NEW YORK -- In the middle of a New York City Police station, 16-year-old Silvania Vargas surveyed the stocky man standing aggressively before her. "Give me your lunch money!" he demanded. The Cathedral High School junior, dressed in the conservative gray pants and sweater that make up the school's uniform, looked mildly surprised by the request. She tilted her head to the left, blinked, and said in a soft voice, "no."
Marine Staff Sgt. Pahlo Correa, along with the scouts from Explorer Post 2017 in midtown Manhattan, laughed at her response to his classroom scenario. He and Gunnery Sgt. Paul Sowa are both Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructors at 6th Communication Battalion in Brooklyn, and they spent yesterday afternoon teaching self-defense techniques to the New York City Police Department Explorers.
"The best way to defend yourself is to stay out of a fight to begin with," said Correa. He taught the scouts the best way to keep from fighting is to avoid conflict.
"When someone calls you a punk, does it offend you?" he asked. When the scouts said it did, he gave them another thought to consider. "But does it actually hurt you?" Correa explained that sometimes walking an extra block to cool off could save a lot of injury in the long run.
The Explorer Scouts were all high school students from the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens. Most of them can relate to many of the examples Correa used.
"This will help us in our every day lives," said Rosanie Vargas, a 15-year-old from the Bronx. "Especially things we encounter on the streets." Tony Ryan, a 16-year-old from midtown, agreed. "I learned you don't have to fight people."
The two instructors also taught the Explorers basic defensive techniques to use in case of an unprovoked attack. "The self-defense stuff we learned was great," said Danny Munoz. "Especially if it saves our lives."
Correa reminded the Explorers they don't need a weapon to defend themselves. "You've got two hands and a brain," he said. "Your brain is your most lethal weapon."
Working with young adults is one of Correa's priorities. "They are our future," he said. "If we don't put anything in to the community, then we won't get anything out of it."