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Martial arts experts teach kids how to escape from danger
Posted on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 5:32 am
by IDMA Editor

Clifford C. Crandall’s life work has centered on the education of children.

With decades of experience as a school teacher, elementary and high school administrator and superintendent, Crandall enjoys helping young people.

An extension of Crandall’s devotion to youth is his work at the American Martial Arts Institute.

Photo by PETER FRANCHELL / Observer-Dispatch - of Ashley Carr, 6, left, stretches her leg with the help of Mehki Carter, 6

As the head and founder of the institute, the 63-year-old Crandall has made it his mission to educate the young on personal wellness and safety.

“We’ve spent many years doing this,” Crandall said. “The greatest thing we can give them is knowledge. Knowledge is key.”

So it made perfect sense that Crandall and institute master instructor Cheryl Freleigh would create a workbook and DVD geared toward youth safety. The 122-page book is called “American Martial Arts Institute American Eagle Style Superkick Workbook” for children age 3 to 5. Crandall said a corresponding DVD is for ages 3 to 12.

“We were concerned with the safety of our children,” Freleigh said. “It’s to instruct them on how to be more aware of their surroundings but not be afraid either. We do it in a fun manner. Children learn a lot easier when they are having fun.”

The concept of the workbook is to educate small children on “stranger danger” with basic martial arts techniques such as punches, kicks and tumbling. The book also features exercises, puzzles, mazes as well as safety scenarios and escape techniques.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Crandall said. “Safety for children is critical. What I tell parents is this is knowledge that must be taught because predators are getting more sophisticated.”

Crandall encourages parents to read the book to their toddlers and continue to re-enforce the lessons learned as they get older.

“We aren’t teaching kids how to fight, we want to teach kids to get away,” Crandall said. “First to know your surroundings, then how to avoid a situation and how to get away.”

Crandall’s youthful exuberance emulates that of the children he teaches. During classes with small children, Crandall will get on his knees and work at eye level with them.

“(Teaching the young) helps me maintain some concept of Peter Pan,” Crandall said. “Don’t grow up so you forget what it’s like to be young. Always be a little Peter Pan-ish.”

Freleigh, 60, has served as the coordinator of the institute’s Superkick program for six years. She also taught in the program for 23 years. She was eager to collaborate on the book with Crandall and bring this important topic to print.

“It’s extremely rewarding for me,” Freleigh said. “I wouldn’t get involved if I didn’t enjoy it. Knowledge is their best defense.”

Throughout the years, Crandall said parents and former students will come up to him and thank him for his safety lessons. When leaving a store in Herkimer recently, a woman expressed her gratitude for teaching her daughter 15 years ago. The daughter applied her training during a frightening confrontation with a stranger in college and safely got away.

“Her training all came back,” Crandall said. “She said it saved her life. I love it. That’s what it’s all about.”

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