This past Wednesday, in a multi-purpose room in Brooklyn Borough Hall, self-defense instructors Brenda Jones and Leah DeCesare demonstrated how to defend against an attacker wielding a bat. DeCesare swung a foam bat that Jones blocked with the underside of her forearm.
Jones explained to a crowd of about a dozen gay men, lesbians, and transgender people that it’s best to block with the underside of your forearm, where there’s muscle and fat. DeCesare added that it’s best to block at toward the base of the weapon, as the momentum is greater toward the tip.
This was the fourth in a six-class course that's sponsored by the City Council Speaker Christine Quinn—who is a favorite for Democratic mayoral candidate for New York—and the Council’s LGBT Caucus. The free classes, which are taught by the Center For Anti-Violence Education, are a response to the recent uptick in violent attacks on gay New Yorkers and cover everything from remaining alert and avoiding confrontations to how defend yourself, fight back, and even improvise a weapon.
“I think a lot of people are so surprised to hear about gay hate crimes in New York City,” veteran instructor DeCesare explains. “This is a place where people are supposed to feel safer being out.”
The crowd was enthusiastic—eager to participate and offer what techniques have worked for them. Suggestions ranged from walking with their keys between their knuckles to pretending to know karate. That being said, there was a palpable sense of anxiety in the room. When I asked one participant, Don Carlos, what brought him to the class, he responded, simply: “Fear.”