Students learn self-defense in college program

Published 6:45 pm Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dowagiac Deputy Police Chief Jarrid Bradford and SMC Campus Security Coordinator Denis Burns with RAD grads Emerald Kiourtsis of New Troy, Shannon Carlson of Bridgman and Stephanie Hodges of Cassopolis. (Submitted photo)

Dowagiac Deputy Police Chief Jarrid Bradford and SMC Campus Security Coordinator Denis Burns with RAD grads Emerald Kiourtsis of New Troy, Shannon Carlson of Bridgman and Stephanie Hodges of Cassopolis. (Submitted photo)

There are as many paths to becoming a Southwestern Michigan College RAD grad as there are ways to disable an assailant.

RAD, short for Rape Aggression Defense, is a comprehensive three-session course SMC provides to female students.

It begins with awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance and progresses to basics of self-defense training.

The RAD system is dedicated to teaching women defensive concepts and techniques against various types of assault using martial arts tactics.

For Shannon Carlson, an early childhood education student from Bridgman, RAD joins rock climbing as another tool to escape her sheltered shell as the youngest child.

Instead of high school sports, she participated in marching band, including color guard.

“I’m small, so everyone thinks I’m an easy target,” Carlson said. “I used to be a tiny, timid girl. The first day (April 1) was hardest. I woke up the next morning and my wrists hurt from punching and my ankles hurt from kicking. Then it got easier and came more naturally than I thought it would.”

In rock climbing, she is a certified lead instructor. April 12 her Student Activity Center team was recognized as the “Dirtiest Birds” of the third annual mud run.

She spent spring break rock climbing with an SMC group in Nevada.

“My siblings also did band. My mom had to drive them to Lansing,” which has a mall with a climbing wall. “My mom asked me if I wanted to give it a try. She thought I’d think it was too high, so she was surprised when I said, ‘Sure.’ She’s glad I’m not so shy anymore.“

For Stephanie Hodges, a criminal justice student from Cassopolis who “watches a lot of UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship, the largest mixed martial arts promotion company in the world), “I like the whole idea of defending yourself. I went to Europe over the summer and had somebody grab me, which really freaked me out. (RAD) was more intense in a good way than I thought it would be.” She played soccer throughout school.

For Emerald Kiourtsis, it was working late shifts at Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo and navigating a large, dark parking garage.

Kiourtsis, mother of a 1-year-old child, is from the New Troy-Sawyer area and graduated from River Valley High School. She has been studying fire science. In high school, she played softball, volleyball and basketball and was a cheerleader.

The three young women who successfully completed RAD April 15 received instruction from Dowagiac Deputy Police Chief Jarrid Bradford, who teaches self-defense tactics to police officers; Denis Burns, campus security coordinator; and Eileen Crouse, vice president of student services.

“When you get scared, your eyes constrict,” Bradford said. “You lose peripheral vision, but your forward vision is very acute for the purpose of fighting just this person. Your body does that naturally for survival. You can lose awareness of where things are and easily trip. You can’t let that damage your confidence. Fight from the ground because you can’t fall any farther,” as the former wrestler demonstrates with lightning-fast pivots on his back to position groin and knee strikes. He also shows how to fall to protect his head.

“It’s actually hard to hurt someone when they’re on the ground and you’re standing up,” he said. “It’s not a schoolyard fight a teacher is going to break up. It’s a fight that can potentially result in the loss of someone’s life.”

Bradford reminds his combatants he was heavily padded when he came up behind them at a pretend ATM.

“Every one of you, at some point, delivered a devastating knee strike or punch that absolutely would have dropped me to the ground,” Bradford said. “Groin shots are debilitating. You can’t breathe if your ribs are broken. Tailbone shots can create motor dysfunction in the legs.

“You proved me wrong because I said you would not talk and forget to breathe. That doesn’t normally happen even with police officers. Shouting commands gives your body the cue to breathe. You three ladies did that the entire time. You can’t fight like you’re in a marathon, you have to fight to win right now.”

“You guys are the best class we’ve ever had,” Crouse said.