For the last 30 years, Jerry and Nancy Simon have dedicated their lives to keeping people safe. That is how long they have run the Villari Studio of Self Defense in downtown Fairfield. All you have to do is look at the news to realize safety and self-defense have taken on greater awareness and importance in society, especially among women. These days, it seems more important than ever.

For the last four years, the Simons have teamed up with the PTAs of Fairfield Ludlowe and Fairfield Warde high schools to offer a free workshop on how to be confident, safe and earn respect. The workshop evolved a few years ago, when the PTAs thought it would be good training for the graduating seniors. The goal was to give middle and high school students rudimentary training on how to avoid assault and how to physically fight back if assaulted. The organizers said you don’t have to attend one of the high schools.

I have helped out at the workshops a few times. I used to go to the karate studio to with my daughter, Julia, and I am a fairly large man. I am perfect for people to practice hitting someone, to condition them not to be intimidated by a large person. They learn techniques that can be used on a 6 foot 5, 270-pound man. (I’m trying lose weight.) One family we know came last year just so the whole family could hit me. The program is designed with young women in mind, but parents came year and participated. The tips and insights shared are of value to most everyone, from someone walking alone through a dark parking garage at night to a solo traveler to a vulnerable college freshman at a party.

The statistics and the recent awareness are extremely sobering. Many Fairfield families are sending their daughters and sons off to college or out into the world of 7.5 billion people. Some of those 7.5 billion may not have the best of intentions. Within the last four years, my wife and I have sent two 17-year-old girls off to college, and it scared the crap out of us. Still does.

The Safeguard Yourself workshop on June 6 will take place in the small gym of Fairfield Ludlowe High School. The program will be broken up into two parts. The first part (7:15 to 8 p.m.) is called “Stay Alert, Stay Safe and Make Wise Choices.” These 45 minutes will focus on strategies to increase awareness in different surroundings, as well as how to avoid risky situations. There will be group participation.

The second half (8:15 to 9 p.m.) is called “Be Alert, Be Aware, and Defend Yourself” and will cover assertiveness training and strategies for anti-assault and rape prevention. This is when you will learn some basic but important physical self-defense techniques. Some are quite easy to learn and can be learned in a few minutes. Some people come for only one session, but most stay for the whole workshop. You will leave the gym with some valuable, possibly life-saving tips.

Some parents say it’s sad that we have to teach our kids how to avoid rape and other assaults. Why can’t we just teach the men to not be rapists? I have no answer for that. All I can say is come to the Ludlowe gym, wear comfortable clothes, and take a swing at me. It really is important. Did I mention it was free, and you don’t have to attend either school?

For information on Safeguard Yourself and other workshops, call the Villari Studio of Self Defense at 203-254-0350, or contact the PTAs of Ludlowe or Warde.

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His column appears every other Friday. He can be reached by email at