When he’s not busy in court, lawyer Alan Regel – and karate black belt – loves to teach self-defence in the communities.
He’s been visiting the North since 1986 for court. In Yellowknife, he helped teach karate at an RCMP club. He went on to open a dojo in Florida in the early 2000s, before moving back to Canada and travelling the Northern communities as a lawyer again.
“If there’s a community I go to and I have time on my hands, then I’ll do a self-defence seminar,” said Regel, who had recently wrapped up a session in Coral Harbour after running classes in several Kivalliq communities over the summer.
His classes teach basic moves like getting out of a headlock or how to slip out of someone’s grip.
Though the sessions don’t last long enough to get into more advanced training, like properly defending against a knife attack, Regel tries to include enough teaching that if someone is in a dire situation, perhaps one of the sessions can come to mind and that person can escape.
“Hopefully, they don’t have to use it,” said Regel, who added that there are theories that simply training in self-defence can give people an extra bit of confidence that could dissuade would-be attackers.
He teaches all ages, from eight years old to Elders. He fondly remembers one 70-year-old in Chesterfield Inlet who amazed Regel and his co-instructor.
He tries to keep the classes short and sweet, estimating that youth have an attention span of about 45 minutes. Many of them soak it all up, he said, and participants are encouraged to create their own groups to keep practising when he’s not around to teach.
One of the messages he tries to get through to participants is the first line of defence should be to avoid the situation altogether.
“There’s a saying in karate that when two tigers fight, one is dead, and the other is seriously injured at the end of it,” said Regel.
“So you never know if you’re going to be on the receiving end of things or not. No matter how well trained you are, things can go wrong.”