Each week, participants from the Bronx and Manhattan gather to learn about safety and self-defense with Hei-Ti of Hei-Ti’s South Shaolin Clan. Six individuals that CFS works with – together with their Direct Service Professionals – participate in each session, discussing awareness and practicing martial arts techniques. In the coming weeks, self-defense classes will expand into other office locations to reach more participants we support. The series is made possible thanks to donations to CFS and a grant from the CFS Foundation.

“Many of those we support have been unable to engage with their communities during the pandemic,” says Debra, a Specialist in CFS’ Innovative Planning Department who helps put the program together. “This program will help prepare them to be safe as they explore their neighborhoods more with COVID restrictions being lifted.”

Hei-Ti has been a sensi for decades and is also very community oriented. He knows it’s more than just martial arts that can keep you safe.

“How you walk around can also keep you safe,” Hei-Ti told the group in the Bronx on a hot Tuesday morning. “You all have your partners with you, so look out for each other. Two people paying attention to their surroundings, not on their phones, makes you much safer than being alone, looking at your phone.”

The participants go over a number of scenarios, and learn techniques to defend themselves. Hei-Ti reminds them when the martial arts they’ve learned should be used throughout the instruction.

“The techniques we learned are not about power, they are about protecting yourself if you’re ever faced with someone who’s trying to hurt you,” said Theresa, one of the participants.

Towards the end of June – National Safety Awareness month – those participating in the series will be joining together to attend the Manhattan and Bronx community council meetings. These council meetings will be our way to connect and continue our efforts to work with the Community Policing officers near each office.

CFS P.A.G.E.S. (Political Advocacy Group Enhancing Services) started the initiative to partner with Community Officers to create a plan for a safer community for people with disabilities. The overall goal will be to have a CFS advocate continually attend these council meetings monthly to represent the disability population and continue this connection.

“It’s all part of knowing your community. Having knowledge and connections can keep you safe,” says Hei-Ti.

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