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Mar 24, 2023

On the Bright Side of Self Defense

She was a teacher and guidance counselor, but this all-arounder is also one tough cookie and she’s got a workshop to help you defend yourself too. I joined Renee Wentz for this week’s Look on the Bright Side and learned the five-step approach she prepared to help you defend yourself in the event you’re under threat.


Sabreena Daly, Reporting

Renee Wentz has been teaching self-defense in Belize as far back as 2002. She has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a wealth of experience under her belt, as it relates to the empowerment women feel when they learn the principles of protecting themselves.

Renee Wentz

Renee Wentz, Self Defense Instructor
“I think one of the things that, that we do, we do learn about this, is that it’s not even just about the physical protection, it’s about having more freedom, like feeling a sense of safety. Cuz a lot of times when women leave their homes, they feel nervous.”

Renee Wentz

“What I wanna just teach you is it’s called a palm heel strike. I don’t teach a punch because there’s so many little bones in the hand. You’ll break, you’ll break your fingers, and uh, the palm heel is really effective. Hmm. And, um, it’s, it is effective really as a punch, as long as you know how to do it.”

Renee Wentz
I didn’t really know there’s a name for what I’m doing except for teaching self-defense. And then I learned later on that I was teaching what we were calling at the time, feminist self-defense. And so that kind of has morphed in the 20 odd years into what we call Empowerment Self-defense.”


According to Wentz, empowerment self-defense is a trauma informed system. It recognizes not only physical moves as protection, but a means of building confidence and enablement. Her three-hour workshop covers a five-phase approach to preparing yourself for empowerment self-defense. The first is think.

Renee Wentz
Our first principle is a principle called Think. And that has to do with observation, paying attention to what’s going on in your surroundings. And really, I would say probably about out of a three-and-a-half-hour class, I spend at least forty-five minutes on that. It just like situational awareness. Attackers don’t attack random. That idea that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time is just, it’s almost never correct.”

Renee Wentz

The attacker interviews you. It doesn’t mean they’re not going to come up and talk to you necessarily. They might, but they’re watching you to see if you’re a good victim because the first thing they don’t want is to get caught. In this instance you want to put it on all the way.”


Sabreena Daly

“But it looks fashionable this way.”


Renee Wentz

“Yes. But we don’t care about fashion and we care about safety right here. Yeah. And so that’s not a grab and go. Now if it’s on one shoulder it’s a grab and go. But here, now if I want to get that from you, I have to have a conversation with you. Mm-hmm. I have to convince you to give it to me.  Remember we talked about their interviewing. That’s part of the interview. How are you carrying your stuff. So if they just want to steal your stuff, they might just watch you for five minutes. But if they want to harm, you know, maybe it’s a stalker. Maybe it’s just somebody that doesn’t like you for some reason. They might watch you for five weeks.”


Her second and third principle is using yelling and running as a mode of defense from an attacker.

Renee Wentz
I read some research that said 86% of the time when a woman, usually it’s a woman, but when she yells, the attacker will run off. And that means no fighting, just the yell. If you can get out of a situation, if you can exit a situation and get to safety, then you wanna do that. You don’t want to stay in fight ever. Mm-hmm.  because anytime you stay in fight, it’s always an opportunity for you to get harmed. Okay. So if you can exit the situation, exit it. Also run has an observation and run has to do with knowing where your exits. , where is it I need to get to, to get to safety.”


The fourth is fight. The first three principles disclose preventative measures when faced with a potential situation of physical harm. But when options one to three are fruitless, principle four can be the step that minimizes the most possible harm.

Renee Wentz
One of the things about when you’re learning to fight, the way I teach it is I teach targets first and techniques second, because the techniques that I teach, I teach you six techniques, but they can be used to multiple targets. Let’s say if somebody, um, grabs your arm. Now if it’s a friend grabbing my arm, you could grab any arm, any hand and you don’t wanna hold it. Hold it real tight. Now. I don’t wanna hurt you. I don’t have to hurt you. And simply all I’m gonna do is draw a circle over. Okay? So, you’re just making a circle towards the person’s thumb, whichever way the thumb is. So, grab me with the other hand. So, I went this way over the other one. I go this way over this one. Now the difference is push down hard. If I try to go this way, it’s much more resistance. You see, you can resist, but you can’t resist that way. Your wrist won’t turn like that. And that’s a really simple one. I didn’t even do it hard, right, and you just couldn’t hold on.”


The last principle is ‘Tell’. This involves addressing the aftermath of trauma that may come with the need for protecting one’s self. As a counselor, Renee feels she can be even more of a help.

Renee Wentz
Empowerment self-defense recognizes that it’s not just, we don’t just do physical moves. There’s a lot more that goes into it. And, um, because as a counselor, I see the effects of abuse, you know, childhood abuse and assault and sexual assaults for adults. I see that in my counseling. So, for me, it was such a match because I felt like I can not only prevent health, hopefully if people come to my class and nothing’s happened, I can prevent it, but I can also give them some skills to help.”


Looking on the Bright Side, I’m Sabreena Daly.


Renee Wentz’ Empowerment Self Defense workshop is open to everyone including children. If you would like to access her trainings, you can reach her at 630-5571.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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