Violent attacks are occurring everywhere. It seems that not a day goes by without the news covering a horrific attack. It used to be for most of us that we could say the violence was somewhere else, other countries, big cities, or other places we don’t live. It is different now. Violent attack can and does happen where we live.
All of this violence is making people believe it’s time to learn self-defense. This is increasing demand for martial arts classes, specifically the Self-Defense Seminar. These seminars are great for martial arts schools to attract new students. People, who attend, get a sense for the benefits of martial arts and some people who go to the seminars become students. Unfortunately, most people are drawn to the quick fix. They want to spend an hour and leave being able to execute martial arts moves in a violent defense situation. This is an unrealistic expectation.
People look at martial artists, especially black-belts and school owners as experts in violence. If we only teach people groin strikes and simple strike combinations (especially without making real contact), the seminar attendees will mistakenly believe that they have all of the tools they need to defend themselves.
Learning a few techniques is less useful than learning some concepts that will help people stay safe:
- People are generally nice. Predators are not. We show people mercy. Predators do not. One of the lessons we need to teach people is that they should not expect mercy in a violent attack and they can’t safely give it. A light kick to the groin or striking the chest rather than the throat to try to avoid hurting the attacker will put the victim in more danger. They need to strike hard and get away.
- The best defense is to avoid a place where you’ll be attacked. This does not mean people need to lock themselves in their home, but they do need to think about where they go. If you go to a bar where there are a lot of fights, there is more of a chance that you will get into a fight. Where every you are, if you see suspicious behavior or if you sense tension that can lead to violence, leave the area.
- If you need to execute a self-defense technique, you failed at avoiding danger. You missed the signs from point two. Having to use your techniques should be the last resort and if you do have to use them, use them hard as described in point one.
- Distractions will get you in trouble. If you are focused on Pokémon Go as you are walking through a dark parking lot, you can miss the two muggers coming up behind you. Situational awareness is the most important self-defense tool. It is hard to defend against something you don’t see and seeing trouble when you still have an escape route, gives you a better chance of avoiding it.
As teachers, we need to realize that the self-defense seminar will be the only exposure to martial arts for 99% of the people who attend. This means that we need to teach the defense attitude, situational awareness and avoidance in the seminar. The martial arts techniques offer the flash that attract people to the class but if you only teach the technique, the student (who sees you as an expert in violence) will believe that a couple of techniques is all they need to know.
I have trained in fighting arts for many years and seriously trained martial arts for the last 10 years. Even with that experience I would rather avoid trouble than to have to rely on my skills for defense. If a student leaves a seminar believing that a couple of techniques will save them from any situation, they are being set up to fail in very dangerous situations.
Continue teaching these seminars. They are an important to bringing awareness to the martial arts and people do need help in learning to defend themselves. Just make sure that you are teaching people the whole defense story and letting them know that proficiency in martial arts takes years, so they don’t get into more trouble in a defense situation.