Sergeant shows women self-defense
Sgt. Karen Catlow, a 12-year veteran of the Jamestown Police Department, is organizing a self-defense class to teach island women how they can protect themselves in certain unfortunate situations.
The program is titled RAD, an acronym for Rape Aggression Defense. The three-day course is sponsored by the Police Department and Jamestown Teen Center.
Catlow was certified in the RAD Systems of self-defense a decade ago. The two-week program combined the physical aspects of training with the ability to instruct others. Catlow now teaches the class in conjunction with Patrolman John Areson. Their next class begins May 16.
According to Catlow, RAD Systems is unique because unlike other self-defense classes, it does not include martial arts. Karate, for example, can be too technical for a general audience, she says. Rape Aggression Defense, on the other hand, is suitable for women of all ages and experience.
“The moves are designed in a way that they feature what women’s strengths are,” Catlow said. “For example, women don’t have as much upper body strength, so a lot of the moves are based on having lower body strength.”
According to Catlow, the moves are taught through repetition. If a woman finds herself in a dangerous situation, she will automatically revert to the moves she was taught. Catlow says repetition helps because potential female victims who studied RAD won’t have to think as much before they react.
Catlow says it gives women the confidence to know that they will be able call on the moves they’ve learned when necessary.
The final day of the training includes simulation. Areson dons a fully padded protective suit and scenarios are played out. Women can put into practice what they have learned over the course’s three days.
“It sends them away with the confidence that they are going to be able to do what they have been taught if they find themselves in one of those situations in the real world,” Catlow said.
According to Catlow, many women have never had to hit anyone. RAD Systems focuses on basic striking techniques in order to get the students comfortable with putting their hands on someone. Different kicks are also employed, and pads are used so that the students can actually practice the strikes in full force.
“It makes them know that if they are in an encounter, they will be able to do whatever is necessary to help them survive,” she said.
Catlow teaches the RAD course in Jamestown about once a year. In the past she has done a class targeted to mothers and daughters, but this year’s class is not limited. The course is open to all females, but girls under 18 must have a signed parental waiver. Catlow makes it clear to the parents of younger girls that sensitive topics, including sexual assault, are discussed in the class. Girls as young as 14 have taken the class.
At the other end of the scale, Catlow had an 82-year-old woman in a class that she taught in Cumberland.
Women who complete the class receive a lifetime certification. The certification allows them to attend any class in the future to ensure that their skills remain intact.
Although the class often includes women who have been victims of an assault, Catlow says the majority of students have never been in a physical altercation. The class gets them thinking about having to be in that kind of situation, lets them know that they have options, and gives them the confidence to handle themselves if the need arises.
Among the topics covered are awareness, prevention risk reduction and risk avoidance. Techniques like using keys as a selfdefense weapon and making the home safer are also discussed.
“It’s really just about being aware and not being one of those women who are walking around with their head down talking on their cell phone,” she said.
Teen Coordinator Molly Conlon took a RAD Systems class for credit while in college. She said she enjoyed the experience. When Conlon learned that Catlow ran a similar course, she contacted her to set it up.
“You learn some helpful tips that you can take with you,” Conlon said. “It makes you feel more confident and safer when you’re walking alone at night or in the garage at the mall.”
The three-day course begins on May 16. On the first two nights the two-hour class runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. The final class on May 19 lasts from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It runs longer because it includes one-on-one simulations. The class will be held at the recreation center.
Catlow said it’s important that participants attend all three days.
“The training is important because people have the thought that Jamestown is a small island and they have a false sense of security,” Catlow said. “Things do happen, and they happen everywhere. It’s one of those things that are underreported because it’s unreported much of the time. The training is empowering and it gives women confidence.”
Class size is limited. To sign up, call Catlow at 423-1670 or Conlon at 423-7261. Catlow said the classes fill up, so she suggests registering as early as possible.