BURBANK, Calif. — A stun ring is a device Joe Bagtas is learning to use for the first time, something he hopes will scare off all attackers.
“You never know where you’re going to be and even as a warning shot, maybe just run away,” he said.
Bagtas is one of the people who attended an event at the Burbank Martial Arts History Museum and received a free finger stun device. Each person who received one was also trained in its use.
The museum received 5,000 rings from an anonymous donor to help protect individuals from Asian hate crimes. In California, any adult can have one, unless they have been convicted of a felony, assault, or are addicted to a narcotic.
“I heard about it on Instagram and Facebook and thought it was an event to empower all Asians because we are going through a lot right now, especially our seniors,” Bagtas said.
According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, hate crimes against Asians in the city of Los Angeles increased by 71% between 2020 and 2021.
Michelle Manu is a mixed martial artist who has helped train people to use the device.
“I think even the fact that we get together and learn a personal safety device and talk about it really exposes us to it and we don’t feel so alone anymore,” Manu said.
Michael Matsuda is the president and founder of the Martial Arts History Museum. The museum examines different Asian cultures and how it connects to martial arts and its positive impact on American history. He said particularly this month, as Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month is celebrated, we also need to look at what is happening within the Asian community and teach people how to protect themselves.
“Asian hatred is continually escalating, more and more, and I think it’s fitting that we do that this month more than any other month to raise awareness of what’s going on,” Matsuda said.
As for Bagtas, he says he has never been abused because of his heritage, but he wishes he could do more for those who have.
“You know you wish you could do more, and I think that’s what they’re doing here, they’re doing more, helping them defend themselves,” he said.