Often in my blogs I speak of three different areas of training. I call these Martial Art, Combat Sport and Self Protection. I will be discussing the individual traits of the three different areas in a three part series. I will address some of the pitfalls in each area as well as what I believe makes each of the three unique and important. lets start with...
Self Protection training is the area of training that concerns itself with dealing with modern day real violence.
Mucho Macho Much?
The world of self protection training is filled with hyper masculine and ultra violent images and marketing by "authorities" that perpetuate a myth of training for "the real thing" and "real situations" in a way that is just a bit over the top. They emphasize behavior that is detrimental for the psychological and emotional health of the student.
So often I see courses or systems of training being promoted by these so called authorities using fear or hyper macho, semi militaristic language and tone in their written articles, promotional materials and even spoken word. This is typically followed by either direct or underhanded comments and "put downs" of the other two areas of training, Martial Art and Combat Sport.
Lets briefly revisit a premise I mention throughout my previous blogs which is; human beings don't really need Self Protection training in order to protect themselves. Our species has been doing it for hundreds of thousands of years quite effectively, against all kinds of different scenarios, and survived.
If we know that humans all over the world have, in general, protected themselves effectively with NO training then it is also true that people can effectively defend themselves after having received ANY TYPE of training; regardless of how unrealistic it may seem to the "Reality Based" system community. Once we accept this reality ( pun intended) then it only becomes a matter of efficiency. Efficiency both in learning the material and its application in true events.
How We Fall
Here are three basic pitfalls that I see in the reality-based self protection community we will start with fear-based marketing and instruction.
The Only Thing To Fear
Sometimes fear-based instruction and marketing is a product of direct abuse by the instructor that is trying to "sell his wares". Their instruction and marketing is just like TV news. "Are you prepared for...?" The newsman will ask in somber tones in order to get you to watch at a particular time.
It's an old trick. If you feel that you need that information to survive (fear response) you will definitely tune in. The same is done by unscrupulous instructors all the time. They are quick to tell you "If you learn my super tactical anti wolf, super sheepdog techniques you will be safe from all murderers and rapists and bikers! These are the only techniques that are tried and tested in a prison full of giant Sasquatch, gang member terminators! Only I have the real answer to that bogeyman that may come at you at any given time!" You get my point. Also beware if you find yourself talking like this :-)
The other side to this coin are instructors that, although well intended, really don't know any better than to constantly think about potential attacks and violence.
These instructors mentally live in an imaginary world where violence is almost always the answer to any possible situation.
Behavior indicated above leads to the second pitfall which is hyper vigilance. The same instructors that use fear as marketing or fear during their instruction tend to create paranoid students.
Although there is a stark difference between awareness and paranoia, the line that divides the two is quite thin and can be easily crossed without self-awareness. Without noticing, somebody that believes that they're just being very aware of their environment, or just being very cautious and implementing reasonable measures to keep themselves safe, can very easily, and unknowingly cross the border into paranoia
The simple test is this; if you live in the United States and you fundamentally believe that we live in a dangerous society more than likely you're paranoid. If you believe that in fact we do live in a very safe society, you are likely to have a healthy sense of awareness.
Something even more important is that somebody that's more relaxed in the exterior environment, and ahas a more broad and external focus, is more likely to be able to detect real danger than somebody that thinks the bogeyman's around every corner.
Warrior Come Out to Plaaaay
The last pitfall of Self Protection Instruction that I will address is the hyper macho, ultra militaristic language I see in some classes, seminars and systems. I see it in their ads and in the actual delivery of their material and seminars.
I find it kind of funny when they use their Conan-like lines "obliterate your enemies until you hear the lamentation of their women..."
Another, somewhat more subtle, line I hear is "the best defense is a good offense" and other such movie-like quotes.
Offense is offense, not a defense at all; it might be a preemptive offense that will keep somebody from implementing their own offense but it's still offense :-)
The notion that knowing how to attack and attacking only is what is going to enable you to survive every encounter is simply inane.
Another notion that is a bit silly is the notion that we must destroy all of those that cross us in some way, even in a physical encounter.
Most likely the real answer for the average citizen that needs to learn self protection is to escape, and escaping doesn't always involve being able to crush our attacker. My recommendation is to stay away from any instructor that sounds like a character from a movie especially if that movie is Conan, the Terminator, the Punisher or the Expendables.
It's Not Your Body
A self protection system should not only address physical self protection it should also address psychological and emotional self protection.
That doesn't mean that every self protection instructor should be some sort of psychiatrist or psychologist or provide some sort of cure-all counseling for any psychological or emotional issues a student may have. But a good self protection instructor should have at least have a fundamental grasp of some clear principles of healthy emotional lifestyles and psychological well-being.
Some simple examples are; teaching students the difference between awareness and paranoia, how to deal with workplace bullying for adults and how to deal with school bullying for the younger students. Another skill set that should be a staple is how to develop a sense of self worth and understanding how having certain feelings like excessive anger or depression or even just having had a stressful, shitty day, can influence their behavior and decision making when a potentially violent situation arises.
Before Shit Happens
Another characteristic of well-rounded self protection training is the teaching of awareness, avoidance, conflict management, and all of the areas that deal with either potential or actual conflict BEFORE it becomes physical. It's just this simple; we should be able to get out of more fights that we get into.
Don't be Offended
It's very important for a self protection system to have sound survival or protective strategies and tactics. In other words if all our preventive strategies and tactics as discussed in the previous section have failed or simply are not applicable because our attacker is In such a position that the he achieves physical contact before we can implement our avoidance strategies, then our self protection system must contain tactics that will enable us to stay conscious, stay on our feet, maintain or regain our sense of balance, regain our equilibrium and recover from a dizzy or shocked state and eventually be able to retaliate and escape the situation.
Unless You Can Be First
Some events clearly put us in a position in which, in order to survive, we need to start the fight. Any sound training regimen will include training in how to strike preemptively when appropriate in order to seize and maintain the advantage over our adversaries.
How To Get Outta Dodge
Escaping is not limited to just knowing where the exits are and things as simple as that. You must also train to understand WHEN is the right time to escape, specially after contact or physical altercation has been initiated between you and a bad guy or group of bad guys. There is a good time and a bad time for us to try to run away and those should be addressed by a well-rounded Self Protection system.
Surviving armed assaults and using both conventional and improvised weapons is something that should be covered in self protection training. The system should at least familiarize the student with edged weapons, blunt instruments, firearms fundamental defense and offense in a rational and safe manner.
It's a Party
Understanding what to do when faced with more than one attacker is another area of training that must be addressed in any intelligent methodology of self protection training.
I Fought The Law
Lastly In order for a self protection methodology to be well-rounded it must also address the legal ramifications of self protection, and using appropriate levels of force for the problem that you encounter. As I am fond of saying, not every Self Protection problem is a nail, so the answer can't always be a hammer. What to do and what not to do if the police arrive at the scene and start asking questions must also be part of the curriculum.
In conclusion if you're truly teaching Self protection then your curriculum should be made up of more than just physical drills and tactics otherwise you're not teaching self protection at all. You are just teaching a slightly more efficient method of violence.
Copyright Tony Torres