Self Defense Seminars
We frequently get asked to do one-time or short-term seminars on self defense, and the groups expect to learn a variety of effective self defense techniques. The problem is that the general public doesn't understand what it takes to learn real self defense. Movies, television and most martial arts instructors haven't helped much in this regard.
It is practically impossible to teach effective self defense techniques to raw beginners and have any realistic hope of them being effective in one sitting. In fact, our experience is that takes at least three months of training 2-3 times per week, and at about nine months the person is beginning to be able to adequately defend himself from a simulated assault.
Short term seminars have two useful goals:
- They can teach beginners about the psychological principles and practices of self defense -- awareness, avoidance and de-escalation -- and that the best option in any assault is usually to flee. It can include an overview and handling of common self defense weapons.
- They can help those who already have considerable experience in boxing, wrestling or contact martial arts adapt their training to be more useful for self defense. Self defense requires different targets, modified techniques, and a completely different mindset from that found in most martial sports/arts.
These psychological skills are critical and usually overlooked. The reality is that we are all very vulnerable, easily injured, surprised, overpowered, and even killed. The most important part of personal protection is being aware of dangerous situations and people, avoiding them whenever possible, and de-escalating a conflict if you happened to step into one (de-escalating usually means apologizing profusely as you are running the other way).
Next, people should carry an effective weapon, and develop expertise in its use -- this alone can take weeks or months.
If you are going to learn self defense techniques, realize that these are meant to injure your attacker so that you can draw your weapon and use it, or escape directly. Physical self defense skills entail developing deflecting abilities, powerful combinations of hand strikes, elbows, knees and kicks, being able to resist take downs and being able to fight from the ground. Again, these skills take months to develop. Entire martial arts -- lifelong endeavors -- are dedicated to just portions of that skill set.
Learning self defense is a much bigger commitment than most people think.
Some groups make a lot of money offering short term self defense seminars. A few instructors show up, and one or more have a full-body padded suit. You learn some techniques and get to beat on the dummy a bit. Everyone goes home happy, thinking they've learned something. It is better than nothing, but I'd actually rather that people understand their own vulnerabilities than have a false sense of confidence and perhaps end up in a situation beyond their control.
Some martial arts instructors also offer self defense seminars or special classes for women. These suffer from the same or similar weaknesses found in martial arts classes that claim to be self defense; compliant partners, pre-scripted and unrealistic drills, overly-complex techniques, and things that simply don't work on the Bad Guys.
A good self defense program will teach you about how the most important thing you can do is avoid dangerous situations in the first place. It sounds chicken, but it is wise. Next, learn to use and keep an effective weapon with you at all times. Finally, if you are going to learn physical self defense, you must learn and practice combinations at full power, learning how to cause an injury to another human being so that you can escape. You must also learn to defend from his likely attacks whether upright, clinching, or on the ground.
We welcome comments, questions and suggestions for improvement.
Via Potentia, 805 NW Alder St., McMinnville OR 97128
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