An adaptive optical radial basis function classifier for handwritten digit recognition is experimentally demonstrated. We describe a spatially-multiplexed system incorporating on-line adaptation of weights and basis function widths to provide robustness to optical system imperfections and system noise. The optical system computes the Euclidean distances between a 100-dimensional input and 198 stored reference patterns in parallel using dual vector-matrix multipliers. For this experimental software is used to perform the on-line learning of the weights and basis function widths. An experimental recognition rate of 86.7% correct out of 300 testing samples is achieved with the adaptive training versus 52.3% correct for non-adaptive training. The experimental results from the optical system are compared with data from a computer model of the system in order to identify noise sources and indicate possible improvements for system performance.