautern Military Community Gracie Defense System, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, demonstrates how to stand up into a defensive position during a self-defense class Sept. 15, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. Every time the students rose from a seated position they had to get into a defensive position to help them practice the technique. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew McConnell, 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 4 plans and integration NCO and deputy director of Kaiserslautern Military Community Gracie Defense System, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, demonstrates how to stand up into a defensive position during a self-defense class Sept. 15, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. Every time the students rose from a seated position they had to get into a defensive position to help them practice the technique. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

A student of the Gracie Defense System seminar throws another student after escaping a choke hold Sept. 17, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. Students took turns being the assailant and the target to ensure they both had an opportunity to hone their techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

A student of the Gracie Defense System seminar throws another student after escaping a choke hold Sept. 17, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. Students took turns being the assailant and the target to ensure they both had an opportunity to hone their techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

A student of the Gracie Defense System seminar places another student in a guillotine choke hold Sept. 17, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. The students were taught the choke hold in the event an attacker charges at them. If applied correctly the maneuver can knock the assailant out in a few seconds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

A student of the Gracie Defense System seminar places another student in a guillotine choke hold Sept. 17, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. The students were taught the choke hold in the event an attacker charges at them. If applied correctly the maneuver can knock the assailant out in a few seconds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

A Gracie Defense Systems student puts U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Saul Grosshuesch, 100th Maintenance Squadron unit deployment manager, in an arm bar during a self-defense class Sept. 18, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. Grosshuesch learned about the Gracie Defense System seminars conducted out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and arranged for the class to be taught on RAF Mildenhall. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

A Gracie Defense Systems student puts U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Saul Grosshuesch, 100th Maintenance Squadron unit deployment manager, in an arm bar during a self-defense class Sept. 18, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. Grosshuesch learned about the Gracie Defense System seminars conducted out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and arranged for the class to be taught on RAF Mildenhall. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew McConnell, right, 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 4 plans and integration NCO and deputy director of Kaiserslautern Military Community Gracie Defense System, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, gives advice to Gracie Defense System students during a self-defense class Sept. 18, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. The students were practicing a defensive technique used to remove a weapon from an attacker. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew McConnell, right, 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 4 plans and integration NCO and deputy director of Kaiserslautern Military Community Gracie Defense System, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, gives advice to Gracie Defense System students during a self-defense class Sept. 18, 2015, at the Northside Fitness Center on RAF Mildenhall, England. The students were practicing a defensive technique used to remove a weapon from an attacker. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Released)

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Frightened eyes stare up at a shadowy figure in disbelief. The silhouette quickly pulls out an object and points it toward the trembling body. The perpetrator leans forward to bark a command, stifling the petrified prey below. The frightened eyes shift to form an angry brow as both hands shoot up like lightening bolts, swiftly moving the weapon away. The two tumble on the ground and in an instant the roles are reversed.

"Stay on the ground" the victim yells while pointing the weapon at the perpetrator with trembling hands. Keeping the target in sight, the shaken individual cautiously rises and backs away in awkward silence.  The stillness is broken with applause and praise as classmates cheer on their fellow student.

Several Airmen, spouses, retirees and dependents took the first steps in ensuring they have options to fend off an attacker by taking a five-day self-defense seminar offered by Gracie Defense Systems and taught by U.S. Air Force Airmen, Sept. 14, 2015.

"Gracie Defense Systems is a very basic and effective self-defense class for people who have never done martial arts," said Staff Sgt. Saul Grosshuesch, 100th Maintenance Squadron unit deployment manager.

Throughout the course, students learned Jiu-Jitsu and the important fact that they can set and enforce boundaries.

"One of our main philosophies is that individuals have the capability to set boundaries," said Master Sgt. Mark Tilsher, 86th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School commandant and director of Kaiserslautern Military Community Gracie Defense System, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. "Once our students go through the course, they are likely to set real boundaries and they are likely to be respected. That's why this program is so important, because it gives people self-confidence to stand up for themselves."

The class covered several techniques and maneuvers, such as how to break free of someone's grasp, countering certain choke holds and even how to disarm an attacker with a weapon.

"I was always searching for self-confidence so that if I needed to use my body to defend myself I could," Tilsher confessed. "This program, more than the black belt I have in Hapkido, specifically allows me to have self-confidence. If things go wrong--if there is a worst case scenario--I will be okay."

Tilsher, along with three other instructors, came to RAF Mildenhall at the request of Grosshuesch, who heard about the program through his Jiu-Jitsu instructors.

"We're willing to come and teach seminars and certify instructors," stated Tilsher. "We have a standing offer to commanders throughout U.S. Air Forces in Europe."

Grosshuesch is currently working on bringing the self-defense class to Team Mildenhall within the next few weeks. According to him, he just needs more insight from the base and those who took the class.

"Two hours every day for five days has been really intense," said Sandra Fletcher, 100th Force Support Squadron graphic designer. "I hurt in places I didn't think it was possible to hurt, but it was absolutely incredible. There was a lot to learn, but now after the fifth day, all of the training has started to sink in and this program is something I definitely want to continue because of how it makes you feel."