Campus self-defense program kicks up assault awareness

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Naomi Miyake

Every two and a half minutes, a sexual assault occurs somewhere in the United States, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

With April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, The Hope Center for Personal Empowerment (HCPE) in Champaign offers self-defense classes for women and children in Champaign-Urbana. But the program is available all year round.

Mitch Kutzko, an instructor for HCPE, said the organization aims to teach easy-to-learn self-defense mechanisms. The courses focus on education and awareness through lectures, discussions and physical instruction.

The HCPE offers five classes of three hours each – six to eight times a year at various places on campus. Through the radKIDS program, HCPE also holds courses for children two to three times a year.

The next session available for the public starts June 28. People interested in taking the classes should call the HCPE at (217) 328-4226.

Kutzko said a major goal of the program is to promote awareness and risk reduction, rather than simply being a class that teaches martial arts techniques.

“The whole program is about options,” Kutzko said. “Simply being able to avoid having a problem in the first place is infinitely more desirable than being able to deal with it when it happens.”

Nikki Johnson, junior in business who took the classes last spring, said she liked how she was taught very basic moves that would be useful in a dangerous situation.

“It wasn’t really complicated,” Johnson said. “You don’t have to have any formal training.”

Some of the moves that are taught include a number of striking and kicking motions, such as elbow strikes and knee thrusts, Kutzko said.

Kutzko said self-defense is often mistaken for martial arts, but classes are designed so all women can perform movements.

“It’s not about how physically large you are or how much raw physical strength you have,” Kutzko said. “It’s using your body mechanics correctly. We’ve had an 85-year-old woman come through, and she was able to do what needed to be done.”

The course also offers information about common date rape drugs, socialization issues and available choices in risky situations, such as being approached by a sleazy guy at a party or walking alone in a dark alley.

At the end of each session, students simulate a real-life situation with a fake attacker.

The attack is choreographed in as realistic and safe manner as possible to reproduce the most common assault situations, Kutzko said.

All HCPE instructors are trained by

Rape Aggression Defense Systems, a national organization that trains instructors in sexual assault prevention.

Mary Lancaster, an instructor for R.A.D. Systems, said that within the next year, R.A.D. for Men would be offered in the Champaign-Urbana area. The class will focus on self-defense, responding to bad situations without using aggression and shaping positive attitudes toward women.

Kutzko said it is satisfying to see the newfound confidence women seem to have after completing the course.

“They walk two inches taller, they’ve got their head up and they’re smiling,” Kutzko said. “Most women don’t know how much power they can generate. They’re so much less afraid.”