Parents and students should put self-defense on the back-to-school checklist – NBC Connecticut

As kids head back to school, parents are thinking about fresh school supplies and new clothes. Now a martial arts instructor wants them to add something else to the checklist: self-defense.

Corporate Krav Maga in Norwalk is offering a program that equips students with skills to defend themselves as they head into the new academic year.

It looks dangerous, but during a practice, Brianna Soro is actually equipping herself with tools to protect herself in the face of danger, learning Krav Maga from Chief Instructor Gus Bottazzi.

“I learned how to take a gun out of someone’s hands, a knife out of someone’s hands,” Soro, of New Caanan, said.

A year-and-a-half of training in the Israeli hand-to-hand combat system gives her confidence when she needs to be at work alone as part of her job in commercial real estate. Soro believes everyone should learn these skills.

“I think it’s really important for children,” she said. “You can never be too safe. You know, any environment you’re in, you never know what could happen.”

This fall, that is Bottazzi’s mission. Corporate Krav Maga is offering “The Essential Program.” It is geared toward middle school, high school and college students, as they will be out-and-about more at school or on campus.

“Krav Maga is playing kinetic chess. I am going to play my moves so that I’m always in a better advantaged position,” Bottazzi said. “It was created to identify the most common types of problems you might see, and how you deconstruct and win in those situations.”

Krav Maga, originally developed for the Israeli military, is known for it’s focus on real-world issues.

“If this is your attacker, and you only have one quick move to make, where do you hit?” Bottazzi said.

Bottazzi said part of the instruction is learning how to avoid an encounter in the first place.

“The things that we work on are things that start with how to understand what’s going on in a room, the dynamics of danger before it actually becomes physical,” Bottazzi said. “As I like to say, you’re 100% safer if you do not engage in violent action, right, you’re always going to succeed.”

However if it does come to flight or fight, there are maneuvers to help someone escape violence, and Bottazzi goes over each of them in “The Essentials Program.”

“First module is what we call strategic striking. When to hit, where to hit, how to hit,” he said. “The second thing we work on is abduction. So if someone is grabbing you from behind and trying to pull you someplace against your will. The third thing that we do is ground survival, someone gets you to the ground and injures you in some manner, whether it’s a sexual assault or just a pre-emptive physical encounter. We teach you how to get up from the ground as quickly as possible.”

About 400 students have completed “The Essentials Program” since it was developed seven years ago. For Bottazzi, training the kids is personal.

“My daughter who’s at present 26, has been attacked three separate times in her life. Twice in high school and once in college,” he said.

He said that his daughter fell back on her self-defense knowledge to save herself in each of those situations.

“I came to understand is that level of threat does exist,” Bottazzi said. “The reason she was able to survive all three events is because she outsmarted her attackers.”

In one instance, when Bottazzi’s daughter was being followed by three men while she was abroad, he said she used the Krav Maga model of diffusing the situation without a physical encounter by filming the men.

“Three people started following her and she could sense that that was happening,” he said. “The first thing she did is she took her phone out, turned the camera on, and said to them, ‘I don’t know who you are, but all of my friends are going know who you are.’ Now she’s just started taking their photographs. That’s Krav Maga, guys, that has nothing to do with how hands-on I am, or how strong I am, or how aggressive I am.”

It is the reason Bottazzi now feels passionate about sharing these strategies, like during a workshop with a group of college women.

“For me when I do ‘The Essentials Program,’ it’s because I see my daughter in every student who comes to the door,” he said.

An essential on the back-to-school checklist, Bottazzi said self-defense could save a life.

“When parents have children, they teach them how to swim,” Bottazzi said. “If you fall into water, you want to make sure you know how to swim. If you fall into violence, you need to know how to survive, and that is ultimately what Krav Maga was based upon.”

As Corporate Krav Maga expands, it is about to move into a new 45,000 square-foot studio located at 295 Westport Avenue in Norwalk. If you are interested in taking a class you can call 203-428-5800 or visit

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