To start, I would like to preface this article by clarifying the difference between self-defense training and martial arts. Most self-defense training comes in the form of 2–3-hour seminars, sometimes a series of short classes. However, martial arts are a lifetime endeavor. A good self-defense seminar should provide the tools you need quickly, while martial arts take time to fully develop. Finding the right self-defense training for you requires a little research and foreknowledge.
Finding the Right Self-Defense Training
I’ll be honest, in the years that I have taught martial arts and self-defense, I have ruffled some feathers. And I am ok with that. I am sure I will ruffle a few here as well.
Right off the bat, I will say that there is no “one” self-defense solution for all. Some people are very passive in nature, and some are more combative when it comes to personal protection. Both are ok and can still be successful with self-defense. They just take different approaches and different lengths of time to learn.
One Time Seminar vs. a Couple Month Course
When it comes to finding self-defense training there are different levels of instruction. There is everything from 2–3-hour seminars to 2–3-month courses. However, there is nothing that says you can’t do both. I am a proponent of starting small and working up.
Start with a simple seminar that will give you immediate tools and then move on to a longer course. As a result, you will have immediately usable techniques while you work on building a more effective skillset.
When looking into a seminar or course, do some research. Talk to others who have taken the course and ask what they thought. Ask them to show you a few things to see if the techniques and teaching were simple enough to remember. Also, when looking into a longer course, ask if you can sit in on a class or two to evaluate it.
Simplicity is Key
Comparatively, a 2-3-hour seminar should look different from a 2-3-month course. To illustrate, a 125-pound woman is not going to learn how to beat up a 220-pound aggressive man in 2-3 hours. I don’t care how good of a student she is or how good the class is.
Although a 2-3-month course will give you more skills to work with, I would still say the same goes. Remember, if someone is attacking you, they most likely have a history of violence. And with it comes the ability to withstand a few punches and kicks.
While striking should absolutely be a part of the curriculum, it should only be taught in conjunction with escape techniques. The focus shouldn’t be on going toe to toe with your attacker, but rather escaping and finding help.
If you do have to fight, fancy techniques are going to do little without proper and extensive training. You are better off going completely nuts like a spider monkey hopped up on Mountain Dew. Kick, scratch, claw, bite, scream, foam at the mouth, hit him with anything you can grab. Make it more trouble than it is worth for your attacker until you can escape.
Everything in the class should be easy to learn, easy to use, and easy to remember. The more advanced or complex the techniques are, the easier they will be to forget soon after the class.
Personally, I have found that self-defense classes taught in JuJutsu (Japanese or Brazilian) schools tend to be the most effective. This is because they focus on escaping various holds and grasps and use easy, intuitive techniques that feel natural. Escape and egress should be the focus of any self-defense course. Striking should only be a means to this end.
Getting Beyond Physical Confrontation
Any good self-defense class should have a strong focus on situational awareness. I have a saying, based on a quote from Sun Tsu, “You win 100% of the fights you don’t get in.” Avoidance is your friend.
I have found over the years that self-defense is roughly 90% awareness and only 10% technique. If you are fully aware of your surroundings, you dramatically decrease the odds of an encounter. Make sure to find a class that places an emphasis on situational awareness instruction.
However, life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. Not to mention that some assaults happen in the home or by someone you know and trust. But this is where the 10% technique comes in.
Fact vs. Fiction
Just a quick note on evaluating the instruction in a self-defense seminar or course. Make sure that the techniques are legitimate.
If the instructor is teaching how to shove the nose into the brain, they are teaching nonsense and will probably do more harm than good. It is physiologically impossible to shove the nose into the brain. If it were possible, boxers would be dropping like flies and the sport would be outlawed. However, with that said, the nose is a great place to strike. It is very painful and will make his eyes water, at the very least. Absolutely target the nose, just don’t expect him to drop dead.
Likewise, if they suggest that you can shove your fingers into the eyes and pop them, that is also nonsense. The eye is very resilient. