Free self-defense classes to begin Feb. 2

Doctoral student Diana Wong has learned many important facts and intensely debated theories in physics, biology and chemistry since starting college as a freshman bioengineering major at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2000.

Still, “one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my life,” Wong said, is the techniques she mastered while completing Rape Aggression Defense (RAD), a self-defense program offered by WUSTL.

The RAD program teaches men and women awareness, avoidance and physical defense techniques they can use when faced with potentially confrontational situations. RAD classes are free, open to the public and take a total of 12 hours stretched over four class periods to complete.

“You hear about women getting into situations they never thought would happen to them,” Wong said. “They’ll be out late at night and think, ‘I’ll be OK; it’s not that far to walk home.’ Then the worst happens. The class is well worth it, just to know how to best handle those types of situations.”

RAD was developed to help females stay safe on college campuses. The program is widespread; RAD classes are taught at approximately 350 colleges and universities worldwide.

No matter where students take RAD, the course follows the same format: Students spend two three-hour classes learning conflict avoidance and two three-hour classes learning self-defense moves — all from RAD-certified instructors.

During the self-defense portion of the program, instructors teach self-defense moves and which moves are the most effective in certain situations.

“You start off with stances,” Wong said. “If someone tries to hit you, this is how you block; if someone grabs you, this is how you hit them so they let go. For each scenario, there are different types of punches and different types of kicks.”

While punches and kicks might seem exciting, the practical knowledge of how to recognize and avoid a potentially dangerous situation, which is taught in the first half of the class, is even more valuable. “Awareness is 90 percent of self-defense,” said WUSTL RAD coordinator Gwendolyn Patton, also a University police officer.

Two four-week, Saturday morning sessions of RAD currently are scheduled: Feb. 2-23 and March 22-April 12 at the Fitness Center in the South 40. Both sessions begin at 9 a.m. and end at noon. Other RAD sessions can be scheduled for large groups upon request.

Patton urges those inclined to sleep in on Saturdays to make safety a priority. “Self-defense is something that everyone, men and women, needs to know,” Patton said. “Once the class gets started, you’ll be glad you woke up.”

For more information or to register, call 935-6347 or visit