maYou don’t have to be strong or even fast to learn self-defense. Gene Rife, a martial arts instructor, teaches a class aimed at people who use wheelchairs or have other physical limitations.

“You only need the strength of a seven-year-old to use these techniques,” explains Gene. “You can bring somebody down just by striking, rubbing, or touching certain pressure points.”

Gene, who holds a first-degree black belt, says that most of the techniques he teaches are from the martial art of small circle jujitsu. “Most of the moves are done close to the body, and nearly everyone can learn how to do them.”

Quick reactions are not necessary to master the moves. “It doesn’t matter how fast you are,” says Gene. “It’s just a matter of knowing where the pressure points are and how to attack them.”

Pressure points are located on the meridians of the body, and according to the art of jujitsu, hitting or touching them stops or redirects the flow of energy from the body. The application of force to these points causes pain or discomfort in the nearest joint of the body.

There are 362 pressure points located throughout the body. Some are easier to get to, like the one located a quarter of the way down the hand between the third and fourth finger. The little finger is another sensitive spot – it’s the weakest finger on the hand and can cause the most pain.

Another easily accessible pressure point is found an inch and half from where the elbow bends from the wrist on the outside of the arm.

Gene demonstrates moves for his students and then lets them practice. “You learn to use the person’s energy or force against him,” explains Gene. “For example, if someone grabs you head-on, you can reach over, grab the attacker’s hand, and twist it vertically, pushing it down while squeezing the hand. You execute the move close to your body, which allows you to exert more force.”

These moves involve pushing and pulling at the same time, which makes them particularly effective. For example, in one of the moves you push the attacker’s little finger back while pulling the person’s hand toward you.

Another move can be used if someone grabs you from behind. You tuck your chin, rub the pressure point on the attacker’s arm, grab his little finger and push his hand toward his body – all in one motion. Practicing the moves helps them become automatic responses.

Another technique allows someone to deflect punches from a seated position. You put up your hands (as if you’re afraid) and lean back with your palms open. Then you grab the attacker’s fingers and use the pushing/pulling motion to bring him to his knees.

JoAn Magemeneas, a 27-year-old retail worker, is one of Gene’s students. “I was rather skeptical at first,” she admits. “I use a wheelchair a lot and figured that I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of the moves, but I was wrong. The class is really useful – you learn how to use the person’s strength against him and how to protect yourself.”

Magemeneas recommends this type of class to others. “It’s good to know that you can defend yourself if you have to,” she explains. “I feel much more secure now.