Contestants learn self-defense

(Submitted photo)

(Submitted photo)

Don’t mess with Miss Dowagiac contestants.

Six young women, Gabby Harrison, Haven Angell, Brittany Malin, Taylor Myers, Heather Olson and Di’Maan McGill, took advantage of a new benefit to seeking the community queen’s crown — self-defense training.

RAD, short for Rape Aggression Defense, is a comprehensive course Southwestern Michigan College provides female students.

It begins with awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance and progresses to self-defense training basics, fulfilled after school Feb. 19 by kicking and punching their way out of three scenarios with a padded assailant at Mathews Conference Center East on SMC’s Dowagiac campus.

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

“Here’s another cool thing to experience when you take part in the Miss Dowagiac Scholarship Pageant. This skill set is an add-on,” said Dowagiac Deputy Police Chief Jarrid Bradford, who instructed RAD along with Stephanie Lyons, senior staff accountant in SMC’s business office, and Kim Luthringer, lead admissions advisor.

Lyons and Luthringer learned RAD in October 2014 alongside a group of law enforcement professionals.

“We did this in four class sessions, plus this” for 12 hours of training, Bradford said. “We teach them about self-defense law, techniques and avoidance of problems by being aware of your surroundings. Keeping your head up when you’re walking through the world and not buried in your phone. The striking and the physical part is just a portion. When they come through the scenario, we want them giving loud verbal commands and looking the bad guy in the eye.”

“If you saw them on day one versus even yesterday,” Lyons said, “there’s a huge difference. This has been the best class we’ve had so far.”

“There’s always a notable change in how confident they are,” Bradford said. “This was a very athletic group. They were able to move fast and learn everything really fast.”

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