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By Sabrina O'Malone / Tyndale House

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A Conversation with Sensei Yvonne Levy

Child Safety


I’m probably one of the most unique martial arts instructors you’ll ever meet. I’m 4’11”, weigh 100 pounds soaking wet, have three kids ages ten, five, and one, I own a martial arts school with my husband Sensei Joel Levy, and I’m a black belt. I have a B.S. degree in Early Childhood Education and am also a certified teacher.

I began learning martial arts shortly after meeting Joel because he was concerned about the saftey of me and my daughter when we were alone or out at night without him. (I was a single mother living in an apartment that had already been robbed) He decided it was time for me to learn how to protect myself and the baby.

We eventually got married, had two more children and left our teaching careers to establish Family Martial Arts Academy in my hometown of Highland Park, New Jersey. As a black belt, now I'm the head instructor of our Kinder-Karate® program. My background as an early childhood teacher, the fact that I'm a mother of three, and my experience in martial arts have all served to prepare me for becoming a Sensei, (or teacher of martial arts) particularly when teaching women and small children.


Definitely! I can tell you first hand how important it is to be prepared and safety conscious when you are shopping. I have a pre-teen, a school-aged child, and a toddler myself. When I am shopping with all of them I know how easy it is to be momentarily distracted, and take my focus off of my surroundings, my children, or even myself. That is just enough time for the ‘bad guy’ to make his move, if he has been watching you.

Keep in mind that the bad guy is always looking for an easy target because he is basically a coward in the business of crime. He doesn’t usually have an alternative plan if things go wrong for him...what he has is an alternative victim. That’s why training is so important. At Family Martial Arts Academy we teach a course called Shopping Sense® as part of a larger course called Family Protection.

This is the first and most important rule:

  2. While most interaction is friendly and harmless, always be aware, and be vigilant about any stranger who gets too close to you or your child.
  3. When walking to your car, always hold your child, or child’s hand with your STRONGER hand, so if you have to move the child out of the line of a stranger, or a car that suddenly pulls out, you will not lose your grip. If you drop what is in the weaker hand, it can be replaced, the child can not.
  4. Always put your packages in the car AFTER you have put your child safely in the car. Never leave the child standing unattended while you put your groceries in the vehicle.Finally, NEVER leave the child alone in the vehicle while you run into the store for a ‘quick errand’. At the least, children can get hurt while playing alone in the car, and at the worst, this is a prime opportunity for a random abduction.

While many of these things may seem obvious, but they are all easy to overlook when you are in a hurry. And what working mom isn’t in a hurry? None of these tips involve any physical training, so anyone can apply them immediately.

The physical training component can be easily learned by anyone of any age using the Training For Life™ techniques which we teach in Shopping Sense®. For excellent personal protection information and techniques, I recommend Tom Patire’s Personal Protection Handbook or video tapes. Both are available at my website

For anyone traveling near the New York metropolitan area, I recommend scheduling a one on one customized saftey lesson with us. For working moms in Central New Jersey, it's even easier; just attend one of our regularly scheduled courses. And for the working moms in other parts of the country, I can recommend a good training center in nearly every state in the nation. (Just email me through our website or call our office at (732) 296-1677).


As a matter of fact, I can think of at least ten:

  1. For example, when I’m leaving the mall by myself I keep a HOT cup of coffee in one hand with the lid completely loose. If anyone gets too close to me with bad intentions they are getting a hot cup of coffee right in their face! (I like this better than the keys between the fingers because it gives me a little more distance.)

