Like the rest of the country, Ahwatukee Foothills karate studio owner David Hays was shocked and saddened by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last month.

In an effort to serve his community, Hays is offering local teachers a free, five-week class in basic self-defense at his newly opened studio.

“After the tragedy, I think everyone needs to do something to give back to their community,” said Hays, who recently celebrated his grand opening for Hays American Kenpo Karate. “My goal is to give people a chance to be prepared.”

Noting that his classes will go over introductory moves on basic self-defense and general training in awareness by Phoenix police officer Ben Morris, Hays has about 12 teachers from Kyrene de la Colina Elementary School signed up.

First-grade teacher Delia Lyding said she is excited to go through the classes and be better self-aware.

“In light of what happened, and the things that have stemmed from that, the community may be at ease knowing their children are with people that know how to defend themselves and know what to do,” Lyding said.

Hays, an internationally ranked martial artist and also in the Kenpo Hall of Fame, said the classes will teach participants methods to get away from possible attackers.

“We basically teach what we call a ‘spun and run,’ which gives you the ability to get away and get to safety,” Hays said.

Though five weeks of training isn’t enough time for participants to fully take down an aggressor, according to Hays, what they will learn is valuable.

“It’s huge,” he added. “The more we can help our communities and families, the better off we’ll be.”

Currently, Hays’ free lessons are only open to current teachers, and the new studio owner also challenges other nearby centers or studios to offer the same help to the community.

“We need to do our best to help each other,” he added, before quoting 18th century philosopher Edmund Burke on the topic.

“‘Evil prevails when good men do nothing,’ that really stuck out to me,” Hays said.

His American Kenpo Karate is located at 4302 E. Ray Road, Suite 107.

For more information on lessons, email Hays at

Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow on Twitter: @_dianamartinez.

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