The fear fighters: Serious skills mingle with fun in new Snoqualmie women’s defense series
By CAROL LADWIG
Snoqualmie Valley Record Staff Reporter
October 3, 2012 · 1:45 PM
There’s no reason the activities planned for this evening’s self-defense class should be fun, but they are.
People are talking quietly or laughing out loud, sprawled on the floor of the Snoqualmie Fire Station, or doing some gentle stretches. They’re relaxed and joking, but transition quickly to all seriousness for a final review of their training, and of the evening’s program with Officer John Lievero. Well, mostly serious.
When Lievero repeats the final rule for the night, “no weapons, OK?” he gets a quick retort from one student, flexing her biceps as she says, “None except for these babies!”
Just like that, the 17 women go back to joking, and the first few students gets geared up for practice.
They all go silent again, when they hear the approaching creak of protective gear.
That’s the sound of their would-be attacker, Officer Dave Bond, covered head-to-toe in red padding. He’s coming to help them practice their defense techniques in realistic but safe scenarios, or more concisely, to take a beating from each one of them.
The sound of his approach is when the fear—and the fun—really begin.
“I just want you guys to know, I am really nervous,” the first woman to face Bond announced as she stood alone in the practice area. “It may not look like it but…”
Lievero wasn’t surprised. He and Bond, both Normandy Park Police officers, are certified instructors of Rape Aggression Defense Systems, or RAD (www.rad-systems.com) and they’ve been offering these women-only classes for years.
“This is a really difficult thing for a lot of women,” Lievero said. “It’s very uncomfortable to have someone put their hands on you.”
For these final exercises of the class, each woman was put into several uncomfortable situations, and experienced the terror and the thrill of kicking and screaming her way out of them.
Added to that were a supportive audience of fellow students shouting out encouragements and techniques to try, and hoots and applause for every clean escape.
No wonder each and every one of them revealed a wide grin when their helmets came off.
Then again, Bond also seemed pretty happy, despite the punishment he was taking. Before he was half done with the group, Bond had been thrown on his back, stripped of his helmet once, kicked and punched countless times and his ears were probably still ringing with the verbal abuse his students had let fly, all part of the training.
On a water break, he wouldn’t even consider giving someone else the suit for a few rounds.
“Honestly, we fight for who gets to do this,” he panted.
The “we” he’s talking about is the small group of RAD-certified instructors who host classes throughout the Puget Sound Area. Member police departments of the Coalition of Small Police Agencies, like Snoqualmie, have access to specialized training like theirs, said Snoqualmie Officer Nigel Draveling, who coordinated this first Snoqualmie class.
“That’s where the Coalition is really cool,” said Draveling, adding that the Snoqualmie department had been receiving requests for self-defense classes for some time. “They can come in and assist us, since we don’t have our own instructors.”
They love to do it, too. Bond’s only disappointment for the evening was that, although his program now owns two suits, they couldn’t use both of them that night because the third RAD instructor they work with in the Valley was unavailable.
In another month, though, they should be able to use both suits, because Draveling will be taking the RAD certification course in October, and the Snoqualmie Police Department just authorized another RAD class for later this fall.
Draveling is excited, both about the training he’ll be getting, and the community’s response to this training session.
“We’ve been wanting to do citizen classes for three years, as a police department,” he said.
When the timing and opportunity were right to offer one, Draveling knew it would be a self-defense class, but he didn’t know which one until he’d done the research. He chose RAD, he said, because “this is the one that fits best with what we wanted to do.”
The response was overwhelming. “We had 18 spots, and it booked up in three days,” Draveling, “I’m not kidding, I’m still getting e-mails from people!”
He doesn’t attribute the interest in self-defense to any trends in the community, but to general awareness. “I think people just want to be prepared,” he said.
The four-day class covers more than just the physical maneuvers. In fact most of the first two sessions discuss ways to improve safety at home, at work, and online.
“After that first night, I went home and cancelled my Facebook, my LinkedIn account, everything,” one student said. “I talked to my kids, too.”
Each of the three men was gratified to see how well this first RAD class in Snoqualmie had learned from them.
That the women had learned from each other was apparent, too.
When that first student confessed that she was nervous about the practice, some women laughed, some said “me, too!” and a few more echoed the sentiments of one student, who said “Don’t worry, we’ve got your back!”
For information about the next RAD class and other self-defense offerings such as pepper-spray or firearms training, send an e-mail to Officer Nigel Draveling, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Snoqualmie Valley Record Staff Reporter Carol Ladwig at email@example.com.