Kids Pull No Punches in Defense Class

Contributing Writer
Monday, November 20, 2006

Berkeley police Officer Alan Pagle, posing as an assailant, takes a beating at the hands of a young student in the radKIDS self-defense training program.PHOTO/ANDRE NGUYEN
Berkeley police Officer Alan Pagle, posing as an assailant, takes a beating at the hands of a young student in the radKIDS self-defense training program.

Yelling “Stay back! You’re not my dad!”, 7-year-old Tadiwa Machekano kicked a would-be assailant in the knee and ran away.

Tadiwa is one of 12 children who graduated from the radKIDS Personal Empowerment Safety Education Program at the University Village in Albany Friday afternoon.

The graduation ceremony consisted of the students demonstrating the skills they had learned through a series of simulations against an aggressor played by Berkeley police Officer Alan Pagle. Pagle is the coordinator and teacher of the course at the University Village, a housing complex that primarily serves married students and students with children.

The radKIDS program—so-called in reference to its philosophy of “resisting aggression defensively”—was founded in 1988 to train community-based instructors who, in turn, teach children how to protect themselves from bullying, abduction and physical and sexual abuse.

The University Village’s program was established last spring by Pagle after he heard about an attempted kidnapping of a 7-year-old girl that occurred earlier in the year near the complex.

“I felt like I had to do something” Pagle said.

According to the Second National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children, 203,900 children were abducted by family members in 1999, 198,300 were involuntarily missing, lost or injured and 58,200 were abducted by a non-family perpetrator.

Pagle said the radKIDS program was attractive because of its emphasis on practicing physical skills and on building self-esteem and confidence levels.

Without hands-on experience, children won’t know how to act in dangerous situations, and without self-esteem, they won’t have the confidence to act, he said.

“I tell parents there’s only one person who’s with your kids 24/7 and that’s themselves,” Pagle said. “We need to give them the information and the skills, so that they know what to do.”

Joyce Machekano, Tadiwa’s mother, said she was glad to enroll her daughter in the self-defense course.

“My daughter is kind of gentle-natured. I wanted to raise her awareness to protect herself. Now she knows how to be assertive when a person she

doesn’t know approaches her in an aggressive way,” Machekano said.

Asked what the most fun part of the program was, 9-year-old participant Mesoma Esonwune said, “When you get to hit the teacher.”

Pagle said he plans on continuing to teach, but added that more community support would be helpful and he would like to expand the program to be included in the school systems.

“Right now it’s just me and some of the other volunteers carrying this on our shoulders,” he said. “It would be nice to have a few more shoulders.”

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