URBANA -- Building upon the popularity of its self-defense classes for women, the University of Illinois Police Department has begun offering similar classes for men.
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Women at the university have been learning about realistic self-defense tactics and techniques through a class called Rape Aggression Defense, also known as RAD, since 1996.
The women's program is a comprehensive course that teaches women about awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance, and gives them basic hands-on defense training, according to Sgt. Joan Fiesta of the UI Police Department.
UI Police Detective Robert Murphy estimates that at least 600 women have learned about self-defense by taking the RAD course, so it made sense to offer something similar for men on campus.
"One of our police officers, Officer Chris Hawk, has worked with the women's program for years, and he heard about the development of a men's program," Murphy said. "Men find themselves to be victims of violence twice as much as women, so Chris and I got certified (by the national RAD organization, RAD-Systems) to teach the class, and our department decided to start offering it."
The male version of the course is called Resisting Aggression with Defense.
"Men often find themselves in different kinds of self-defense situations than women face," said Murphy, who teaches the men's course along with Hawk. "For example, a man might be at a bar, hear somebody say something negative about his girlfriend and suddenly find himself in a fight.
"Or maybe a man is at a party and somebody bumps him and he finds himself in a confrontational situation.
"Or maybe a man is heading home from a bar late at night and somebody attacks him.
"We teach men better ways to deal with tough situations."
Murphy said it is difficult to know how many men get attacked on campus because men are often too embarrassed to report their confrontations to police.
"It's safe to say that most men have been in some kind of altercation at one time or another," Murphy said. "Men can find themselves in a knockdown, drag-out fight with a roommate and don't report it to police."
According to Murphy, the UI has already offered four RAD for Men classes with a total enrollment of about 35 students, and the police department intends to offer a fifth class this fall.
The 12-hour class is held over four weeks. Instructors teach the men about a variety of crime-awareness tips and ways to reduce and avoid risk. After the instructors teach the basics of hands-on physical training, the program concludes with a full-contact self-defense session in which students practice escaping, with UI officers acting as mock attackers.
The course is relatively cheap, $20, and students who take the class are given a workbook and reference manual to continue practicing the skills they learned on their own.
"The focus for men is to be able to learn how to de-escalate a violent confrontation," Murphy said. "We teach them the importance of first trying to de-escalate the situation with words."
The instructors also teach the men how to defend themselves.
"We teach them how to block a punch, to create some distance between themselves and the bad guy and how to get out of the situation," Murphy said. "We don't want them to end up in a fight if they can avoid it.
"But if the men are left with no other choice, they can use the self-defense techniques we teach them in order to escape from the situation."
Murphy stresses that RAD for Men is not a martial-arts program. The class teaches men to be aware of their situations and do what they can to avoid risk.
He believes the tactics taught during the course are effective because they are simple and easy to learn.
"Our system uses a realistic self-defense approach that will allow a man to make an educated decision about how to resist aggression," Murphy said.
According to Murphy, body language is one important tool a man can use to defend himself.
"In a defensive stance, we don't used a closed fist," Murphy said. "If I am patrolling a street in a police cruiser and see two men both with their fists clinched, that sends me a different message from a situation in which one man has his fists clinched and the other man has his hands open."
In addition, graduates of the RAD for Men program are free to return to attend future RAD classes at no charge to practice some of the techniques they have learned.