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Ross police present free 'S.A.F.E.' protection program

| Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Hank Hanasik of Pittsburgh, owner of Team AMS, an academy of 'martial science,' at right, demonstrates a technique for breaking his colleague's chokehold during a presentation they did last year at the Ross Township Community Center. The township police department invited Hanasik back again to do a program March 2 on how people can reduce the likelihood of becoming the target of criminals and how to defend themselves if they do. Submitted

As someone once told Hank Hanasik, “If you feel froggy, leap.”

The directive had nothing to do with any childhood game; rather, it was a simple lesson on observation, awareness and ultimately, self-protection.

Hanasik will offer more tips, tactics and techniques in his “S.A.F.E. program — Safe. Awareness. Fighting. Exercises.” — planned for 12:30 p.m. March 2 at the Ross Township Community Center, 1000 Ross Municipal Drive. The free three-hour program, hosted by the Ross Township Police Department, is designed to empower individuals by increasing personal and situational awareness and teaching about the law and self defense. The information, Hanasik said, could become a barrier to victimhood.

“Anything can happen anywhere at any time,” he said. “There's as much crime in the North Hills and West View as in the North Side.”

Hanasik, 37, of Brighton Heights, a neighborhood of Pittsburgh, has been teaching this program since 1999, the year he opened his Team AMS academy of “martial science” in Kilbuck Township. He has been involved with martial arts and combat sports for 30 years. He also works as a crisis-intervention specialist or “a bouncer with counseling skills,” he said.

Although Hanasik has presented his program a hundred times in schools, colleges, corporate setting and youth programs, this is his second invitation from the Ross Police Department. Last year's program attracted more than 70 participants. There were more women than men and a number of couples.

“There was a lot of interest last year,” said Detective Brian Kohlhepp, media-relations officer for the department, about why the department wanted a return engagement.

“There's not a serial rapist lurking this year, thankfully.”

But because there always will be those who prey on and victimize others, the detective recommends that “people be vigilant in personal safety and seek to keep themselves informed about security systems, identification theft and self-defense.”

Hanasik uses a noncombative approach in his “S.A.F.E.” program and instead focuses on providing knowledge to lessen the chances of anyone becoming a victim. He shows how the body reacts and teaches breathing, relaxing and how to recognize risky situations and avoid them.

“When you're in places you're comfortable in, you get complacent,” Hanasik explained.

Complacency breeds distraction and, perhaps, just enough opportunity for an assault to take place.

Most program participants prviously haven't thought about the extra minutes it takes fumbling to find car keys in a parking lot, the defenseless posture one has when carrying grocery bags to a vehicle or the importance of listening to the sixth sense.

“It's happened to everybody, including myself,” said Hanasik, adding this example: You're walking down a sidewalk and feeling uncomfortable with that stranger who is approaching. The voice inside tells you to cross the street, but you think, “This is my community. I don't have to cross the street.”

But, Hanasik said, “swallow your pride, and cross the street.”

And be alert. While women might be the easiest targets, “a 6-foot-1-inch, 250-pound guy doesn't look like a victim,” he said, “but if he's shuffling down the sidewalk with his head down and his hands in his pockets, they hit him real hard. They want you to be a victim quickly. Then, get in and out.”

And anything can be a defensive weapon, he said — a hat, a comb, keys, a shopping cart, a car door — anything that puts distance between the person and the attacker.

In seconds, through the use of a simple strategy, the situation can change, and the potential victim can escape.

“Based on nationwide statistics, there's a minimal chance of being involved in a violent crime,” Kohlhepp said, “but nonetheless, people should prepare themselves.”

Three hours might be enough time to keep from being a statistic.

“The program is free,” Hanasik said. “Show up. What's your safety worth to you?”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or

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