By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
The man is really big. He’s an attacker threatening a woman. She tries to talk him down, reason with him. No dice.
So, boom. They take him down. Three women converge on him from behind, and in a split second he’s face-first in the grass.
“There is nothing more critical than teamwork in law enforcement,” Ryan Sand, a Justice Studies instructor and former police officer said at his self-defense and scenario-based training for Justice Studies students Thursday on the Grand Canyon University soccer field.
The practice sessions, which included a take-down of that man in protective padding, will help more than students who go into law enforcement. It can be a dangerous world for attorneys, social workers or just anyone walking down the street.
“It can help you in the real world, especially with the holidays coming up and more people trying to grab your purse,” said Sharon Harden, a Justice Studies student who wants a job in social justice. “You have to be able to de-escalate.”
She said she learned a defensive forearm shield to protect the middle part of her body. But an altercation may not even have to get physical.
“That’s the biggest part of the lesson,” Sand said. “Develop the gift of gab. They need to be on the same caliber as a used car salesman. If you can sell me a car, you are going to be a great police officer. Talking someone into dropping a weapon is a win.”
The hands-on class, also offered Friday to Discover GCU students, is a vital first step toward law enforcement.
“Research shows a lot of people who applied to the academy have never been in a fight before,” said Cornel Stemley, a Justice Studies instructor and another former police officer.
The first time in practice can be surprising, he said, but the first time in a real situation against an attacker can be terrifying.
“My first guy was on PCP. It was a rodeo,” said Stemley. “We were getting our butts whipped. I tell you, it was a reality check. There’s no timeout, no start over.”
He was asked the most important element in self-defense.
“It’s all about courage. I’ve seen much smaller people do what it takes to fight and live,” he said.
Travis Vickers, a sophomore, said he has never been in a fight, but it’s good to be prepared.
“The main thing I learned is the palm heel strike,” he said, thrusting his arm out straight with the heel of his hand leading the way. “It’s much better than a closed-fist punch.”
Sand began self-defense classes six years ago for anyone interested at GCU “and 250 girls showed up. In one year, I trained 10,000 students and staff.” He said it’s now an added hands-on training for Justice Studies students that supplements mind-heavy classroom work.
Self-defense is also about being in shape, especially going into police work.
“I’m going to be jumping walls, running and doing push-ups, so I need to start getting myself not just mentally but physically in shape,” Sand said.
Sometimes self-defense is just flat out running away.
“We call it tactical retreat,” Sand said. “We had one officer who was 105 pounds, soaking wet, a marathon runner.”
A bad guy was running after him through the woods, carrying a machete. He outran him until the rest of the good guys arrived.
“We took care of it,” he said. “We don’t want to shoot people, so if we can run around and play a bit, we’d rather do that.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.