I’ve grown up watching movies where “bad guys” materialize out of thin air. Danger, I was led to believe, could be lurking around every corner. What chance did I stand against anyone with a mean mug and a hard punch? My options were rather limited: I could scream, run or thrash about.
Of course, I could punch and kick, but there would be no method to the madness.
Hence, the desire to be a part of a self-defense class. Several fears held me back. First, was there a certain type of person who took self-defense courses? If so, did I fit the mold?
Second, what if I couldn’t learn the moves? If I could not protect myself in a secure environment, then what chance would I have in a real-life situation? Talk about anxiety-inducing thoughts.
Finally, I just didn’t know what the class would be like. Would the instructor bark instructions the whole time? Would the moves be too complex to recall? Would I be bored out of my mind?
It turns out my fears were baseless.
Monday night, I attended the first class in the four-night Rape Aggression Defense course offered at the Cleveland Police Department.
CPD Officer Jennifer McKee laid to rest the nerves of her 11 participants with her relaxed and knowledgeable approach.
The RAD course consists of four, three-hour sessions. A three-hour PowerPoint presentation Monday night from 6 to 9 kicked off the session. Unlike what many would believe, three hours of an informative PowerPoint can actually be interesting.
It also turns out I have been making a lot of mistakes in the realm of self-preservation.
I am sorry to say if our world was a little more Darwin-esque, I would not be the fittest of them all.
Here are some misconceptions McKee told us about:
- Dialing 1-1-2 when an unmarked car turns on the blue lights will not help you determine whether the vehicle is manned by legitimate cops.
- Placing keys between your fingers like “Wolverine claws” is not advisable. Any keys faced toward the base of your fingers could cut your hand, making it unusable during a fight. In addition, the keys are too spread out, if jutting from your fingers, to cause real harm.
McKee suggested women instead fist their hand around their car key. This forms a natural fist and gives ease of access to the right key in a panicked situation.
- It is OK to be so firm you come across as rude. McKee did not tell us to go around being harebrained harpies, but she did tell us to listen to our instincts. If we feel uncomfortable in a situation, chances are there is a reason we have those feelings.
- If you are being followed, it is not advisable to drive home. Home in this instance does not mean automatic safety. It means you have led people directly to your place of residence. McKee suggested either finding a 24-hour shopping area or driving to you local police station.
- Talking through your front door to people you are unfamiliar with— even salesmen, pizza delivery workers, etc.— is better than having someone force their way through once your door is open.
- Making eye contact and/or conversation with someone you feel uncomfortable with is OK. For example, if you are in an elevator you can mention their dragon tattoo. This lets them know you will remember an identifying feature in the event of an attack.
Obviously, this is a thin line to tread. Coming across as threatening will most likely not help your situation. Making them think you are interested in them will also be less than ideal.
Tell you what, sign up for the next session of classes in April and have McKee explain the nuances of the elevator scene.
According to the red RAD booklet we all received, 90 percent of self-defense consists of risk awareness, risk reduction, risk recognition and risk avoidance.
The terms mean exactly how they sound. Always be aware of your surroundings (risk awareness). If you have a choice, go out with a friend or family member at night (risk reduction). When you are walking outside be aware of the people approaching you (risk recognition). Take the long way back to your car instead of cutting through an alley (risk avoidance).
Questions were welcomed throughout the night. I personally asked four questions. Fellow students chimed in from time to time, sometimes raising their hands and sometimes raising their voices. McKee welcomed the queries and answered each thoroughly before continuing on.
What I am trying to say is these sessions can be viewed as a Q&A for all of your security and defense questions.
Topics from home safety (if it takes you less than 30 seconds to find a place for your spare key, then it will most likely take someone else the same amount of time to find your key) to Facebook security (turn off your automatic GPS) to dating (meet blind dates at a restaurant until you feel comfortable with the person).
A portion of Monday night’s session focused on date rapes. McKee said the only word which means ‘yes’ to sex is ‘Yes.’ Phrases like ‘um,’ ‘I’m not sure,’ or ‘wait’ all have the same meaning: ‘No.’ Date rape victims often suffer with guilt following the attack. It is important for both males and females to know only yes means yes.
Tonight begins the physical lessons of the classes. We already went through personal weapons (back of head, forehead, elbow, knee and foot) in Monday night’s session. We also discussed all of the easily accessible vulnerable locations on an attacking male (nose, chin, forearm, fingers, shins, etc.).
Our RAD booklets show pictures of breaking wrist grabs, knee strikes, blocking, the butterfly technique and ground defense, among others.
Hang tight, I can only imagine what I will have to share with you tomorrow.