Self-defense classes to raise funds for EHS student

EDWARDSBURG — Community members are invited to attend an upcoming event to raise money for hospitalized Edwardsburg High School student Ella Merrill and her family, while also learning self-defense techniques.

Zero Ego Jiu Jitsu is partnering with Community Baptist Church on U.S. 12 in Edwardsburg to host a women’s self-defense workshop that will take place in the church’s gymnasium from 4 to 7 p.m. March 10. It will cost $20 to participate in the workshop and cash is preferred. All proceeds will go to Merrill, who is in the hospital after suffering severe brain trauma from a car accident on Dec. 13 of last year.

“I know Ella’s mom,” said Casey Pielemeier, owner and an instructor at Zero Ego Jiu-Jitsu. “She used to work out at the gym, and I also met Ella when she would come in with her mom. She’s just a special kid and my daughter’s also named Ella, so she’s been tugging at our heartstrings ever since Dec. 13. We’ve followed the progress and I wanted to do something. This was a way I saw that I could help. We’re happy to be a part of it.”

In addition to raising money for Merrill and her family, the purpose of the workshop is to empower as many women and men as possible by teaching them effective ways to protect themselves.

“With this event, we knew that it would be big with such a movement for this young lady that we partnered up with Community Baptist Church to provide us with a much larger space,” Pielemeier said. “We’re going to work in stations, and people will learn how to respond if somebody approaches them from behind or from the front. Whether they touch you or not, we’ll learn how to deal with the most common of those situations, and it’s very hands on.”

Participants will learn simple situational awareness techniques, how to take precautionary measures and various self-defense principles. The expectation is that participants will leave more confident in their ability to defend themselves against any potential violent encounters.

“The first 40 participants that come and pay are going to get a free T-shirt and some other door prizes,” Pielemeier said. “We’re trying to make it a big event beyond just practicing the techniques.”

Participants are not required to pay in advance, but Zero Ego Jiu Jitsu does request that those planning to attend notify them in advance by responding to the event’s page on Facebook. This will help them determine the number of coaches and stations to have.

Community members over 10 years old are invited to attend the event, however, parents are advised to use their discretion when determining if their child is mature enough for this event.

“Some of the topics are anti-abduction and that can be difficult for kids, so they have to be at a certain maturity level,” Pielemeier said. “I think the parents will know best of that if they think their kids can handle that topic. When in doubt, make sure mom stays and is a participant as well. That way, if there are any issues they can leave or move their kid to a different station.”

Participants will also be required to sign a general liability waiver. Due to the physical and hands-on nature of the workshop, Pielemeier says that there is a “very small risk of injury.”

Even if participants are going to be late to the workshop, they are still welcome to attend. Late registrants are permitted, they just may not be able to take part in each station or learn every technique.

“We want to get as many people as we can to come and be a part of this event,” he said. “We also want to thank the Community Baptist Church for letting us use their facilities. Without their vision of empowering women and [willingness to support] an unbelievable cause, this wouldn’t be possible. I want to thank my coaches as well for their willingness to donate their time, energy and efforts.”

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