I just read an article about another neighborhood that has become fed up with their escalating crime rates. These residents are no longer going to tolerate these crimes without fighting back. The community has decided to host a Self Defense and Safety Awareness Training, much like many, many communities across the United States.
While these programs inherently seem like a good idea, you must also consider the false sense of security that often occurs after spending the hour or two “learning to fight back.”
I discussed this awhile back using the Kim Kardashian self defense episode from her Keeping Up with the Kardashians show. You can click that link to see that whole blog post.
There are a couple major problems with these one-time self defense classes.
Problem #1: Anyone can claim to be a self defense expert and decide to host a training class. It doesn’t matter if the class is offered for free, or they charge cash. The expert instructor may even be a black belt or otherwise trained in some form of martial arts, but if this individual is not well-versed with effective street worthy defense techniques, you are wasting your time, and unknowingly putting yourself at an extreme disadvantage if something unfortunate were to occur.
Problem #2: Once you learn these “techniques of mass destruction”, unless to habitually train and practice these moves, I guarantee you will forget them. Many people think that showing up for an hour session will grant them the keys to the self defense kingdom, and many times the instructor will reinforce these beliefs before you leave, telling you that you are all set to handle anything that comes your way. Then you leave, never giving these moves a second thought until you are put in a situation where you need to utilize those since forgotten techniques.
Problem #3: You give away your secrets beforehand. This typically happens when you try to show someone else what you just learned, and is one of the exact problems Kim Kardashian’s sister illustrated for us. Khloe went home and told her step-dad everything she just learned, and then tried to demonstrate. All of her techniques failed, crushing her recently inflated sense of security and confidence.
Ok, so how do I learn some meaningful self defense techniques then, you ask?
Well, solution #1 is difficult. You expect an instructor standing in front of a room of people to be competent and trustworthy. Many times, It may not necessarily the instructors fault, he might truly feel he is conveying effective methods for defending yourself, but has no real world experience to back up his claims that sound good on paper, or worked fine in a training dojo on targets who acted out their role in what we would refer to a perfect environment.
My best recommendation is to take anything you learn at one of these classes with a grain of salt. Carefully consider its merit, but also realize that you are not going to gain 10 years worth of martial arts training in an hour or 2. Keep your ego in check.
Solution #2 is easy. Practice, practice, practice what you have learned. Did I say make sure you practice?
The worst thing you can do in any situation, whether we are talking about self defense seminar information, buying pepper spray or a stun gun, or even playing basketball, is to not practice.
You need to practice enough to make sure you are comfortable enough to do whatever it takes, and effectively utilize these moves in a stressful situation. If you have to stop and think what that instructor told you, you fail. If you forgot what pocket you stashed your pepper spray, or never flipped the safety switch before until you had a thug in your face, you fail.
And we aren’t even talking about 3 hours of hardcore training every day. You can “get away” with 20 minutes a couple times a week if that is all you can squeeze into your busy schedule. Trust me, if you are ever faced with a situation where you need to kick someone in the groin, or douse someone with pepper spray, you will treasure all of the practice time you put in. This isn’t like winning a gold medal in the Olympics; well maybe it is, but a gold medal in living if your life just happened to depend on it…
Solution #3 isn’t rocket science either. One of your best defenses is the element of surprise. Most of the time, an attacker is not counting on you to fight back. Kim and her sister’s problem was they told her step-dad what to do, and what they were going to do. So to prove a point, the step-dad did not do “what he was supposed to do,” which flustered the Kardashian sister and rendered their entire “two hour” arsenal useless.
When you practice, you need a good partner but you cannot rely on one way of doing things. A good example is if your technique required you to kick your opponent in the groin. One, you need your training partner to act the part, and act like they got kicked. The problem is: what is the correct way to react to a groin kick? What if they bend over and fall backwards, what if they simply drop straight down to one knee, or what if they collapse forward into your body? If you only ever practiced one way, how would you react if they did something off-script? You need to be prepared for an alternate finish. What if your attacker was jacked up on meth, and just stood there with no effect whatsoever? What if you missed the groin kick and hit them in the inner thigh, that reaction will be less than what you expected? I bet your Self Defense and Safety Training seminar instructor didn’t get in to that great of detail.
This is where enrolling in a good martial arts school could help. It would probably cost you up to $100 a month, but you would get regular training sessions a couple times a week, and some personalized instruction and feedback. Just make sure you are studying at a reputable dojo that teaches effective and realistic self defense. Something like a good American Kenpo or Krav Maga school.
Tae Bo and Cardio Kickboxing are great if you are looking to drop a few pounds and get in shape, but do not confuse exercise classes, sport karate or traditional tai chi styled martial arts with real world self defense. Train where you want; just realize what you are getting out of it.
Another option is instructional self defense DVDs. Now before you condemn video instruction, think about what you are getting and how often you watch YouTube clips to learn other tasks. Sure, you are not going to master a martial art by going through prepackaged white belt through black belt video correspondence courses, but instructional self defense videos aren’t bad.
What you are getting is an hour to a couple hours of self defense footage, but the difference between these DVDs and the training awareness seminar is that you can watch the DVD over and over again, practicing correctly and fine tuning your skills. You do not have to worry about forgetting what you learned 3 months ago and the local YMCA. Just rewind and review over and over, and you may even recognize the martial arts expert in the video, not just some Joe Schmoe local expert…
Or, if you can’t be bothered with learning all that martial arts mumbo jumbo, you can quite simply go the pepper spray, stun gun, TASER device or other self defense weapon route. These items are effective when used properly (meaning buy, practice, carry and deploy when needed).
Just like the self defense techniques, none of these self defense tools will do you a lick of good if you don’t carry them, carry them in inconvenient places, buy it and don’t know how to use it, or if you are simply unwilling to pull the trigger.
Don’t get me wrong, any extra information and awareness training you can get is a good idea. Anything that gets people to pay attention to their surroundings, and warns people to stay out of dark alleys at 2 AM is good. Just don’t fall into a false sense of security thinking you are invincible after a short seminar or that your new keychain pepper spray is a magical shield of protection. And don’t think avoidance is the key, sometimes bad things seek out good people in good neighborhoods or in broad daylight.
Teach yourself the difference between losing your purse and staying unharmed, or fighting for your life or the life of a loved one. Self defense isn’t an exact science; it is full of gut instincts, practical experience and practice, practice, practice.
Every little bit helps, just don’t rely on one sole mechanism to protect you. Always stay alert, use your head and assess the situation – the best you can. That is all you can be expected to do.
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