Women learn to take down the 'bad guy' at York College


There aren't many occasions to don a full bodysuit made of protective, red rubber padding.

But three times a year, a group of instructors from both York College's campus security and Spring Garden Township Police Department wear a Redman suit and brace themselves for a beating.

The college has hosted RAD — Rape Aggression Defense classes — through a partnership with the police department for more than 10 years.

The classes culminate in women being put in simulated threatening situations — where instructors who act as a "bad guy" don the bulky suit for protection — to test the self-defense skills they have developed.

"Some of the women have gotten some good hits in," said campus safety officer Curt Morris. "I've definitely got knocked down more than once."

For all women: The RAD course is designed for women of all ages and fitness levels, Spring Garden Township Police Department Officer Alisha Graybill said, noting in her 13-plus years of instruction she worked with girls as young as 10 to women in their 70s.

"These aren't complicated techniques," Graybill said. "It's simple enough that anyone of any skill level could learn them; you don't have to be an athlete or have a certain fitness level to complete this."

The classes: The first day of the course entails mostly classroom instruction, while the next two days are dedicated to hands-on teaching and the physical aspects of self-defense.

"We teach them different kinds of strikes and different types of kicks as well as what points to aim for," Morris said. "On the second day we go over how to get out of certain holds, like what to do if you're pinned to the ground or if you're in a chokehold."

Morris said the most important thing he wants student to take away is an increased awareness level.

"The biggest thing we teach is to be cognizant of your surroundings," Morris said. "There are always a lot of things going on around us, and people are so into their phones now, but 90 percent of this is situational awareness, that's one of the overall lessons."

Over-indulgence of alcohol and substance abuse "will always diminish your awareness," Graybill said. "We try to stress if you listen to your woman's intuition, you'll be much more able to avoid any type of bad situation."

The last day: On the final day, the Redman suit is brought out and participants are put in situations that mirror the coursework. Their responses to these situations are filmed because "when the adrenaline is going it's easy to not even remember what you've just done when you finish," Morris said.

Graybill said the experience is just as informative for those who freeze.

"You learn very quickly being mentally prepared is an important first step," she said.

Morris said seeing his students watch themselves is one of the best parts of teaching the class.

"Initially a lot of them are very hesitant and then the last day they just end up kicking butt; they see themselves in their videos and they're laughing and smiling," he said.

Graybill echoed Morris' sentiment.

"This really is a confidence builder," she said. "The biggest benefit here is simply gaining that self-awareness and self-reliance."

The RAD course is a 12-hour training program divided into four three-hour courses held at the Grumbacher Center Sept. 10-13.

The community is invited to attend the RAD sessions during the year, Morris said.

He also recommends participants attend all four classes, though it's not required.

For more information on the course, visit the York College website at www.ycp.edu and search for "RAD training."

Those interested also may call campus security at (717) 577-1314 or email Graybill at agraybill@sgtpd.org.

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com.