Self-defense courses are designed for women to focus on improving survivability and escape if assaulted, along with providing examples of realistic situations where assault happens.
In many locations across the New River Valley, women can take a course in self-defense for free.
Instructor David Trail teaches self-defense training at the Radford Recreation Center every Saturday, Fridays at the Newport Community Center in Giles County, and will be teaching self-defense classes at the Pulaski County Parks in Recreation beginning in January.
In 1993, Trail began learning about self-defense training through Pete Theodore, a martial arts expert, and through other connections with international organizations that provide military training for specialized United States military groups. Now a retired detective, with other 30 years of tactical training, Trail previously served as a police officer (1993-2012) in Radford city. Trail said, in the 90s, there were a lot of sexual assaults happening in the area.
According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, “81.3% of female rape/attempted rape victims and 70.8% of male rape/attempted rape victims had first incident occur before age 25.”
The courses are designed to consider realistic situations and consider individual factors and characteristics of each person, age 12 years and older.
“What might work for one person might not work for someone else. We modify things to meet with what is comfortable for that person. People will react with whatever comes natural to you. It takes a lot of practice,” Trail said. “It is up-close and personal, when someone grabs a woman, this all comes in handy.”
Trail said the self-defense classes started around 1997 at the previous Radford Recreation Center and continued until 2017. In 2018, they moved into the new recreation center.
Classes also began in Newport about two years ago and the community center has been wonderful in supporting this group as well.
Megan McCallister started assisting Trail in self-defense instruction about 2 ½ years ago and is a natural, Trail said.
McCallister can provide a real-world perspective as a survivor herself.
“What she can bring to the classes is priceless, and her assistance especially at Newport and in Radford has been great. She is very good at this,” Trail said.
Through the eight-week course, the instructors point out that situational awareness, avoidance, and trusting your gut-feeling are all important in self-defense, but things can happen outside of someone’s control.
“If something just doesn’t feel right, trust that,” Trail said. “We try to put it in everyone’s mind though that it is not your fault.”
Cell phone usage is one aspect of situational awareness that is difficult for people to cope with. Society is centered around the use of electronics in everyday life. This is one realistic situation that the course approaches. Trail said that being on your phone is going to happen, we all do it, but discusses in the course how to mitigate your usage in a safe way when in potentially vulnerable situations.
If residents are in the Radford area, registration is available through the Radford Parks and Recreation website at www.radfordva.gov. The website states that individuals should wear loose-fitting clothing to the courses, but Trail also recommends wearing everyday clothing. If an attack was to happen, being able to move and respond in clothing that is natural to each individual is ideal.
“I encourage you to wear what you would normally wear though. Having a thick coat on changes things, gives someone something to grab on to,” Trail said. “We try to keep it more realistic, if you normally wear jeans then wear jeans to class.”
Eight-week classes, 11 am-12:30 pm, are beginning in January through the Pulaski County Parks and Recreation Center. These classes will also be taught by Trail and McCalister, both instructors having extensive training in Karate, Jujitsu, Krav Maga, and Tactical Defense Combatives.
If an organization or group of women are interested in hosting a self-defense course, Trail said that they will come to you for classes as well. Previously, the instructors have worked with Virginia Tech organizations such as sorority groups, churches, and other local community establishments to bring these valuable classes to everyone who is interested.
“If this saves just one life, it is well worth it,” Trail said.