With several local attempted child abductions over the last few weeks, safety is on the mind of many parents. You can't always anticipate an attack, but self-defense instructors say teaching kids how to react could prevent that child from being taken.
Training self awareness and stranger danger are the first lessons taught at East West Okinawan Karate in Boynton Beach.
"We obviously realize they are not going to win strength versus strength," said David Coburn, owner of East West Okinawan Karate and instructor.
Coburn teaches children tactics that may stop an attacker no matter his or her size.
"A palm heal strike to the chin, fingers to the eyes, throat, " said Coburn explaining that even though the size of an attacker matters, finding vulnerable points can give the victim a chance to get away.
Coburn goes through the steps of a possible attack and says repeating this training gives the children confidence to fight back.
"If you're a little bit more used to being grabbed, knowing what it's like to have somebody come and grab you in a bear hug from in front, in a bear hug from behind, grab your wrist over and over again and doing the drills to get out of that, you become a little less fearful if that ever actually happened to you," added Coburn.
In a demonstration, Coburn's 11-year-old student Ben is attacked from behind just like a child was in the Lake Charleston community last month. Ben reacts quickly, yelling, and stomping on the attacker's foot. When he finally gets some distance between him and the attacker, he runs.
Ben's mother has seen the news stories about the recent attempted child abductions in Lake Charleston. Deputies are still searching for the suspicious van and suspected abductor. On Wednesday a child in Fort Pierce locked himself in his family's car at a shopping plaza after a suspicious woman came after him. Police are seeking information from anyone who recognizes the car or woman in surveillance video.
"I do feel at ease that he’s gaining the abilities to defend himself but as a parent you never stop worrying," said Sirena Leverrier, Ben's mother.
Richard Maxwell put his 7-year-old Emma in Karate when she was three.
"I think this is our best defense," he said.
Maxwell says seeing his daughter grow and learn to fight back makes him more confident that in the event someone tried to take her, she could get away.
"She has a chance. She has a chance," added Maxwell.
Coburn says it's important to teach children to be vocal. He says screaming when a stranger reaches for them is a key tactic.