FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) — The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention unit said more women are falling victim to stolen purses and items in Northwest Florida.

OCSO is hosting two self-defense sessions on September 10 for women in the community. Recent posts about the free classes are gaining a lot of traction and interest in the department.

“The number one question I get about the class is about age. Like what is the youngest ladies can be and then what the oldest ladies can be,” said crime prevention officer Ashley Bailey. “So typically we say 12 and up for girls because we discuss a little in the class about domestic violence and sometimes sexual assault.”

Self-Defense courses:

  • Emerald Coast Martial Arts – 726 Beal Pkwy, Fort Walton Beach. Next to Sam’s Club
  • Gordon Martial Arts – 130 W Oakdale Ave, Crestview

From 10:00 a.m.- 12:30 p.m., martial arts instructors will teach women different moves to protect themselves if ever under attack.

“It’s a true hands-on self-defense. This isn’t a sit and listen to a lecture class. The end goal is to hurt the guy enough to turn loose, end up to be more trouble than your worth,” said Bailey.

OCSO held free self-defense classes three or four times a year pre-pandemic. Bailey said they are getting back up to speak about hosting this event with trained local professionals.

“All of them are actually volunteers with the Sheriff’s Office and have been background checked,” said Bailey. “We don’t want anybody with a domestic violence history teaching our women’s class so that’s why both instructors are both volunteers with us at the Sheriff’s Office. They both teach the same curriculum and it’s been approved, so it’s a true hands-on wonderful self-defense class so women feel empowered to protect themselves in the event they need to.”

The classes are female only and no men are allowed inside the martial art studio.

“No men allowed in class, including young boys,” said Bailey. “So no boys 12 and up at all allowed to observe the class. So if dads bring daughters, they have to drop them off and then come back and pick them up. Same with husbands and wives, that sort of thing.”

Mothers or women with questions about the courses can contact Ashley Bailey at 850-259-0031. The course can accommodate those with injuries or disabilities.

“On the older end of the ladies, we’ve done women up into their 90s,” said Bailey. “What we teach does not take a whole lot of strength and so we can accommodate women in wheelchairs. We can accommodate maybe somebody that has shoulder problem or a leg problem or a hip problem.”