Residents of the Amy Lowell Apartments in the West End have been learning the basics of staying safe on the street via “Savvy & Safe” – a four-part workshop conceived and offered by Boston Budo, a Beacon Hill-based karate school. Noah Lucia, owner and operator of Boston Budo, is leading the program that kicked off July 10 at the apartment building and continues over the next three consecutive Monday nights before wrapping up on July 31.
Around a dozen participants, most of whom were seniors, were on hand for the first class. “Traditional martial arts, as well know, is block, kick, and punch,” said Noah, but since there isn’t enough time allotted to address every aspect of traditional martial arts in Savvy & Safe, the program instead focuses on “preventing and avoiding emergencies before they happen.” With seniors especially, the emphasis of Savvy & Safe should be on raising their awareness of their surroundings and avoiding perilous situations before they happen, he said, rather than attempting to rely on their physical abilities, which may be deteriorated or deteriorating, and can subsequently sometimes make them easy targets. “Awareness and psychological aspects are what separates Savvy & Safe from traditional martial-arts classes,” said Noah, making the classes perfectly suited for seniors. While participants will learn some basic tools and martial arts techniques, the workshops focus mostly on the psychological aspects of personal safety and self-defense, said Noah, since Boston Budo’s philosophy is that “90 percent of self-defense is psychological.” Savvy & Safe “includes reviewing environment specific scenarios and discussing solutions,” said Noah, while “addressing key variables like time, light, and noise in our daily lives that determine risk.” “Through prevention and problem solving most dangerous situations can be avoided,” he said. “Physical confrontation is crisis management – a last resort for personal safety and typically represents a breakdown in prevention and/or problem solving.” Noah, together with Patricia Lane, manager for the Amy Lowell Apartments, finalized plans to bring Savvy & Safe to the building in response to the murder of a 75-year-old man there earlier this year, he said, and after earlier efforts to offer the program to the building were delayed due to the pandemic. On Feb. 15, Dion Pelzer, a fugitive from Brooklyn, N.Y., entered the unlocked residence of a resident of at the Amy Lowell Apartments. After allegedly murdering the victim, who was later identified as David MacDonald, Pelzer ate the victim’s food and slept on his couch before leaving the next morning. MacDonald’s body was discovered during a well-being check later that day, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden’s office. Pelzer was charged on March 14 in the Central Division of Boston Municipal Court with murder and a fugitive from justice charge out of New York. Judge Tracy-Lee Lyons ordered him held without bail at time. Pelzer was scheduled to return to court April 12 for a pre-trial hearing. Savvy & Safe, meanwhile, hadn’t previously been offered in the West End before coming to the Amy Lowell Apartments this month, but the program itself dates back to 1980s when it was first conceived by Duane Lucia, Noah’s father, who established Boston Budo in 1979. In January of 2022, Boston Budo launched a new karate program, which included teaching the fundamentals of Savvy & Safe, at the Brookline Senior Center. Boston Budo also offer personal-safety seminars and workshops to corporate organizations, schools, nonprofits, and parent groups, among others. In addition to Brookline Senior Center, the karate school has also offered free workshops for Big Sister Boston and the Eliot School this year.
“Over the years, based on research and our understanding of crime and safety, we realized that while many were offering self-defense programs that dealt mostly with physical self-defense, the emphasis should be placed more on the psychological aspect,” said Noah. “Most people do not train regularly to develop their physical skills ,and therefore, it is best to focus on avoiding danger in the first place. That is what sets our program apart.” Domingo Cintron, a 70-year-old resident of the Amy Lowell Apartments, was on hand for both the July 10 and 17 workshops and plans to attend the last two workshops as well. “It’s been very inspiring,” he said. “It gave me an overview of what I need to remember going forward as I get older – things that I used to know when I was younger automatically. As you get older, you worry more about living because you have health issues, rather than being aware.” One of the most useful lessons covered extensively in the July 17 workshop, he said, was making noise if someone is approaching you in a threatening manner. Another participant in the class illustrated this point by blowing a whistle, which, Cintron admits, “scared the devil out of [him].” The workshops have also underscored the importance of staying aware of your surroundings when in a subway station, or in an enclosed space like an elevator, added Cintron. Each workshop also begins with Noah leading participants in stretching exercises. “I think it’s good to take the class, if nothing else, just to move,” said Cintron. “We stretch everything from head to toe.” To learn more about Savvy & Safe, visit https://www.bostonbudo.com/savvy-safe; and for more information on Boston Budo, visit bostonbudo.com.