People sit in a discussion circle in the Tupper Lake conference room at North Franklin Educational Center

Juniors and seniors in the Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES Early Childhood Education program at North Franklin Educational Center in Malone hit the pads and stood their ground during a self-defense training session last month.


Early Childhood Education Instructor Rhonda Shorette-Peets said she felt it was important for her students to feel comfortable defending themselves with the rise in violent incidents throughout the country.


"Unfortunately, teens and college-aged persons are easily targeted. Learning to protect and defend oneself in an uncomfortable situation is important for everyone,” Shorette-Peets said. “FEH BOCES was supportive and allowed the session to happen." 

The self-defense training was provided by local martial arts school North Country Dojo. Sensei David Johnson and his student coaches and assistant instructors ran the training. 

North Country Dojo's Sensei David Johnson demonstrates to the Early Childhood Education students how to block an incoming strike.

Sensei Johnson began the session by talking about threatening scenarios where students would need to use self-defense or avoid getting involved in dangerous scenarios.

"Ever heard of a gut feeling? 90% of the time it's actually right," Johnson said. "If it doesn't look right or feel right, it probably isn't. Always trust your gut."

Sensei Johnson and his student coaches and assistant instructors taught NFEC students how to defend themselves using verbal shouts and various blocks and strikes on training pads, like knee strikes and elbow strikes.

A student strikes a training pad during a self-defense training session.

Many students in Early Childhood Development acted nervous about shouting and striking in the middle of their school, but once they hit the pads a few times and instructors encouraged them, an air of confidence began to fill the room.

By the end of the training, students were exchanging laughs and smiles as much as strikes and shouts.

Early Childhood Education instructor Rhonda Shorette-Peets blocks an incoming strike from a North Country Dojo coach.

"Hopefully we can get more programs involved next year," Shorette-Peets said. "I definitely will proceed with the training for future classes."