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Self-defense class held in hopes of raising $30,000 for victims of MS


SHIRLEY — In order to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Draleau Divas decided to hold a self-defense class. Participants walked away knowing how to protect themselves from predators, while having donated to a worthy cause.

A walking team that participates in the Multiple Sclerosis three-day, 50-mile challenge, the Draleau Divas is in its fifth year of walking in order to do what it feels is its part in contributing to the search for a cure. The team members are Captain Gillian Draleau; Jane Soltesz and Sally Boyer, of Shirley; Patti Buckley Malcolmson, of Leominster; and Shari Arsenault, of Clinton.

The divas are hoping to raise $30,000 for the walk this year, Draleau said.

During the April 7 class, Draleau spoke to over 25 people in attendance about the symptoms she experienced before she was diagnosed with MS in 1999, which included dizziness and loss of sensation in her extremities, primarily on her left side.

Because her balance was very bad at the time, Draleau decided to look into Tae Kwon Do, which she said she pursued in order to remain active.

Draleau found Master Ronald Bastien’s Tae Kwon Do Karate Club Web site on the Internet and enrolled in his class.

”He’s not in it for the money, he does it from a pure love of the martial arts,” Draleau said.

Becoming involved in the martial arts has helped her tremendously, Draleau said.

”My goal was to have better balance,” she said, “My dream was to become a black belt.”

Since her diagnosis, Draleau has earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, under the instruction of Master Bastien.

Bastien, who volunteers his time to teach self-defense classes for fund-raising and nonprofit organizations, pointed out that the purpose of the clinic was to benefit multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis is a long-term autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system of its victims. The immune system mistakenly attacks cells, tissue and organs, and there is no known cure.

The self-defense class, Bastien said, was also intended to teach people how to avoid becoming a victim of a possible attack during their regular daily activities.

In addition to teaching attendees how to avoid potentially dangerous situations, Bastien said he would teach them simple self-defense moves should they need to use them.

”The last thing you need with someone’s hand around your throat is to be thinking, ‘What did he teach me?’” he said.

To avoid falling victim to an attack, Bastien said, people should change their habits slightly each week. Changing routines regularly may be a deterrent for burglars or attackers, as they sometimes watch their victims to determine the best method of attack.

”We are victims,” he said. “Victims of habit.”

When traveling, Bastien said, people should never separate from their companions under any circumstances. Attackers often try to separate travelers from the crowd.

”You don’t know these people,” he said. “I don’t care how nice they seem to you.”

Despite his sternness when speaking to the class, Bastien intertwined humor with his lessons in self-protection. Bastien was, at times, entertaining as well as informative.

”If (the class) saves one of you, then it was well worth doing it,” he said.

After the class, participants were given a 23-page packet that Bastien developed using his 30 years experience in the martial arts. The information contained in the packet covers many aspects of life and what to do in a potentially dangerous situation. It is distributed at many police stations, he said.

Also included in the envelope were certificates good for one free month of classes at any one of Bastien’s Tae Kwon Do Karate Club locations. Information regarding the classes is available on the Web site,

By holding this fund-raiser, and conducting several more, the divas hope to raise $30,000 for the 50-mile challenge this year, according to Draleau.

”It’s a stretch since this is (only) our fifth year, but we’ve got to aim high,” she said.