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updated: 3/11/2014 5:53 PM

Vernon Hills High students get self-defense lessons

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  • Video: Students learn self-defense

  • Self-defense expert Michael Theriault of The Brave Way LLC in Mundelein, teaches Vernon Hills High School students Kyle Whitney and Mallory Rose self-defense tactics.

       Self-defense expert Michael Theriault of The Brave Way LLC in Mundelein, teaches Vernon Hills High School students Kyle Whitney and Mallory Rose self-defense tactics.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Self-defense expert Michael Theriault of The Brave Way LLC in Mundelein, teaches Vernon Hills High School students Jessica Lauber, left, and Emma Ferguson self-defense tactics.

       Self-defense expert Michael Theriault of The Brave Way LLC in Mundelein, teaches Vernon Hills High School students Jessica Lauber, left, and Emma Ferguson self-defense tactics.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

It's not every day high school students learn how to incapacitate someone with a finger twist, a pinch or a sharp jab to the throat.

But in physical education classes this week, Vernon Hills High School seniors will practice those moves and more as part of a self-defense program.

Led by Michael Theriault, a partner in a Mundelein self-defense and security company, the three-day course is designed to teach students how to act safe and defend themselves if confronted by assailants.

"We don't want you to freeze," Theriault told one group of teens Tuesday morning.

Theriault's company has led similar programs at more than 30 suburban schools, including campuses in Antioch, Barrington and Grayslake.

This is his second annual visit to Vernon Hills.

"We feel it is very educational and beneficial to our students," physical welfare department Supervisor Michael McCaulou said in an email.

The goal isn't to turn the kids into martial-arts experts in three periods. It's to keep them from becoming victims of sexual assault or other violent crimes.

"If they have these skills, the likelihood of them becoming a victim goes down considerable," Theriault said.

In one of the first lessons Tuesday, Theriault paired up students and taught them how to quickly -- and painfully -- twist an attacker's finger to break a hold.

"If you can grab a finger, you're going to bend the finger until the attack stops," he said.

Slapping an attacker's ears with the palms of their hands came next, followed by a snakelike throat strike. A jab with the fingertips there is much better than a punch, Theriault said, because a fist takes up more space and is slower.

"It's too fast to block and it's too fast to avoid," he said.

Student Emma Ferguson thought the lessons would be valuable as she prepares for college this fall.

"Going off to college, you're on your own," she said.

Ferguson partnered with Jessica Lauber. Neither had taken a self-defense course before.

Both young women knew their gender and relatively small size could put them at risk.

"People just assume I'm more vulnerable (and that) I'm weak and can't defend myself," Lauber said.

Lauber said she thinks she'll be able to use what she learned Tuesday if she's ever in danger.

"As long as you keep it in your mind," she said.

The classes will continue Thursday and Friday.

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