“No matter what age you are, you can be bullied. A lot of that has to do with a lack of confidence and knowing how to respond,” says Derrek Hofrichter, founder and chief instructor at EVKM Self Defense & Fitness.
Since 2011, his Tempe self-defense studio has been raising self-confidence, physical ability and know-how through adult Krav Maga classes. And in 2013, his EVKM studio developed “Young Warriors,” a young persons program with a focus on anti-bullying. “I didn’t have an intention of having youth classes,” he says. “My plan was teaching adults.” Yet he saw the need was there. “The demand was there from our adults. They said, ‘We love this. We’d like for them [their children] to get this training.’”
EVKM’s press release cites statistics from Ambassadors 4 Kids Club, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing and stopping bullying and abuse, which says that “77 percent of students are bullied mentally, verbally and physically.” This instills fear and can have a wide range of negative results, including truancy. According to the press release, Hofrichter “took the problem into his own hands by launching the Young Warriors program.”
Children can start the Young Warriors program as young as 4 years old. They are divided into three groups — 4- to 8-year-olds, 9- to 14-year-olds and “teens-only” — which helps them zero in on the most effective techniques and situational responses. “The program helps kids with focus, listening skills and age-appropriate self-defense and fitness techniques to instill self-confidence,” Hofrichter says.
Standing over 6 feet tall, Hofrichter hadn’t given much thought to his physical safety while growing up in Nebraska.
He attended college and later worked in Washington, D.C. Late one night while riding public transportation in D.C., Hofrichter became acutely aware of potentially dangerous situations. It became apparent: “I hadn’t done anything to prepare myself. I realized I needed to figure out the way to be confident in these situations.”
He researched and took classes in various forms of martial arts. When his mother, who is Jewish, and an avid fan of “Alias,” learned Jennifer Garner was a student of Krav Maga, she told Hofrichter, “You should look into it.” (A good Jewish boy knows Mom is always right.) Hofrichter soon found classes at the JCC in D.C. and says he “knew that was what I was looking for.”
Hofrichter realized he was “passionate about sharing the information with people who had similar wants and needs.”
“I kept taking classes,” he says. “Back then there weren’t a lot of Krav Maga instructors. I took the opportunity to become an instructor when it opened up.” Hofrichter decided to start teaching Krav Maga full-time, and in 2011, opened EVKM Self Defense & Fitness, formerly known as East Valley Krav Maga.
“Krav Maga is for use in real-life situations. I’m a fan of traditional martial arts, though they have a vast amount of areas to cover. It’s a different emphasis. We [EVKM instructors of Krav Maga] focus on safety and fitness. It’s about self-defense and getting safe.” Krav Maga incorporates techniques from aikido, judo, boxing, wrestling and fight training and is a self-defense system developed for the Israeli Defense Forces.
A self-defense proponent for all ages, Hofrichter offers the latest news and tips for self-defense through Facebook and Instagram. He says, “It’s amazing to see the confidence boost these kids receive after even just one class and the new friendships that are formed each day.”