BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and a local Birmingham couple is using their jiu jitsu knowledge to help teach self-defense techniques, specifically for women and children.

At local jiu jitsu gym, Gracie Barra, owners Alex and Gustavo Santos focus a lot of their time teaching self-defense and de-escalation tactics, not only creating champions on the matts, but in life.

Alex Santos, who also instructs, tells CBS42 learning the craft can be life changing, especially for women and children.

Santos says knowing jiu jitsu can equip people with confidence- something she says is half the battle.

“If I walk to my car and I look confident and I’m looking around and I’m not hunched over, I’m not staring at my phone, fumbling trying to find my keys, I’m already way less likely to be targeted than if I look timid and meek,” Santos said.

For women, they offer self-defense classes that teach techniques like the ‘trap and roll’ and ‘wrist lock’ which help them to escape from attackers.

Andrada Nedelcu, who now works with the gym, says she is grateful for being equipped with the strength to take care of herself.

“Whether or not you’re going around looking, you know, making sure you’re not going to get in a fight or somebody’s going to hurt you, it’s just important to know how you feel about your body,” Nedelcu said. “You know, knowing that you have this inner strength as well as this outer strength that you build on these matts every day, that’s really important.”

Santos says they also teach anti-bullying and de-escalation techniques for kids like the ‘head lock escape.’ Rowan Melvin, 15, says these tactics are a big confidence booster for her.

“The world’s just not safe- It’s not,” said Melvin. “It’s important to be able to protect yourself and to protect other people, because I see a lot of people being bullied and hurt, and you hear all these stories, and it’s just really important to know how to defend yourself and not be the victim- to be the person that you hear saving people.”

Santos says they work with over a hundred in total, but that having the opportunity to equip even just a few women and children with these life saving techniques through jiu jitsu has made their mission all worth it.