    Here are a few other suggestions that have come my way, and I recommend them to other women who ask.
  2. If a robber asks for your wallet/purse, DO NOT hand it to him. Toss it away from you. Chances are that he is more interested in your wallet/purse than you and he will go for the wallet/purse. Run like mad in the other direction! And scream to call attention to your situation.
  3. I you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car: kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won’t see you but everybody else will. This has saved lives.
  4. Women have a tendency to just sit in their cars after shopping, eating, working, putting on make-up, etc., DON'T DO THIS! The predator will be watching you and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side, put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go. As soon as you get into your car, lock the doors and leave.
  5. If you are parked next to a van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.
  6. Be aware and look around you. Look at the car parked on the driver’s side of your vehicle, and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard/policeman to walk you back out. It is always better to be safe than sorry. (And better paranoid than dead.)
  7. Always take the elevator instead of the stairs. Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and are the perfect crime spot. Don’t get on the elevator if someone suspicious is there. Get off the elevator if you are going to be alone with someone. Wait for the next one or until someone else gets on with you.
  8. If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit a running target 4 in 100 times; and even then, it most likely will not be a vital organ. Run!
  9. As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: Stop it! It may get you raped, or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well educated man, who always played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked “for help” into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is when he abducted his next victim.
  10. Another safety point: If you are home alone at night and hear a crying baby do not open the door. This was recently mentioned on America’s Most Wanted when they profiled a serial killer in Louisiana. The killer has a baby’s cry recorded and uses it to coax women out of their homes thinking that someone dropped off a baby.


Aside from our regular kids classes in which kids learn respect, responsibility, and discipline along with fitness, confidence, and self-defense we actually teach a separate course that deals directly with physical saftey when children become separated from their parents.

I teach a series of classes called Know and Go®. Some of the things they
learn in our Know and Go® course are what to do when:

  1. They hear glass breaking.
  2. They hear car tires screeching.
  3. They find themselves in the middle of a panic stricken crowd.
  4. They encounter a vicious dog barking.
  5. Police, Fire, and Emergency vehicles are in motion.
  6. The smoke detector alarm goes off.
  7. There is a train in motion.
  8. A stranger asks them for help.

I also teach a second level of Know and Go which teaches them how to escape
an attempted abduction. This involves things like what to remember about the
bad guy and how to use your body and obstacles to get away.

We also teach a course on bully prevention.


Yes, there is. I wish you had asked “What can martial arts training in general and training at Family Martial Arts Academy do for me or my child?”

For overall personal safety and well-being nothing replaces regular training during regular class times. To begin with, being more physically fit, having stronger muscles, joints and bones, and being more limber, will make you much less prone to injury while doing other things. Secondly, being in better physical shape will boost your immune system and keep you safer from ordinary things like colds and flu.

Furthermore, in our system of American Freestyle Karate under the head instruction of my husband, Sensei Joel Levy, the self-defense techniques and applications are very direct and to the point with no unnecessarily fancy or wasted movements. In the cases where our students did have to physically defend themselves they have been consistently able to do so quickly and easily.

Finally, the most important benefit of being physically more adept and able to defend yourself is the level of self-confidence that permeates your whole being. The bottom line of safety, as we alluded to before, is that the bad guy wants an easy victim. A person who is filled with self-confidence projects that confidence automatically, and therefore prevents themselves from being a victim by simply not looking like a target. At our school we focus on the whole person not just martial arts techniques. I think one of the things that characterizes Family Martial Arts Academy is that we aim to serve the student whereas traditionally the student was expected to serve the master or the style. Moms constantly tell us that they had no idea of how much training with us would help their child beyond the walls of our school. They report everything from better grades, to better self-esteem, to not being bullied anymore. Many of the parents of the children end up enrolling in the school because they see the positive impact it has had on their children.

Parents tell us that they most enjoy the stress reduction, renewed levels of energy, the disappearance of aches and pains, and unwanted fat, not to mention the ability to defend themselves and their loved ones. What I can tell you is that we are on a mission, “To leave the world a little bit better than the way we found it through martial arts” ®. In other words, we want to help as many people as possible through the physical and psychological benefits of martial arts training.

Thank you, for giving me the opportunity to share this valuable information with other working moms. I encourage anyone with any questions to feel free to contact me at Family Martial Arts Academy in Highland Park, New Jersey at (732) 296-1677 or contact me through my website:

Sensei Yvonne Levy

If you would like more information about Sensei Yvonne Levy, please visit her website





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Excerpt of Prayers for the Working Mom used by permission.
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