Shrub Oak resident Gary Gione has provided people of all ages self-defense instruction through his ownership of the Elite Defensive Tactics Martial Arts Academy in Yorktown for the past 20 years.
Everyone can benefit from master self-defense tactics, even police officers, said Gione, who is also the head instructor. Gione knows this from personal experience – he is a retired as a lieutenant after working for the New York City Police Department for two decades.
“Before I left the NYPD I figured I had to do something with my life because I was only 43-years-old at the time,” he recalled. “I was doing martial arts since I was 17-years-old. So to me I saw too much death, too many crimes. So I figured that a good adjunct to me leaving the police department would be to teach other people to defend themselves.”
Gione said he called his business elite because it is the best. Prior to opening his business, Gione said he went around the world to study with elite teachers of martial arts, he said. “I knew I was teaching the correct things,” Gione said.
The business has clients from children to seniors.
When he was a police officer, Gione said crime reports quoted crime victims as saying, “I knew that guy was following me.”
Gione said there are many ways to protect yourself. For example, Gione advises his clients “to have an imagery friend.” People pretending to shout out to a “friend” can scare away a potential criminal who would be afraid you would get help in the event of a crime. He also advises “always look at the person you think is looking at you” in the event you need to describe the person to police following a crime.
Gione said martial arts skills provide people with the confidence that they can protect themselves wherever they go.
Some of the martial arts courses provided at the school include how to get yourself away from a mugger; how defend yourself against someone with a weapon and how to get away from chocking situations from behind.
Police officers even train at his studio, Gione said. Self-defense is not a skill provided at the police academy he noted. In many cases, police officers who have lost their lives could have lived if they had self-defense skills in many instances, he said. “It’s six months at the police academy and then you’re on your own,” he said.
Gione said one of his most memorable moments in his police career was when he rescued three young children from a fire in the Bronx on Feb. 13, 1982. He walked through a smoke-filled apartment to save three of the Allen sisters; two other children lost their lives. A plaque from the Allen family in his honor is on a wall at Gione’s business.
He stared looking for the survivors earlier this year. In his research he found one of the girls he rescued, Kawana Allen on Facebook. “I wondered what happened to the kids,” Gione said.
A dinner to commemorate the rescues was held in February on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx in the same building that houses a restaurant where his grandfather had taken him as a child. “The hairs on the back of my neck stood up,” Gione recalled.
His grandfather, the late Mike Sergio, was a bodyguard for New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Gione said.
Elite Defensive Tactics is located at 2023 Crompond Rd. in Yorktown. For more information, call 914-962-3267, visit elitedefensivetactics.com or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.