My previous post is a photograph of the Back of a DVD cover I saw at a student/friends house recently. It annoyed me. I will say right now that I have not watched this DVD at all, and therefore I will not make any comment about it’s content. However, what i would like to talk about is something that has always bothered me and that is the idea of quick Self Defence courses and even more so…the notion that self defence can be learnt by way of watching a DVD.
In this case I would actually love some feedback, particularly from martial arts instructors, and some other peoples opinions on this topic.
Regularly I receive inquiries from prospective students (mainly women) who are looking at undertaking a ‘self defence workshop or short course’. Each time I take calls like these, a little ball of tension rolls up inside my stomach and I find myself almost frustrated on the phone and for a long time i didn’t know why. I eventually came to the realisation that I have dedicated a good half of my life to learning martial arts and like to think of myself as being both strong of mind and body and somewhat skilled in terms of my chosen style, however feel like there is sooo much more to learn. When I take a call and someone wants to learn how to confidently defend themselves in 3-6 weeks……or listen to someone tell me they learnt skills from a DVD…I feel like it’s somewhat of an insult to those of us who dedicate so much time to this practise.
Of course, much of what is practised nowdays in Martial Arts schools I would imagine is more aimed towards the sport of martial arts. Fighting sport yes, but not true Budo as I imagine in my head it would have been like years ago when if you lost a fight, you died. I’m not trying to detract from anyone’s training here…please understand me when I say that even some of the toughest fighters out there today whether its MMA, Karate, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, BJJ or Western Boxing etc still train for a fighting sport. The fighting arena has rules. Because of these rules…..it probably creates more technical fighters and i beleive fights will go for longer thus the strong emphasis on being fit and having endurance. As the sports arena grows and advances every day…Martial arts practitioners at top level are competing as elithe athletes and so thus the dedication to training and regular practise nutrition, sports science etc. Your average person looking to learn a basic skill set doesn’t require that i suppose, but having said that…….. one of the best self defence strategies has to be to “Run Away from Danger if possible”. Now…if that danger chases you……let’s hope you are fit. So….lesson 1 should be that. Go practise running and get fitter and better at it. Thing about that…..if you don’t run all the time. You don’t stay running fit. You lose your endurance. You lose your stamina. You get slower. And already……here is the first major flaw in a 3 -6 week program.
Lesson 2 ) Effective technique. I am not going to go into specific techniques or styles here, as my whole point here is about a general concept. But whatever style you do…..and lets even go outside the box and talk about Golf….. technique needs to be practised. It needs to be practised so many times and so often that it’s second nature. A pro golfer would stand at a driving range and go through swing after swing after swing. They would try different clubs and different swing speeds and different golf courses and spend hours playing the game trying to better their skills. And once they got good and honed that technique, I would imagine they would continue this training and not stop after an allocated amount of time. Simply put, this can almost be likened to that age old saying….Use it or lose it. Beyond that too one has to consider the speed at which one responds and with what level of ability. Constanct practise keeps the reflexes sharp and the mind quick. I could think of no better time than to be able to react with speed than when your safety is threatened. And that is what i beleive is the 2nd major flaw in short courses. Unless the participant continues practising the course content….what happens to effective technique then ?
Lesson 3) Tried and Tested. Skills need to be able to be used with confidence and under stress. A self defence situation is a very real one that would carry a vast amount of stress and adrenaline along with it. Going through the motions in a self defence course with friendly classmates who although put in effort for the benefit of the schooling, probably don’t have the intention to hurt you. So…do you really know if what you are doing is effective ? What’s more…..how will you deal with the fear and stress that may come along with a threatening situation ? Althought tournament fighting is a regulated sporting activity, I guess it’s as close as most people are going to get to a situation where someone is actually really trying to hurt them. And even then…within this arena depending on your style , you may be fighting full contact or not. Still…….the stress of winning and losing is still there in a non contact bout…but I don’t beleive the lessons are as great. DVD learning ….well how can you do that ? Unless you take that DVD and practise with a friend who cranks it on for you…..how can you possible try and test out what you are watching ? And this trial and error is an ongoing process. We try, we fail, we grow, we learn. We try , we fail, we grow, we learn and so on.
And they are the three main things I don’t like about the concept of Self defence courses. I will say one thing positive though and that is that I think most of self defence is about common sense and strategies for staying out of trouble. if the course covers these areas…..then that would be something worth doing !
And by this i mean the simple stuff like : don’t walk around alone at night in a busy city street with your heaphones in your ears blaring loud music. You don’t have all your situational awareness about you and don’t have the potential to see/hear a threat sneaking up on you from behind. Those kinds of lessons. it may sound silly…..but information like that is probably more likely to stop you from being a potential victim than some A/B/C crappy yell, punch here and kick here technique that you practised x 10 ten times over a 3 week period. Anyone agree ?
I guess too that if a 3 week course or an instructional boxfit DVD with self defence tacked on the end of it….changes your mindset to that of someone who is prepared to fight and not submit to being a victim….then I guess that’s a positive too. However, just think that if confidence comes with knowledge and practise…how much more confident and strong could you be if you did more than just a DVD or 3 week course ?!!!
My opinion is that if you are really concerned about looking after yourself or your loved ones, make training a priority. if the aforementioned golfer misses his shot he probably loses a lot of money. How much value do you place on your life ? Dedicate time to learn the skills you desire and put aside time for their practise. Learn about strategies for staying safe and teach them to your kids. Keep yourself healthy (these days you probably should be more concerned about the food you are eating and the drugs you are taking than someone bashing you in the street) but that’s another blog article right there ! If you are serious about self defence then get serious about learning it . Find a style that you like, enjoy and suits you ; Sign up and train and practise the *&%$ out of it as often as possible.
So, sorry no. I won’t be offering any short self defence courses at the dojo any time soon. We do have classes though, almost every day. Which night would you like to train ?
Again, I really would like feedback on this so If you have the time, and an opinion I would like to hear it.
Osu & Regards,