Tag Archives: Andy Rissman

All the right moves under my belt: Learning Self Defense

Photo: Elburn Herald reporter Lynn Meredith practices an elbow strike with the help of instructor Bernice Marsala on Saturday at the Maple Park Community Center. The Kishwaukee Family YMCA’s Black Belt Karate Staff and the Maple Park Library hosted a female self defense course, led by instructor Tom Scott. Scott is a retired Sycamore Police Lieutenant and currently teaches martial arts and self defense classes through the Kishwaukee YMCA. Photo by John DiDonna

by Lynn Meredith
MAPLE PARK—On Saturday morning in the Maple Park Community Center gym, I stood in a circle with 35 other women as retired police officer and self-defense prevention specialist Tom Scott called out, “Who has the right to hurt you?” In unison and with gusto we called back, “No one!”

We learned that lesson and many more courtesy of Maple Park Police Department’s Sgt. Buzz Hodges and Officer Andy Rissman, who invited area women to attend the free class.

Scott was assisted by three experts in martial arts—women with various backgrounds and degrees of experience. One of the women, Leslie Rigg, teaches First Year Success, a self-defense program for all first-year students at NIU.

“It’s a program near and dear to my heart. We take care of these students for their parents while they are here. We want to make sure that young women and young men are confidant as they move around campus—as we know, sometimes at one in the morning,” Rigg said.

As I looked around the women in the class practicing their self-defense stance (feet wide, one ahead of the other, hands up), I noticed several teenaged and young adult women who either came on their own or with their mothers. Scott appropriately named his program “Daughters Safe,” making clear that every woman is the daughter of someone. His program emphasizes that a key component of self-defense for any aged woman is prevention.

“We want you to be the victor, not the victim,” he said. “The best protection you have is the knowledge that you have and what you do with it.”

Instructor Bernice Marsala delivers a palm thrust to "Bob the Dummy" as Tom Scott explains her technique. Photo by John DiDonna

After loosening up and starting to breathe more deeply, we learned the eight directions of movement and the eight weapons of protection. The eight directions are compass points around the body. The eight weapons are the hands, the feet, the elbows and the knees. We teamed up with a partner and started practicing something called “Push-pull.” The basic idea is that if a bad guy lunges at you and grabs you, you don’t pull back and resist his force. Instead, you go with his force. If he grabs and pulls back, you push toward him. It seems counter-intuitive, but it is an akido move that uses the enemy’s force against him. The reversal of energy knocks the attacker off his base.

“You use their force and turn their energy on them. You are going with the motion of the target,” Scott said.

Next, Scott began circling the group and coming close up to individual women—something he called “wolfing.” Some women immediately pulled back, on their guard, but others stood still, letting him come up close. Scott explained that how close you let someone into your space is up to you, but when it seems too close, it may be a trigger that the person could be an attacker. You can prevent an attack by paying attention to someone who starts to invade your personal space.

By this time, the energy of the group was flowing, and we starting using our weapons of protection. The assistants came around holding up small mats and stood behind them while we punched the mats with the palm of our hands, jabbed with our elbows and strategically placed some upper cuts with our knees. I was beginning to think that defending myself seemed pretty fun.

Scott must have sensed the group getting a little too blood-thirsty because he took the opportunity to point out how the law defines self-defense.

“The exception to violence is when someone is hurting you. You have to fight to escape, to protect yourself, not to stay in the fight,” he said. “So if someone comes up to you and asks for the time, you don’t start jabbing him. The law says you can use force that is ‘reasonable and necessary.’”

With that caution in mind, we moved on to a discussion of “verbal judo.” What do you do, one woman asked, if someone approaches you with vulgar language? Do you ignore him? Do you yell back?

Scott and Rigg explained that the same idea of push-pull that turns the attacker’s energy on him when he grabs you turns a verbal attacker’s energy back on him when he says inappropriate things.

“Verbal pushing is like physical pushing. You go with their energy, rather than push back,” Rigg said. “Remember, it’s only words.”

We then learned how not to be singled out for an attack. The reality is that predators go for the easy target.

“They are not going to pick on someone who is going to fight back. They are looking for an easy kill, an easy target. They will go after someone they see as weak, maybe the elderly or someone who is distracted,” Scott said. “Keep your hands free and pay attention to your environment. If you’re attacked, make as much noise as possible. It may come across as impolite, but it’s OK to be impolite.”

It’s so good to be empowered.

If you are confronted

1. Note all avenues of escape and
possible “weapons” available to
you. Run away yelling if you can.

2. Act confidant, angry and
aggressive. Yell, swear and show
him loudly that you’re not going
to take it.

3. Never believe an attacker. They will
lie to gain control.

4. Never get into his car or let him
take you to an isolated place.

MP police plan anti-bullying workshops

by David Maas
MAPLE PARK—After hearing from parents of students in Kaneland schools, the Maple Park Police Department decided to hold a series of anti-bullying workshops, free of charge, to help educate students and their parents about bullying and how to help reduce it.

“We have had parents come to us about bullying at school or on the buses,” Officer Andy Rissman said. “They wanted to know if there was anything we could do about it.”

After hearing from some of these parents, the Police Department decided to put on a series of anti-bullying workshops.

“We decided to hold three separate workshops,” Rissman said. “The first night will be for the parents of students, the second will be for students aged 6 to 10, and the third will be for middle and high school students.”

