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Kickboxing classes help students master fear

New La Grande business provides self-defense instruction


Kimblerly Scott, of La Grande, punches into large mitts held by Chris Pender, the founder of Applied Tactical Solutions, during a kickboxing training session. (Cherise Kaechele, The Observer)

Kickboxing is a sport with a maze of rules, none of which concerned Chris Pender, of La Grande, two weeks ago while teaching the hybrid martial art.

Pender, the founder and CEO of Applied Tactical Solutions, LLC, a new La Grande company that teaches self-defense skills, was teaching students how to defend themselves via kickboxing.

“In self-defense, the only rule is to survive,” Pender told his students.

Teaching people how to survive and escape encounters that may bring threatening physical harm is the primary objective of the classes offered by Applied Tactical Solutions. The company is based at Mountain Valley Fitness & Health, where Pender teaches his classes.

A focus of Pender’s classes is teaching people how to prevent fear and panic from taking hold when someone is threatening their physical well-being.

“The biggest mistake people make (when facing a physical threat) is allowing fear to take over,” Pender said.

He said people react to fear in different ways, the worst of which is inaction.

“It makes some people freeze,” Pender said.

People are less likely to succumb to fear and panic, he said, if they have participated in training simulations, which his classes include. Such simulations will introduce them to how they will feel when physically threatened.

“We are inoculating people for fear and stress with training,” Pender said. “We want people to know what they will be feeling physically (when threatened).”

Pender said he started Applied Tactical Solutions because it gives him an opportunity to put to good use the self-defense skills he has learned over a lifetime of study and from working as a law enforcement officer and serving in the military.

The Applied Tactical Solutions class lineup includes women’s kickboxing, self-defense, non-firearm weapons, and military and law enforcement courses, all taught by Pender at Mountain Valley Fitness & Health.

Pender introduces his students in all his classes to techniques — such as martial-arts-style kicking — they can use to protect themselves. He said that by using proper techniques when doing something such as kicking, you can escape from a stronger or larger person.

“Body mechanics are everything,” Pender said.

He said that when kicking, for example, it is critical to do so in a manner that draws power from your hips.

“Your power is in your hips,” Pender said.

Exerting power is important when trying to escape an attacker, but repetition and quickness are also critical.

“We teach people to hit fast and hit a lot,” Pender said. “It is not a game of chess. You are trying to get away.”

Pender is well-qualified to teach military and law enforcement personnel. He served in the Air Force for four years, during which time he was a security officer, the equivalent of a police officer. He was also a deputy for the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office for almost nine years, where he worked in the Umatilla County Jail.

Pender said he teaches hand-to-hand combat skills even to servicemen and women, because these skills are not taught extensively in the military. Hand-to-hand combat skills are needed, for example, if someone hiding in a building being cleared by military personnel jumps out at you from a doorway. You do not have time to grab a weapon in a such a situation, the self-defense specialist said.

Pender teaches not only physical techniques for self-defense but also means of protecting yourself when in harm’s way without resorting to violence. He urges people confronting a threat to use physical force only as a last resort.

“The best self-defense tool is your mind,” he said. “If you can talk yourself out of a situation, you are a lot better off. The only fight you win is the one you don’t get into.”

He noted that even though it is legal to injure someone in an act of self-defense, you run the risk of facing criminal charges or lawsuits if you hurt someone.

“Even if you win a fight, there are still legal repercussions,” he said.

Many of the self-defense skills Pender teaches can be learned in as few as two one-hour training sessions. This, though, does not mean you will become a self-defense expert overnight.

“Mastery takes much longer,” Pender said.

Physical self-defense skills are always a work in progress, he said, and must be constantly honed and refreshed via training.

“It is a perishable skill,” he said.

The self-defense instructor is not new to teaching. He previously was the defense tactics instructor for the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office.

“I love training and teaching,” Pender said.

One of the most satisfying aspects of teaching is seeing how students react when they learn a new skill or technique after struggling to grasp it.

“It is super gratifying,” Pender said. “The look on their faces is awesome.”