On Saturday morning, 12 people gathered in an activity room at the back of the Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield outlet on South University Avenue in Little Rock.
Sarah Stanley, a Blue Cross employee, was there after she saw an ad on the company’s Facebook page.
Daylan Moore noticed an ad on LinkedIn, then told his wife, Chantel.
Coleen and Jeff Franks made the trek from Sherwood after Coleen saw a segment on KATV’s morning show.
They and the rest gathered for one reason: to spend two hours learning situational awareness and basic self-defense.
Or, put another way, learning how to “Do Bad Things to Bad People.”
You don’t have to take Devin Shirley’s word for it. It’s also printed on the front of his shirt.
For two hours Shirley, a Krav Maga (Hebrew for “contact combat”) instructor, taught the room some of the skills he’s learned over the past 21 years.
His own path to being there began in Dallas when he heard a segment on the radio about, of all things, Jennifer Lopez.
“I had done kickboxing, jujitsu, and they were talking about this new thing that Jennifer Lopez was training in to get ready for a movie,” Shirley said, more than likely describing the 2002 movie “Enough.”
“Then they said, ‘It’s pretty brutal. It’s very intense.’ They gave the website, and the website was pretty badass. Found a school 20 minutes from my house. At the time, it was like one of 10 schools in the country. So I felt pretty lucky.”
The session, put on for free by Blue Cross, was part of an ongoing program that originated in Northwest Arkansas and was introduced for the first time in Little Rock this weekend.
At the same time Shirley was instructing his students how to deliver a proper groin kick — with the laces of your shoe, not your toes — a similar program was going on in Fort Smith.
Arkansas Blue Cross’ intention with the Krav Maga session — along with classes on fitness boot camp, yoga and potentially couple’s dance — is to “get the community engaged and access to resources” they might not otherwise have, said Kristen Lippencott, manager of health and well-being at the health insurance company.
However, in the midst of the holiday season and with crime a hot topic in the Little Rock area, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
“I hate to say it, but violence is perpetuating through society and it’s going to touch everyone at some point — if not you directly, a family member,” Shirley said. “And you just got to have the awareness.”
He said it’s “especially significant” during the holidays.
“Some people get stressed out during the holiday. Some are [concerned about] what are they going to get for family. There’s money, there’s all these things happening, the shopping — so everybody is out there trying to get their stuff done,” Shirley said.
“Then you got bad guys who are watching it. … Now everybody’s on the high adrenaline for the whole season, good or bad.”
A desire for more awareness in potentially dangerous scenarios is what drew the participants who were asked about it.
Stanley is a runner, which oftentimes puts her “in situations where I could be very vulnerable to attack.”
“So I want to always be on my guard and ready to defend myself or any other friends that I’m running with at the time,” she said.
“We’ve talked about it. We’ve always formulated some sort of plan, but the more prepared I am for that attack, the better I’ll be in the long run.”
Chantel Moore had similar motivation for her “fun date on a Saturday morning” with her husband, she said with a laugh.
“Just wanting to feel comfortable going on walks and runs by myself and not feel like I always have to make sure my husband’s around,” she said.
Her biggest takeaway for the first hour of the event was the groin kick lesson.
“I think for me the kick — I grew up cheering, and so I think of, like, kicking high and light and everything, and it’s like, ‘No, kick with power,'” she said. “The same thing with, like, pointing your toes, which is helpful.”
As for the Franks, the safety of Jeff was the main concern.
When the couple first moved to Sherwood, Jeff said, a crime alert app they use showed “a big conglomeration of icons” around their local Kroger.
Jeff is the one who does most of the shopping.
“He goes to [the] Kroger parking lot at night. I think it’s a dangerous place,” Coleen said. “Older people, they like to take advantage [of]. They think you’re weak and they might get some money.”
While they were there for serious reasons, that didn’t mean there weren’t some laughs.
When initially displaying a punching form, Shirley reminded everyone what time of the year it is.
“It’s the holidays. I’m reaching for the cake in the back of the fridge.”
For two hours, he dolled out the wisdom of Krav Maga while using references to Star Wars, The Simpsons and even “A League of Their Own” to humorously get his points across.
When Chantel Moore began apologizing to Coleen Franks for getting her off balance during a drill, Shirley lightly said, “No, no, no, we don’t apologize to our attacker,” before putting his own twist on a line from the 1992 baseball movie.
“There’s no ‘sorry’ in Krav Maga!”