Seventh grader Kylie Williams says she has always felt safe in Sunnyside.
She’s lived there her whole life and her mom owns a neighborhood business, Sunnyside Ballet Studio.
Her sense of security, however, was shattered last Thursday when she was attacked by a man.
“This guy came out of nowhere and swung at me,” Kylie says.
According to Kylie, the incident happened just before 10 p.m. as she was leaving the 40th street station along the 7 line while heading home.
“I was really scared. It was really terrifying. I was crying. I called my parents,” Kylie says.
The NYPD says it is investigating four robberies and assaults in Sunnyside from March 9 to March 18. The robberies and assaults were committed by the same three men, based on surveillance videos. Police say the men punched, kicked and even stabbed their victims, all in late night attacks. Two victims needed treatment at a hospital.
While Kylie was not hurt and her attack has not been linked to the men, she says the assault left her and her mother shaken.
“I share the story the next day with my students and with 30 of them there…one of them said, ‘Ms. Yasko, why don’t we start having self-defense class?’” says Kylie’s mother, Yasko Takeno-Williams.
After reaching out to the local business improvement district, Sunnyside Shines, Takeno-Williams connected with Nelson Maldanado from Supreme Boxing. A few hours later, he put together a free self-defense class for the girls.
“I have kids myself, and I also have daughters, too, and when I found out her 12-year-old daughter got attacked in the neighborhood and she called me I said, ‘I’m going to change my schedule. I’m going to go.’”
Nelson says everyone, even children, can know how to defend themselves.
Here are a few pointers: Kicking can help a victim put valuable space between them and an attacker, and hitting soft tissue areas can help incapacitate a larger person without significant effort.
Maldanado is extending his self-defense training to the public free of charge.
“What we started was a self-defense class here on Wednesdays…I want to try to make everyone fell safe again,” Maldanado said.
While a background in boxing is certainly helpful in learning self-defense techniques, the instructors say it’s not a requirement for coming to one of the classes.
“As long as you have the basics, it’s good muscle memorization,” says Supreme Boxing trainer Marco Ovalle. “Now, it’s just training the mind when to use those techniques.”
The free class will be held every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at Supreme Boxing in Sunnyside on Queens Boulevard.
It’s open to all 13 and older.