With spring semester recently starting back up at Stony Brook University – and a daughter of his own heading back to school in New York City – both Sil Crino of Crino's Martial Arts, and SBU, will be offering women's defense courses of their own, both of which start up this week.
The two courses, unrelated to each other, both focus on protecting women most prominently against sexual assault – instances instructors say can be prevented with proper training.
"Many women are open to being attacked simply because they give in, and don't fight back," said Crino, whose self-defense course started up on Tuesday and runs two nights a week. "The thought is often if a guy comes at you, he's going to beat the heck out of you if you fight back. But that's not true. They can fight back, and I'm going to show them they can overcome their fears."
Stony Brook Univertisy's R.A.D. program – short for Rape Aggression Defense – begins Feb. 7, and dates back to the early 1990s, when Inspector Thomas Clark started the courses for students.
Clark, who has been with SBU since 1989, ran the program by himself for about 15 years until it expanded to the point of needing a series of instructors. He said it draws roughly 100 students each year now, with 12-week programs in the spring and fall. Courses take place each Thursday at 7:30 on the second floor of the new student rec center.
"From a crime prevention point of view, an awareness of your environment is always very important," said Clark, pointing to one of the two main focuses of the course. "The other, as far as physical technique, is dealing with the stress. For some women, that is the first time they have had the opportunity to use their strength and power. Which can be very liberating."
Both instructors pointed to the rush of adrenaline that the body creates at the point of attack – the "fight or flight" phenomenon – and said dealing with such a scenario is an important part of their training.
"We get their adrenaline pumped up and show them not to be afraid, but to use that as a positive," said Crino. "Because you get this big rush, and you might not know what to do. A fear factor comes in and you might get afraid and crouch down. We teach not to do that."
Nick Panebianco, owner of the new martial arts studio VMA Long Island in East Setauket, said his experience has found that the longer courses tend not to draw too many participants, and opts to run quarterly training sessions at a lower cost of $10 to $15 per course. Crino's 12-week program, spanning four months, costs $125 per month, with the option to drop out at any time if individuals so choose. SBU's R.A.D. program is free to students, faculty and their family members.
Crino noted that over the past couple of months, he has received calls from a handful of parents hoping to train their daughters before they head off to college next fall.
"Guys aren't always there," he said. "Husbands aren't always there, dads aren't. And let's face it, police can't always be there."