Confident self-defense grads ready to get physical
Mundelein- The Mundelein Police Department is hosting a free class for women 18 and over who are interested in learning self-defense tactics. The class is held on Tuesday nights at the police station between 6-8 p.m. Classroom and tatical items are included. Denise Barlow (left) and Diane Gorsuch practice elbow punches.| Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 3, 2012 6:07AM
MUNDELEIN — There are more than 200 women roaming the streets and mall parking lots who are going to give an assailant one big surprise when they are attacked.
From a nose-crunching blow to the face to feeling the pain of a good foot-stomping, from getting out of a headlock to knowing how to escape from someone on top of you, these women are ready and confident to defend themselves.
Say hello to the graduates of the Mundelein Police Department’s self-defense class.
“We started it in 2010 and we run three classes a year, and there are about 30 people in a class,” said Police Chief Raymond Rose. “So we’ve trained over 210 residents through this program.”
The program actually started with girls at Carl Sandburg Middle School and Mundelein High School and Carmel Catholic high schools.
Patrol Officer Rachel Messina started teaching those classes and then made the transition into a class for women in the community who are at least 17 years old.
“We got a good response from the high school students and it was easy to transfer to the community program,” she said.
The class runs for a month on Tuesday nights for two hours. The first sessions cover not just the physical aspect of self defense, but situational awareness and being aware of what is happening around you that may pose a threat.
They even cover Facebook and social networking safety tips and how to look up sexual offenders registered in your village.
Then they get physical.
‘You can escape’
“We try and show moves that will cause the most damage with the least amount of effort so you can escape,” said Messina, a six-year veteran of the police force who has also been trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. They also show a clip of a classic self-defense presentation in the movie “Miss Congeniality” where a woman agent (Sandra Bullock), undercover at a beauty pageant, uses it in the talent portion of the contest.
“Yes, we play that clip,” laughs Messina.
But on the serious side she tells the students very matter-of-factly that if a 6-foot, 3-inch 200-pound man grabs them, “You are going to go to the ground and you have to know how to defend yourself from every angle.”
The classes have had women from the ages of 17 to 76. The final class includes two male police officers in padded suits and a darkened room with a single revolving light.
“You can’t see where your attacker is coming from,” said Kelly Wiltjer, 21, of Mundelein who took the class before going to college. “But you’ve learned how to flip them off you and the elbow blow and getting out of a headlock, it all depends on the situation.” And it’s a real confidence builder when it’s all said and done.
“It’s very beneficial when you are going to college,” she said.
Rose said there will be one more class this fall and they plan to keep the popular program going in the future. It is also a nice program for breaking down the barriers between police officers, youth and community members. But it’s also just about safety.
“It goes to the whole issue of being confident and feeling secure and knowing what to do if such an incident occurred,” said Rose.