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COLUMBIA - Danielle Dyer said she used to love walking on the Katy Trail - until she had to walk it alone.

“I honestly never felt safe going by myself or with a small child,” she said. "I just didn’t ever feel safe.”

Then, five years ago, she began training at the Gracie Humaita Gym in Columbia.

"Once I started taking Jiu-Jitsu and learning some basic techniques, I’d say definitely now I wouldn’t have any problem,” Dyer said.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds.

The women’s instructor at the gym, Randi Roodman, said Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu not only offers self-defense, but also a great sense of self-confidence.

“We teach a lot of assault-type scenarios, and just the empowerment that we can share with these women,” she said.

Gym owner Shawn Woods said every woman should come to at least one assault seminar, where the gym teaches defense against some of the most common attacks. According to RAINN, more than 17 million women in America have been victims of rape or attempted rape in the last 20 years.

“What actually happens if a guy is trying to get into the situation of raping a woman?” he said. "So what happens if he gets between the legs? How can we stop that person from actually going through and physically the assault happening?”

Roodman said as a smaller female, Jiu-Jitsu offers ways to control someone who is much larger.

“This is just so hands on, and it’s realistic,” she said. "If you walk across something in the street, and you get in a scenario, we do it here everyday.”

Dyer said after just a few months of training, she felt comfortable handling dangerous situations.

“It’s given me worlds of confidence, and I’ve seen it do the same for so many people - including women, a lot of women,” she said.

While the Gracie Humaita gym offers the first week of classes free, it is just one of many self-defense gyms in mid-Missouri.

“We want them to come in and know that they’re going to be able to survive,” Woods said. "That’s really the big word.”

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