WHITMAN — They’re getting ready for trouble.
While participants in a RAD for Seniors Systems program at the Whitman Senior Center are hoping they never have to use the self-defense skills being taught by Whitman Police officer Kevin Harrington and Lt. Christine May-Stafford, the men and women are glad to have the training.
“I’m very happy with the turnout and they’re very much into it,” Harrington said. “It’s great.”
One woman, good-naturedly nicknamed “Attila,” said she would at least like to try a few skills on a real person.
“If we don’t get to all seven does he have to lie there until we finish?” she asked, with a laugh, about the seven basic strategies of defense against attacks from behind they were learning.
“Most of the time you’re not going to get through all seven,” Harrington said. “It’s what target you have presented to you. … Some of you can’t do all of them, either.”
Harrington joked that he had better not get any reports about guys left laying in the park crying because of a vicious older lady.
All joking aside, the men and women enrolled in the 10-week program are serious about learning how to protect themselves from physical assault and fraud in a modified version of Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) Systems of Self Defense. RAD is typically an intensive three-hour course in four sessions aimed at teaching skills to fend off physical attacks.
“RAD Systems developed this for the older adults,” Harrington said after a class Friday, May 15. “A lot of these physical defensive techniques are used in the regular RAD program, but they do tailor them toward the older adults. Sometimes we have to do different things with their hands and things like that.”
The group ranged from active seniors involved in sports programs like pickleball, to more frail elders and those with conditions such as Parkinson’s.
“I think when we first started they were hesitant about what the program entailed, but once they saw we never require the physical stuff — they can sit and watch — I think some of them watched the first week but most of them got into it and now they love it,” Harrington said.
Each session begins with a tutorial on crime prevention techniques. During week six it covered financial fraud and identity theft. The second half of the class reviews previously learned self-defense moves and teaches a new one. On this day it was defending against attackers attempting a “bear hug” immobilization from the front and rear.
They start the physical work with warm-ups featuring head rolls and arm circles and stretches.
One woman joked that working the kinks out would take longer than the hour. Then they moved to “establishing a base,” a neutral position that provides good balance and on to the defensive stance of hands raised in front of the face while shouting “no” before moving to a new skill.
“A lot of these, if you hit someone where they don’t ever get hit, it hurts,” Harrington said of pokes to the clavicle notch at the throat or the eyes. “You just give a little poke and it’s going to hurt — it’s all distraction techniques.”
Above all, the message is: “Don’t panic.”
RAD emphasizes that once techniques are learned, a person can shift from one to another until an attacker releases.
“If you find one or two that you can use, use it,” Harrington said.
Future classes will cover defending against choking and attacks if one is at home in bed or on the ground.
Another 10-week course is being planned for the fall. For more information, contact the Whitman Council on Aging at 781-447-7619.