BYAM method teaches ‘a lifestyle change’

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Curtis Smith took his love for martial arts and parlayed it into a formula for self-defense that has been used to prevent sexual, physical and criminal assaults.

The Buy Yourself A Minute Method of Personal Protection uses a behavior modification approach that teaches people how to avoid incidents before they happen. The method teaches people how to increase awareness and recognition skills so they can identify and evaluate threatening situations.

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GET OFF ME—Curtis Smith oversees Shantel Butler, an 18-year-old freshman from Chicago, fend off a staged attack from Coniah Grimes, a 25-year-old junior from Americus, Ga., with whatever she had in her hand at the time, which was an umbrella.

“A lot of professionals asked me to put information into a format that is easy to understand,” said Smith, a Uni­ver­sity of Pitts­burgh police officer and martial arts instructor. “The BYAM Method believes people are creatures of habit, conditioned to specific behaviors. With my method, people learn how to protect themselves on the street, in the car, in the home, on the phone and in many other places.”

Smith maintains that BYAM is not a self-defense course, but a lifestyle change.

“A person can learn all of the techniques of self-defense, but unless they practice every day, they will be forgotten. By learning the proper observation and awareness skills, participants can take a minute—actually a second or two—to think about any situation and interpret its degree of threat,” said Smith who created the BYAM Method in 1987.

“In the class, I get people to put their whole minds and psyche on how the criminal thinks.”

Smith is well-known as a sports star. While enrolled at Brentwood High School in Long Island, N.Y., he played football, ran track and wrestled. His stellar football play earned him the Hanson Award and the status of All American and All State Player. As a result, he won a scholarship to play football under the tutelage of coach Johnny Majors at the University of Pittsburgh.

While enrolled at Pitt, Smith played in the Sun and Fiesta bowls. His wrestling skills netted him more than 136 wins. He graduated from Pitt in 1976 with a degree in Social Sciences. After graduating, Smith devoted his energy to the martial arts. He was named Competitor of the Year by the Kwan Mu Kan Federation in 1977-1978. He was also a member of the winning AAU Tae Kwon Do national team in 1977. He is listed in “Who’s Who in Karate,” The World’s Martial Arts Hall of Fame Directory.

Smith holds master rank in Ju-Jitsu, Shotokan, Kwanmuzendokai Karate. He has an accredited class at the University of Pittsburgh and the Community College of Allegheny County. His company, Universal Professional Training, operates martial arts classes at Pitt, Carnegie Mellon and several community locations.

Smith graduated from the Allegheny County Police Academy in 1980. He was the 1987 Police Athletic League Martial Arts Director and a member of the Fraternal Order of Police. He works as a police instructor at the Criminal Justice Training Center of Pennsylvania.

“BYAM’s main purpose is to teach people to take a moment and use their mind and think about what to do without panicking in the face of danger,” Smith said.

That was one of the reasons Pitt student Shantel Butler took one of Smith’s classes.

“From taking this class, I have learned how to avoid danger and how to respond in certain situations. I learned different techniques that will help me defend myself, like how to position my body when walking, or how to hold my purse and much more. In the long run, this class will allow me to protect myself physically and mentally,” Butler said.

According to Smith, a large number of women take his courses.

“We have a high amount of women in our classes, but there are men, too. Men say that women really need the classes, but that’s fallacy. Men need to be street-savvy as well,” Smith said.

Although he has been featured on many television shows, commercials and newscasts, Smith is searching for a national platform to get his BYAM Method of Protection to a broader audience.

“We need to get out and do more lectures. I am looking for that national forum to get the message out there,” Smith said.

(For more information on BYAM Method of Protection or Curtis Smith, call 412-661-2244.)

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