Special Report: The art of self defense

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- Kevin Taylor is no stranger to the world of martial arts. In fact, there's only two degrees of separation between Taylor and legendary fighter Ip Man, and only one degree between he and Bruce Lee.

"In 1985 I moved to England to go to high school for two years, and when I was there I started studying Wing Chun Kung Fu with my teacher Nino Bernardo, who was a student of Wong ShunLeung. Wong ShunLeung was Ip Man's top fighter," Taylor explained.

Less than two years ago, Taylor found himself back in his hometown of Bowling Green, opening his own business, Kentucky Grapplers.

"Most of the stuff that I do is geared toward law enforcement, military and civilian self defense," said Taylor.

By not focusing on competitive martial arts and fighting, Kentucky Grapplers is able to run without deadlines and on-and-off seasons, but also without rules.

"Two young guys that want to beat one another up in the corner are welcome to, they just can't impose it on anybody else. So, with that kind of philosophy of training, it allows people to come in at whatever level they're at."

That kind of freedom sounds intimidating, but Brenda Givens says even as a woman who considers herself a beginner at the art of self defense, the environment has an odd kind of comfort to it.

"These guys are easy to get along with, our trainer's really easy to get along with and very down to Earth, and so that really helps. You don't have a lot of intimidating people that just look so buff that they're going to really, really beat you up, so everybody else is kind of an average Joe here, in a sense."

Taylor says one of his goals as an instructor is to spread the word to both men and women that self defense is an invaluable capability they already possess. Sometimes, all you need to do is tap back into the instinct.

"Our belief is that our training is two consenting adults at play. If one person wants to go really hard and the other person doesn't, the person going hard has to come down to their level."

For women who feel they aren't strong enough or fast enough to protect themselves against an attacker, Taylor says "think again."

"With technical skills, there's a lot of times that someone with a smaller stature doesn't need to be strong to, say, poke somebody in the eye. Or anytime you use boney parts of your body to hit soft parts of somebody elses, you can do damage," he explained.

Givens says she took the leap of faith and decided to train for a day she hopes never comes.

"You just never know what's going to happen, you really don't. I mean, chances are nothing will, but there's that slim chance that you might actually need to use something, and if not, at least you get a good workout."

One unique thing about self defense training is that it can be different every time you look at it.

Hand-to-hand combat and boxing not your style? Not a problem in Taylor's eyes.

"We do a lot of weapons training, a knife is the great equalizer. One of my teachers has a quote where he says 'I respect you and your art, but my blade doesn't.'"

Kentucky Grapplers say for people who are too afraid to take the jump for themselves, thinking about what the training would allow them to do for their friends and family usually is the only push they need.

"Our idea is that a fighter is training to beat somebody else, so if you're a competitor you're really a fighter. We're trying to train warriors, and a warrior is training to protect the people behind them, not to beat somebody in front of them."

"Stop being scared," says Givens. "Just go for it. I mean, what do you have to lose?"

Could it be that there's nothing to lose, and everything to gain? An easy "yes" for Taylor.

"This is something that everybody can do. You don't have to go compete, you don't have to go get in the cage, you don't have to get punched in the face every night. But you can learn skills to avoid assaults, be more confident, and defend yourself if you need to."

For more information on classes offered, one-on-one teaching opportunities and women's self defense classes, contact Kentucky Grapplers at 270-438-3660, email Kevin Taylor at Kevin.Taylor@kentuckygrapplers.com, or click on the link attached to this story.

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