By holding several different workshops, the program will be able to better focus on different areas of anti-bullying for the different groups.

“The parents will be educated on what to do when a child comes to them about bullying, and the students will be educated on what to do when they see bullying, as well as the effects of bullying someone,” Rissman said.

The officers will be doing this by showing videos, as well as having speakers.

“We are going to have a few different speakers,” Rissman said. “Tom Scott, a self-defense instructor, will talk about the importance of self esteem, (plus) Nicki Bajaj, an attorney, and representatives of the Kaneland School District, who the parents and students can talk to directly.”

The workshops will take place over three nights. The first, for the parents, will be on Monday, March 12. A workshop geared for students ages 6 to 10 will be held on Tuesday, March 13, and one for middle and high school students will take place on Thursday, March 15. All workshops will start at 6:30 p.m. on their respective nights in the village offices of the Maple Park Civic Center.

“These workshops are completely free, and we are going to have some fun,” Rissman said. “It’s important we educate as many people as we can, so we can stop bullying in our schools.”

Safety first

Sergeant Buzz Hodges of the Maple Park Police Department hands Zack Gould, 13, an unloaded weapon to examine. Hodges and Officer Andy Rissman, along with Ted and Theo Mikrut of the National Rifle Association, held gun safety classes for kids on Dec. 29 at the Village Hall. There were classes for older as well as younger kids. They learned things to do and what not to do when coming in contact with guns. It is part of an ongoing program to protect families from gun-related injuries or death. Photo by John DiDonna

Police Department offers thanks for dedication

by David Maas
MAPLE PARK—Maple Park Police Chief Mike Acosta on Tuesday presented six village residents with plaques to thank them for their dedication to various department-sponsored events.

“We would like to give a very special thanks to our Special Olympics fundraising organizers,” Acosta said. “Without their dedication to the department and Special Olympics, we would not have reached our goal.”

Acosta then presented plaques of thanks to Colleen and Jim MacRunnels, and George Malfatti. Not in attendance but also receiving plaques were Danna Kellett and John Threlkeld.

“According to the Illinois Special Olympics Torch Run News, we are the third highest current fundraiser,” Acosta said. “For something we have never done before, that is great news.”

The Maple Park Police Department raised over $20,000 for Special Olympics, behind only the Tinley Park Police Department and the Illinois State Police.

Also thanked was Officer Andy Rissman.

“Officer Rissman has been very dedicated to the department,” Acosta said. “And we’d like to thank him for all the hard work he put into making the Maple Park Bike Rodeo and Safety Program happen.

“We’re looking forward to next year already,” Acosta said. “We already have some plans to help us raise even more money for the Illinois Special Olympics, as well as more events for the village’s kids to enjoy.”

Read with a cop

Maple Park Police and the Maple Park Library hosted its first ‘Story with the Chief’ on March 1. Police Chief Mike Acosta read the children’s classic ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ in celebration of author Theodor Seuss Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss, whose birthday was March 2. Each child was given a snack and small puppet and had an opportunity to wear a Maple Park Police cap and dress blouse. Children also met Officer Andy Rissman, who helped with the event. Seventeen children and several of their parents attended. Courtesy Photo

MP community policing initiative begins

Officer talks to Girl Scouts about safety
by Martha Quetsch
MAPLE PARK—A community policing initiative kicked off Monday in Maple Park with a presentation by officer Andy Rissman to local Girl Scouts about staying safe.

Maple Park’s new police chief, Michael Acosta, announced when he was hired in January that he wanted to enhance safety in the village by bringing police and the community together through children’s programs and resident forums with officers.

Acosta said Rissman is an ideal officer to provide such programs.

“He seems to have a knack for talking to people, and he really believes in community policing,” Acosta said.

Rissman volunteered to help with Acosta’s initiative, which also is designed to encourage residents of all ages to know and trust the police.

“The only thing they used to see in town was a squad car pulling someone over for speeding,” Rissman said.

Rissman encouraged the girls to feel free to talk to the police whenever they have a concern.

Girl Scout Emma Bohm, 11, of Maple Park, thought Rissman was “really nice” and said she would feel comfortable approaching him in the future, if necessary. Emma said his safety presentation was “great.”

“I liked that he talked about what to do if you are in a sticky situation, and how to get out of it,” Emma said. “I also liked how he talked about Internet safety, because I go on the computer a lot.”

During the presentation, Rissman offered a multitude of safety tips to the Girl Scouts, offering scenarios of possible dangers they might encounter and what to do under those circumstances. He told them to walk in groups rather than alone, to run and yell if someone tries to accost them, to bite an attacker’s hand so that he lets go, and to tell their parents if someone they do not know tries to communicate with them online.

Rissman also advised the Scouts to remember details such as the color and number of doors of any car whose driver approaches them, and the direction the vehicle goes; then, they can tell police and increase the likelihood that the perpetrator will be apprehended.

Other programs that Acosta is planning to teach safety and acquaint children with officers include puppet shows and storytelling.

Photo: During a community policing presentation at the Civic Center Monday, Maple Park Police Officer Andy Rissman encouraged his audience, a group of local Girl Scouts, to use the skills gained as Scouts to be leaders, not followers, to avoid unsafe or illegal activities such as underage smoking and drinking, and vandalism. Photo by Martha Quetsch