Lose the fright, win the fight

Brainerd martial arts studio Team Ascension is offering a five-week self-defense course to those of all ages.

Sara Guymon and Theresa Bourke practice self defense.
Sara Guymon, left, and Theresa Bourke, right, practice what to do if someone approaches you from behind during a self defense class at Team Ascension, Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.
Contributed / Brent Haney

BRAINERD — Sadly, self-defense is a necessary skill, since you never know what dangerous situation you could find yourself in.

As a woman and a minority, I often don’t feel safe alone at night. I learned a few taekwondo moves as a child and I keep a stun gun in my car, but I am no expert in self-defense. However, there are situations when I might not have my stun gun with me and I’m learning to protect myself with help from Team Ascension.

The Brainerd studio offers a variety of martial arts classes, but the one I’m taking is a special five-week course called Lose the Fright, Win the Fight. Fellow Brainerd Dispatch reporter Theresa Bourke and I are learning basic self-defense techniques on a weekly basis.

Our second session Oct. 28 focused on kempo taught by Brent Haney. Kempo or kenpo is a Japanese martial art with Chinese fighting influences. Haney is the teenage son of the gym’s owners. He’s earned a black belt and has won awards, including four gold medals and one silver medal at the 2022 World Karate Commission World Championship in Ireland.

We started out by stretching and reviewing what we learned in the prior session. From there, we moved on to a technique called the Seven Swords. The movement is seven chops to the arm, neck, face and stomach. The hands are kept flat like a sword the entire time.


This was interesting to me because I don’t have any experience in combat. Since I lack that experience and muscle memory, a lot of these movements felt awkward at first. Moves using my left side are especially uncomfortable for me since I am right handed. With time and practice, the moves began to feel more natural and will continue to become easier throughout the next few weeks.

Read more about the self-defense experience
Brainerd martial arts studio Team Ascension is offering a five-week self-defense course to those of all ages.

We were taught that where you hit is important, so targeting weak spots like the neck and eyes are crucial to this technique.

We then learned a couple of different ways to throw or flip our partners. One technique was for an attack grabbing you from behind and one was for a forward motion.

Surprisingly, this is not the first time I’ve thrown someone. I used to take Taekwondo classes while at Kamp Kimchee, a culture camp in Crosslake for Korean adoptees, and we would often throw the teachers during that time. However, that did not make this experience easy.

I am a short person, which makes throwing someone coming from behind very difficult. It took a lot of momentum to get Theresa to flip over, since I don’t have the same leverage as someone with a more average height. However, I was still able to do this and it was honestly a confidence booster.

Something that does play to my advantage with my height is my center of gravity. I have a strong base since my center of gravity is lower. I can stabilize myself well compared to someone who is much taller than me.

For me, the big takeaway from last week was if you don’t have to engage, then don’t. Haney said the best self-defense is the one that gets you home safely.

I’m really enjoying the classes and learning a valuable skill at the same time. Team Ascension does a great job of making Theresa and I feel welcome while learning how to protect ourselves from a potentially life-threatening situation.


Follow our journey as Theresa and I write weekly columns about our self-defense experiences over the next three weeks.

SARA GUYMON may be reached at 218-855-5851 or at Follow her on Twitter at

Sara Guymon is a Post Bulletin business reporter. Guymon grew up in New Ulm, Minnesota. She graduated from New Ulm Public High School and went on to attend college at the University of Minnesota Duluth. While at UMD, Guymon pursued a major in journalism and a double minor in photography and international studies. Prior to coming to the Post Bulletin, she worked as a staff writer for the Brainerd Dispatch. There she covered the City of Baxter and business.
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