Waterloo native brings martial arts skills to self-defense class - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo native brings martial arts skills to self-defense class

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Sijo (founder) James Culpepper, right, demonstrates self-defense techniques rooted in martial arts on his student, Great Grand Master Dwight Foster of Rockford, Ill., on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015. (Amie Steffeneicher, KWWL) Sijo (founder) James Culpepper, right, demonstrates self-defense techniques rooted in martial arts on his student, Great Grand Master Dwight Foster of Rockford, Ill., on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015. (Amie Steffeneicher, KWWL)
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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

It doesn’t matter if you’re small-framed, or old, or female, or young -- or don’t know how to throw a punch.

Waterloo native James Culpepper will show you how to defend yourself if you’re being attacked.

“You don’t have to strike a person to hurt them,” Culpepper explains. “You learn where the nerves are.”

The neck, he explained to a group Thursday morning at a gym in Waterloo, has lots of nerves. Bend an elbow at the right angle, or a pinky finger -- or put a finger in someone’s eye -- and you can watch them retreat in pain.

Then, you can run. Or, if you’ve had a few extra classes with Culpepper, you can continue to attack.

Yes, even you.

“Ladies, use the palm,” Culpepper explained, while demonstrating on one of his students with the Black Karate Federation. “It has the same effect.”

Culpepper, a former Marine, got his start in martial arts at a young age. Now living in Los Angeles, he’s back in his hometown for the Waterloo Reunion -- and he’s offering up his skill set to those who may especially need it.

He calls his self-defense techniques “blacktop awareness.” That is, when you’re in a real-world situation -- out on the blacktop -- you know what to do.

“You need to know -- and you should know -- the basics of natural body movement,” Culpepper said. “Size does not matter at all. It’s the size of the spirit. The spirit is what keeps you strong.”

He knows Waterloo has had its fair share of fighting and violence -- and attacks like the recent one at George Wyth State Park, though rare, are exactly why he’s teaching self-defense to women and children.

“A gun you (weren’t) born with. What you (were) born with was a brain,” Culpepper said.

Culpepper will showcase that “blacktop awareness” with his students at the Cedar Valley Sportsplex from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for youth.

Though he may seem to have a defense technique for every attack, Culpepper does have an Achilles’ heel: Winter.

“I really left Waterloo because of the cold weather,” he said. “Anybody who stays in Waterloo can whoop me. My body can’t adjust to that.”

Nikki Newbrough contributed to this report.

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