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UNG students learn self-defense skills
Class helps boost confidence, teaches students how to protect themselves
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Women practice self-defense Thursday night at the University of North Georgia. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Several women attacked a different kind of final exam Thursday evening at the Gainesville campus of the University of North Georgia.

“Over a two-week period, we have the class two nights a week,” said instructor Paul Kent. “This is the final week where everything the students learned over the course of teaching the class — how to defend themselves, the warning signs, how to protect yourself — this is when they put everything together.”

The 16 participants in the 12-hour course learned to defend themselves from an assault with hands-on simulations, using physical maneuvers and a ready mind to reduce risk.

Kent, an officer with the UNG campus police, is one of the instructors for the Rape, Aggression and Defense course. The course is offered to women from the university and the general public.

For her final test, each woman individually tackled a simulated attack. Lots of padding was involved.

“We call them Red Men Suits — big, red padded suits,” Kent said, of the faux attacker gear. Students wore protective gear as well.

Kent, who has been doing RAD with the university since 2009, said many women simply need the empowerment to know they are physically capable of defending themselves.

“It’s mainly confidence,” Kent said. “A lot of people come in here thinking they can’t do it, whether it’s their weight, a smaller frame, short height, they’re thinking they can’t defend a bigger person.”

It was evident on the face of each woman as she burst through the door, many with pumped fists and smiling faces, that the simulation was a confidence booster.

And as first-time participant Denisse Brisson said, the exercise may be a precaution, but it was also fun.

“I think you just try to come into this with an open mind and really have fun,” she said.

Many participants were returning for a refresher.

Melinda Wheeler, along with her sister, mom and niece, returned to the course, although she said she was still nervous about the simulations.

“Last year, there were 40 of us so we just did one simulation,” she said. “This year, there are fewer so they said we’ll do it three times, and it’ll be a different scenario each time.”

As the women waited outside the door, they soaked in whatever advice was available, and helped each other Velcro the elbow, knee and chest pads.

One of the youngest participants was 14-year-old Roni Nash.

“It’s really fun,” she said, as she steadied her breathing, fresh out of the door from the exercise.

Not to mention, she added, it was cool knowing she could defend herself.

“It’s just such an adrenaline rush.”