Free self defense classes kick off March 13 in North Smithfield


NORTH SMITHFIELD – Free classes teaching teens and adults how to recognize and manage potentially dangerous situations will take place in North Smithfield next month, with a husband and wife team from a local dojo instructing in the basics of their art.

The classes, offered in town by the North Smithfield Parks & Recreation Department, aim to provide participants with the confidence to fight back and escape from an attacker, if needed. Kim and Dennis Branchaud of Kodokai Martial Arts Dojo will teach the classes, with instruction for middle and high school-aged students on Mondays, March 13 and 20 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and adults, as well as adults accompanied by a kid ages 12 and up, to be held on Mondays March 27 and April 3.

“They are experts at instructing as well as making every feel at ease,” said Recreation Director Kate Pasquariello.

Pasquariello, a longtime student of kickboxing herself, first brought the class to residents in 2019 but has been unable to hold it for the past several years amid pandemic-related precautions.

Participants in the classes will practice techniques on padded targets and training partners.

“I personally wanted to do this,” Pasquariello said. “I have a long background in kickboxing and wanted to offer potentially life-saving self defense skills to the community.” 

The first class, focused on younger students, will cover recognizing threats, de-escalation techniques, effective ways to strike, escapes from common grabs, legal issues regarding self-defense, developing a defensive mindset, and strategies.

The second, beginning March 27, will address more complex situations, such defense against weapons, dealing with multiple attackers, and self-defense while on the ground.

Participants should wear comfortable workout clothing, with sweatpants or yoga pants preferred over shorts and will be asked to remove their shoes. Socks, especially with grippy bottoms, are allowed, and all students are instructed to bring a water bottle.

Pasquariello said the class sizes will be limited to 16 participants, but if more people are interested, more classes may be offered. The class, she noted, had, “a great turnout,” last time it was taught by the dojo, and she’s anticipating even more interest in 2023.

Seasoned instructors and owners of the North Smithfield-based dojo for some 40 years, the Branchauds had Paquariello’s son in class at age five – and he’s now 24.

“They are phenomenal,” she said.

The couple teaches practical self defense based upon authentic martial arts of Okinawa, Japan including Okinawa-te and Kenjutsu. Dennis first learned martial arts while stationed Okinawa as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, and has returned to the island several times to further his studies.

The free classes will take place at the business at 175 Eddie Dowling Highway.

“I’m super exited to bring this back to North Smithfield residents,” Pasquariello said.

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