LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As violence keeps finding its way into the state and around the nation,  having a set of skills in your back pocket to fight off an attacker can’t hurt.

Arkansas BlueCross BlueShield will host free community Karv Maga self-defense classes in Fort Smith and Little Rock on May 20, at 9 a.m.

Karv Maga is an Israeli martial art developed for the Israeli armed forces. It focuses on real-world situations and efficiency. The classes will teach participants how to improve their situational awareness as well as basic self-defense techniques for the real world.

Devin Shirley, one of the instructors for self-defense classes says he started training in 2001 because he knew people involved in attacks. 

“Something in me said I really need to learn to take care of myself and my loved ones,” Shirley said. 

The goal isn’t to become a violent person, it’s to become a safer person.

Shirley says knowing a few simple self-defense techniques can boost your self-confidence, increase your physical fitness and give you peace of mind as you go through life.

Arkansas BlueCross BlueShield hosted the classes in 2022. Shirley says to see people return for more lessons is a special feeling because it gives validation that they’re doing good service.

“But more importantly, it’s hearing the stories where people have actually applied it and have come out of potentially dangerous situations,” Shirley said.

According to, Arkansas has the highest violent crime rate (7.1 per 1,000 people) and the fifth-highest property crime rate (26.5) in the US.

At Westside MMA in Little Rock, Brazilian Jujitsu training sessions happen every day. 

Mixed martial artist, Jenna Deatherage said that at age seven she began combat sports for the same reason as Shirley.

“It’s very beautiful to be able to protect yourself and the ones you love,” Deatherage said.

She stresses that you don’t have to be a professional fighter to learn how to protect yourself. 

“You’re never too old. You are never too young. There is never a bad time to start training,” Deatherage said.

Not only will you gain skills, but you’ll grow a better sense of confidence which Shirley says makes you less of a target. He says attackers usually go after someone they perceive as weaker.

Registration is underway for the free community self-defense classes put on by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

The event will be at the ArkansasBlue Welcome Centers at 416 S. University in Little Rock and at 3501 Old Greenwood Road in Fort Smith.

To register, please visit