Stay in the game.
That was the main goal of the self-defense tactics I learned while filming for this week’s episode of Studio209, which saw me block, parry, punch and kick my way through a small-scale version of a Rape Aggression Defense course.
As a woman who finds herself alone at night frequently, whether it be while taking my dog outside at my apartment complex, walking to my car after work or even just getting groceries, I jumped at the opportunity to learn how to defend myself against the “bad guys” from two certified RAD class instructors: Sgt. Cheri Silveira of Stanislaus State’s University Police Department and Officer Mayra Lewis of the Turlock Police Department. The pair taught me a few moves meant not only to make me feel safe, but also empowered.
While I’ve never had to fend off any attacks out in the real world, it’s definitely one of my greatest fears and a constant worry for other women as well, I imagine. According to the National Sexual Assault hotline, an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds, and nine out of every 10 victims of rape are female. Turlock’s local RAD course, offered thanks to both police departments, consists of two, six-hour sessions for women 15 and older and teaches awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance for those frightening situations so that when they happen, we are prepared.
The first piece of advice I received from Silveira and Lewis taught me the most basic objective when it comes to self-defense for women, who generally are attempting to ward off men much larger than themselves when attacked. By yelling, fighting and kicking like your life depends on it, and in some cases it does, you can “stay in the game” long enough to either get away or for help to intervene.
Being loud was the first step I needed to learn, which came right after Lewis showed me the athletic stance one should take if confronted by a threat: sideways with your strong leg in the back, knees slightly bent, your go-to hand in a fist by your side and your other hand up, ready to block any attacks. If I’m ever approached in a parking lot late at night by a stranger and they make any unwanted advances, my first reaction should be to jump immediately into my ready position and yell out a loud, clear and resounding, “No!”
As I practiced this simple “ready” position at the Turlock Police Department on Wednesday with Silveira practicing alongside me, I was honestly taken aback for a quick second when I yelled out my first, “No!” and Lewis yelled back at me, “Louder!”
She let me know I needed to sound like I meant business. Point taken. So, I attempted to make my second shout echo throughout the room. It did, and it felt good — almost empowering, even though I was yelling it at no one in particular.
From there, I was taught how to throw a punch (my knuckles will probably hurt if I ever have to do it in real life, Lewis assured me) and learned another technique called a “hammer” punch, where the fist comes down from the ear like a hammer to deliver its blows. I learned how to block a hit to the head as well as two different types of kicks. For each different movement I had to yell out “No!” as I moved, meant to catch the attention of any passers-by and deter my assailant.
After I learned the basic moves, it was time for the fun stuff. Lewis grabbed two huge pads from the side of the room and placed them on her arms, then told me to combine everything I had just learned into a succession of moves and defend myself.
I’ve never even taken a kickboxing class, so I was nervous I might miss the pad altogether and accidentally hit Lewis in the face. But when she came at me, my instincts kicked in and I blocked her first attack from the left, then parried her countermove to the right. As the other pad immediately flew back in from directly in front of me I punched it, then brought my right leg forcefully upwards and kicked the pad away.
We did this several times until I was sweating profusely, which was totally fun to do on camera. It probably sounded even funnier than it looked as I yelled “No! No! No! No!” with every move.
Despite how silly I felt, I could feel my confidence grow with every movement throughout the hour I spent with Silveira and Lewis. I already feel safer with just the few simple moves I learned this week, so I know an entire, 12-hour RAD course would do wonders for my state of mind when I’m out and about by myself. They even taught me a technique to ward off strangulation, which you can see by watching our Studio209 coverage at Studio209.tv, and Silveira said there are countless more techniques taught during the class.
The next RAD session will be held over the course of two days, Feb. 9 and Feb. 16. The course is free, and those interested in signing up can contact Silveira at firstname.lastname@example.org or Michelle Balacek at email@example.com.