R.A.D.: inside the free class working to make MU safe

College might be the most important time to take a self-defense class.


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Coming into college, the sexual assault statistics are scary. One in four college women have been sexually assaulted. No one wants to become a part of that statistic, but variables surrounding sexual assault are often out of one’s control.

During Summer Welcome, the MU Police Department advertised for its women-only self-defense classes through R.A.D. Systems, which stands for Rape Aggression Defense. The classes aim to teach women, men, children and seniors how to defend themselves to create a society where “violence is not an acceptable part of daily life,” according to the mission statement on R.A.D. Systems’ website.

My dad encouraged me to sign up for a self-defense class. I’m the first kid to go to college and his only daughter, so he felt it was crucial that I learn how to defend myself. He hoped that the skills I would learn would make me a little bit safer on campus.

The class, offered at various times and days throughout the year, is three days long and goes for four and a half hours each day. The class I took taught techniques specifically designed for women. On the first day, we were introduced to R.A.D. and spent the whole time in the classroom discussing why it was so crucial that women go through the training.

The following class, we immediately started to learn techniques: kicks, punches, knees, elbows and headbutts. Essentially, we learned how to use different parts of our bodies as weapons. There was hardly a situation that we didn’t discuss. For example, we talked about how to get away if there was someone sitting on top of you. A situation that seems nearly impossible to get out of, especially if you’re the smaller person, but they actually shared a technique that was very effective.

The final day, while the most fun, was by far the hardest. The students were put into three different scenarios on our own and challenged to fight our way out using all of the techniques we had learned. Instructors wore padded suits and acted as aggressors. To be in those situations was challenging, not only physically, but mentally because it made every hypothetical situation we had been talking about seem real.

Police officer Jacob Clifford was the lead instructor for the class. He stressed that the last class was by far the more important.

“[Aggressing] is what helps people the most [because] until you are padded up and have to throw a punch or throw a kick or throw a knee or elbow or fight and kick to get away from someone, it doesn’t really make it real,” Clifford said. “This is what really brings it all together and brings it home. This is why we are doing this.”

Having seen R.A.D. for the first time as a student at MU in Speaker’s Circle, Clifford became a R.A.D. instructor as soon as possible after joining the force.

“I went to college to be an educator,” Clifford said. “I think that aspect of [being a R.A.D. instructor] is what appealed to me. I like the classroom setting and it goes back to the service mentality. I think we owe it to each other and we owe it to our community to leave this a better place than we found it. We [police officers] all expect to save the world in some fashion.”

Coming into R.A.D., hardly any of the women in the class had ever thrown a punch. Everything we were learning was brand new. In some ways, the most important technique we learned was mental, not physical: confidence.

“People become more confident and see how strong they are,” Clifford said. “‘Yes, I can be loud. Yes, I can throw a punch. Yes, I can be assertive and mean, if I need to be.’ People who have never thought of themselves that way realize that they can.”

For me, as well as many other students, learning confidence was key to being able to execute the techniques. With more confidence, I was able to move with more speed, precision and power.

At the conclusion of the final day, we sat in the classroom and shared what we had liked most about the program and whether or not we would recommend it to friends, including freshman Lauryn Vela.

“[My favorite part was] the kicks,” Vela said. “I used to play soccer so I felt the most comfortable kicking. [And] yes, because I feel everyone should be able to feel a little more confident in their skills to defend themselves, if it came down to it. [If more people took the class], we wouldn’t be so susceptible to those kinds of attacks.”

Taking R.A.D. has given me peace of mind. While I know I am not invincible, I am certainly not an easy target. Now, it would be quite a challenge to make me part of that statistic.

Edited by Claire Colby | ccolby@themaneater.com

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