After Germany attacks, women take self-defense class in Wiesbaden

Windy Joell, left, practices her kicking technique against instructor Steven Rovelstad during a women's self-defense class Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 in Wiesbaden, Germany.


By DAN STOUTAMIRE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 19, 2016

WIESBADEN, Germany — Reported sexual assaults in Cologne and other German cities on New Year’s Eve led a couple in the Wiesbaden military community to offer a free self-defense seminar over the weekend for female servicemembers, civilians and spouses.

Rachael Pecoraro, manager of the Wiesbaden fitness center, and her husband, Steven Rovelstad, who has a background in martial arts, held the class to teach women how to fight back in the event of an attack.

 “We just wanted to get knowledge out there and show these women that — regardless of their body size or type — that they can defend themselves and they’re not dead in the water out there,” Pecoraro said.

Police reported they had received hundreds of criminal complaints of sexual assaults and robberies in Cologne on New Year’s Eve by groups of men, who have been described as being North African or Arab. Eight suspects were in custody, according to news reports. There were also reports of attacks in other cities, including Hamburg, Dusseldorf and Stuttgart.

Rovelstad has a brown belt in judo, and has practiced other martial arts, including Muay Thai, Modern Army Combatives and Brazilian jiu jitsu. Pecoraro has served as a Secret Service agent and as an instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, she said.

“The aggression that these women brought was very good,” Pecoraro said of the 13 women who took the four-hour class on Saturday. “A lot of times you get them on the mat and they get timid, but they were great, stepped up and threw themselves into it.”

While plenty of attention was paid to being able to strike quickly and accurately with both hands and feet, some of the instruction was on the behavior of predators and how to avoid them.

The class “focused a lot on being alone, and making sure you’re aware, stop being on your phone; open up and look around and be aware of your surroundings,” said Windy Joell, a military spouse.

Rovelstad and Pecoraro said they hope to hold similar classes in the future if there is enough interest.


Instructor Steven Rovelstad demonstrates an elbow strike to Morgan Simmons, left, and her mother Bridgette during a women's self-defense class Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 in Wiesbaden, Germany.

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