PLYMOUTH, Mich. – An after-school program in Plymouth is focused on lifting girls up by teaching them lifesaving skills, community service and health and wellness.
The program -- Lift by HALE -- is run by Courtney Hessenbruch, co-owner of HALE Strength and Shape
"Middle school's not the greatest in terms of knowing who you are and where you fit in, and it's hard to see girls struggle," Hessenbruch said. "Hard to see them struggle with what they want to do, where they fit in. So I got the idea of having a program that's set just for middle school. We call it Lift by HALE. Lift because we're a gym and lift because I want these girls to lift each other up."
One of the programs is self-defense which is taught by Seth Martin, who founded True Defense LLC. He is in law enforcement and teaches the Tony Blauer SPEAR System of self-defense. The SPEAR system uses the body's reflexive responses and instinctive survival mechanisms.
"I am not teaching you guys how to fight," Martin told the class. "What I'm teaching you is how to choose safety. Sometimes choosing safety might mean that I can't run away. That I actually have to physically do something to protect myself."
Martin teaches the girls a color-coded system for levels of awareness. White is oblivious. Yellow is aware, orange is alert.
He said we are alert when there is something that we have keyed in on and are paying attention to, such as a person wearing a winter coat when it's 90 degrees outside or two people arguing nearby who start pushing each other.
Red means take action.
"Now I'm talking to people about it or I'm making the decision to, 'Hey, we need to get out of here,' or we need to choose someplace else to go or maybe we need to walk into this place to separate us from," Martin said. "We actually now have seen something that we have to take action."
Paige Martin, 12, told Local 4 she learned from the class that choosing safety means so much more than learning self-defense moves.
"I definitely thought that when we were coming in here that we were going to be kicking and fighting the whole entire time but talking and listening to the different scenarios and what you could do and precautions really benefited me way more than fighting and kicking could ever do," Paige said. "Because you learn how to take control of the situation and how to prevent it. How to change who's in control and just so much more on how you can keep yourself and your family safe.
Choosing safety includes paying attention, keeping your head up instead of in a screen and getting out of a situation before it turns bad.
"I think it's going to help us be a lot safer and more aware of what's around us because I think we miss a lot of stuff that is around us because we're not paying attention," Autumn Wate, 13, said.
In case students ever do need to get away from a bad situation, Seth Martin showed them how to fight back with skills they already have but may not know to use for self defense.
"So what the body does when the body is surprised is our hands come up to protect our face and our head because this is important, your hands open and we push away danger," he said. "You already know how to do this stuff. You can pass a basketball, you can hit somebody in the face. If you can put on a seat belt, you can hit somebody with your elbow. If you can do a mountain climber, you can hit somebody with your knee."
"When he told those girls they are a human weapon system, they were like, 'Yeah, I am strong. I can do this. I don't need to be scared. I can help myself,'" Hessenbruch said. "It's a really cool thing to see."
Hitting Seth Martin gave the girls confidence to know they can protect themselves.
"You've got to practice it so if that ever happens to me I would be aware and know how to do it," Camryn Huhn, 10, said.
"You need to learn how to defend yourself in case anything ever happens," Haven Hessenbruch, 10, said.
The Lift program offers a wide variety of classes including personal hygiene, nutrition, yoga and community service.
"We just want to build that female companionship and supporting one another, lifting each other up," Courtney Hessenbruch said. "It's obviously a hot topic right now. You know, girl power, we're strong, we're confident. And I think we've provided the building and as friends come in it's just, it just catches on like wildfire because it's a great community of women and they're here building each other up."
The classes are typically after school and cost $10. For more information, click here.