Walk into the Atrium Plaza in Downtown Casper and up the stairs, above Donnel's Candy. On the right-hand-side you'll find D's Jiu Jitsu.

There are mats on the ground, a sauna in the corner, and on the wall are a variety of flags and colored belts.

The school has been there for about five and half years says the owner.

Her whole family is involved in the world of martial arts, and the space reflects a welcoming message to people of all ages.

Jiu Jitsu belts hang on the wall by the entrance with a coloring picture of Rapunzel perched atop.
Jiu Jitsu belts hang on the wall by the entrance with a colored picture of Rapunzel perched atop.    Kolby Fedore, TSM

Kery Nelms began teaching self-defense 17 years ago in Loveland, Colorado.

The first self-defense she learned was kajukenbo, a martial art from Hawaii developed in the 1940s.

Then she learned Jiu Jitsu -- "The Gentle Art," she says, "which teaches a smaller person to overcome a bigger person." David versus Goliath.

"You may not be stronger than this person, and that's okay. Because you're going to learn to manipulate them in a way to throw their balance off" she explains.

Jiu Jitsu Belts Hang from the Wall Kolby Fedore, TSM
Jiu Jitsu belts hang from the wall
Kolby Fedore, TSM

For newcomers, it can be intimidating.

"The hardest belt for anybody to get, out of all the belts, is a white belt. I give the belt when they get on the mat. It's the hardest one to get because you have to get up out of the couch, the chair, whatever it is to step on the mat."


The most vulnerable people are the ones who are most likely to be attacked, says Nelms.

The first thing she likes to talk about with students is posturing, body-awareness, and looking people in the eyes.

"Jiu Jitsu self defense is your body, thinking, and making noise."

"If someone is messing with you, it's generally a control situation. If you make it a situation where they can't control you, they're less likely to attack."

In the case where an attack is happening, "if you're not calm and freaking out, you're flailing and panicking instead of staying calm and making the person move the way you want" Nelms says.

D's Jiu-Jitsu Space in the Atrium Plaza Kolby Fedore, TSM
D's Jiu-Jitsu space in the Atrium Plaza; shared with a local boxing studio.
Kolby Fedore, TSM

Nelms' classes focus on de-escalating versus escalating a situation. It's more about avoiding a physical altercation than engaging in one or dominating someone.

For example,  if someone shoves you, instead of shoving back, use your words first, says Nelms -- like, "Stop. This is not okay."

If someone throws a punch, instead of throwing one back, stop it, or pull the person towards you to hold them while talking -- "Hey, this is not okay. You need to leave me alone."

Nelms said it's important for her to teach because there's a lack of respect towards others in today's society. Someone might walk up and take a phone out of your hand or take advantage of an opportunity when nobody's looking.

One of the reasons she feels compelled to do what she's doing goes back to counseling youth; "There's just a lot of kids who have been molested. And I think it helps build that confidence up so they're not victims their whole life."

Nelms has recently been teaching classes tailored to women. She taught a two-hour class at the YMCA in January and plans to teach another in April. Be warned, though, the first one filled up quickly. The space can only hold 20 people, so if you're interested you need to sign up fast. The exact date is to be determined.

Kerry Nelms' Medals and Certificate Kolby Fedore, TSM
Kery Nelms' Medals and Certificate
Kolby Fedore, TSM

Nelms wanted to teach a course for women to help them feel more confident in general with who they are and to have that confidence radiate into everyday life.

A few weeks ago she started an eight-week course for women-only to get more into the "hard core stuff, so if someone is trying to choke you on the ground or take your clothes off" participants can get more in-depth information on what to do when they are in those situations.

A range of classes take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a local boxing club rents the space at other times. "It helps kids have a different outlet than getting into trouble," says Nelms.

When the black-belt martial artist is not teaching, she's helping out with her kids' school, substitute teaching, fund-raising, and cooking hot-lunch. They, like their mom, compete in the war of the sport.

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