Women: Know Your Self-Defense Options

R.A.D Systems offers realistic options for women in a world that does not do enough to protect its women

RAD simulation at the University of Texas at Austin / Source

How I Learned About R.A.D.

In 2004, I took a one-hour elective class that would completely change my life. I was 20 years old and was working the night shift as a dispatcher for a small-town police department. When I arrived, it was dark outside and was often dark when I finished my shift in the mornings. I was typically the only person in the building, sometimes for the entire night. If I had a visitor, it was typically an officer bringing in one of “the regulars” who had been drunkenly flashing his man bits down at the Hobo Pantry and needed time to sober up in our holding cell. Occasionally, we would have a county deputy or state trooper stop by for a cup of coffee and some human interaction to stay awake. Other than that, it was just me, myself, and I. I had the thought on more than one occasion that it would be nice to know how to protect myself in the event something happened while I was there alone.

Having been a college student at the time, there were several times that I asked, “How in hell did we wind up here?!” after a friend of a friend of a friend invited us to where-the-hell-are-we-ville for a night of incriminating photos and morning-regretted decisions. Looking back, like a lot of young women, we did a lot of dumb things. However, we also tended to be pretty responsible when it came to taking care of one another. Luckily, we never experienced any of the horrendous things that you see happening on the news to women. In fact, we lived in one of those “it can’t happen here” kind of places. I know now that they could have happen here and probably did.

While flipping through the classes offered for the upcoming semester, one in particular caught my attention. “Women’s Self-Defense Course”. I thought it sounded like a fun and easy hour a week, and if I learned something from it, all the better. I never imagined the impact that this course would have on my entire life.

I remember walking in the first day of class and getting out my binder (the first three classes were orientation and academic.) I honestly didn’t expect much from a man teaching a women’s self defense course, but I was pleasantly surprised. On the top of my red binder was the acronym: R.A.D. RAD? I had never heard of it. Underneath the large letters was the explanation: Rape Aggression Defense for Women.

What is R.A.D?

“The mission of the R.A.D. Systems is to establish an accessible, constantly improving and internationally respected alliance of dedicated Instructors. These Instructors in turn, will provide educational opportunities for women, children, men and seniors to create a safer future for themselves. In doing this, we challenge society to evolve into an existence where violence is not an acceptable part of daily life.”

R.A.D is a self-defense course that offers realistic, self-defense tactics and techniques to women, children, men, and seniors. It supports the theory of continuous education to provide options for different demographics to better protect themselves from potential threats. Each program includes educational components formed of lecture, discussion, and physical resistive strategies.

What Does That Mean?

In a nutshell, R.A.D. teaches physical self-defense techniques to people, however, their main focus is education and threat avoidance.

RAD Dynamic Impact / Source

Topics covered during the lecture portion include defining sexual assault terms, what women can do legally to protect themselves, date rape mentality, the risks of personal safety, risk reduction strategies, date rape drugs, and finally, the principles relating to the techniques that will be taught later in the course. While the physical techniques take longer to teach than the lecture portion, it has been determined that 90% of self-defense is education. Knowing the risks and how to prevent them decreases the chances of a woman being forced to use the physical techniques on a potential predator. The techniques are taught as a last resort but are there in the event that the woman needs them.

The physical portion is broken down into simple steps until the student is able to confidently perform the technique. It identifies personal “weapons” that all persons can use in their defense in the event of an attack and vulnerable locations to aim for on the attacker. Techniques include verbal commands, strikes, kicks, ground defense, release moves, and others.

Where Did RAD Come From?

R.A.D was designed by former military police officer and special weapons and tactics team sniper, Lawrence N. Nadeau. After being honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corp, Nadeau began a career in civilian law enforcement at the Old Dominion University Police Department in Norfolk, VA. In 1989, Nadeau and colleague Sheri Iachetta developed R.A.D. and began implementing it in the college system.

What Kinds of Programs Does RAD Offer?

While the most popular R.A.D program is R.A.D. for Women, there are other populations that R.A.D. serve as well.

In addition to the Women’s Basic Course, the Advanced Self-Defense Course builds on the techniques and strategies of the basic course. It covers other defense strategies, multiple attacker situations, and even low light simulation exercises.

RAD Simulation / Source

The Aerosol Defense Course educates students on the use of pepper spray and its effectiveness on an assailant. It covers how to use an aerosol product and can suggest the best options. RAD Systems has conducted over 300 videotaped live test exposures of various aerosol products with an array of delivery methods.

Keychain Defense involves using an impact weapon known as a Kubaton that is generally attached to the student’s keychain. It highlights realistic strategies that the student can use, along with combat effectiveness, transitions, and simulation.

RAD for Men is one of the newest programs where participants are able to raise their awareness of aggressive behavior, see how they can be valuable in reducing aggression and violence, and practice hands on self-defense skills to escape aggressive behavior directed toward them.

RAD for Seniors offers risk reducing strategies and defense tactics geared toward more mature adults. It is taught in a relaxed environment and includes physical defense workouts for technique development and educational topics to assist students in developing defensive strategies.

RAD Weapons Defense System teaches students realistic defensive strategies against edged weapons (such as knives) and firearms.

RAD Kids began in 2001 and focuses on strengthening children’s boundaries and parental confidence. It teaches children to identify escape routes and safe zones, to recognize a potential danger, and to avoid, resist, or if needed, physically resist to escape harm.

Where Can I Take the Course?

Various RAD Programs are taught in most states in the United States, as well as in countries including Canada, Egypt, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland. Many universities offer RAD as a for-credit course and community classes are often planned where there are instructors. You can visit the RAD website and click “Program Locator” to see where the closest instructors are to you and a contact number. In my city, local businesses and organizations often contact the instructors and request a class be held for them to attend.

Why RAD?


Studies show that one out of every four women in the United States has been the victim of a rape or an attempted rape during their lifetime and 85% of rape victims know their attacker. College aged women are three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than those of other ages. RAD for Women was designed first as sexual assault against females was a rapidly growing crime that needed intervention and a way to combat it.

R.A.D. is the largest network in the self-defense community with over 11,000 instructors having been certified thus far. It has educated and trained over 900,000 women since its development. R.A.D. even has specialized equipment that is produced specifically for use by its instructors during practice and attack simulation. Additionally, it is the only self-defense program that has ever been endorsed by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA), the National Academy of Defense Education, the National Self-Defense Institute (NSDI), and Redman Training Gear.

Most of all, it really works! I have personally taken the course several times under different instructors with different teaching styles. Each time, I received the same information, and it was delivered in a similar, easy to grasp manner every time. The techniques are simple and easy to remember. They can be integrated into one’s muscle memory with just a bit of practice. I enjoyed the course so much and believed in its objectives so strongly, that I became an instructor myself.


In 2010, I traveled to the RAD Conference that was being held in St. Louis, MO that year. Some co-workers and myself attended a three day, 30-hour course to become certified as a Basic RAD Instructor.

Since then, I have taught and assisted with many classes. As much as I enjoy teaching women how to protect themselves, I find that I usually learn something during every class. Whether it be through the questions that the students ask, which allows me into their world and mindset, or from general discussion with the women during downtime.

Over the years, I have been honored to have SURVIVORS of sexual assaults take the course and share their experiences. While I try to empower these women through teaching them the art of self-defense, I have found that they have empowered me through their determination and will to not give up. Any woman that has been through what some of these women have been through yet make the decision to learn to fight back is a hero in my book.

For More Information on Tips for Women’s Safety:

Working mom who uses my curiosity to fuel the curiosities of others. I write mostly on history and true crime with some life advice thrown in for good measure.

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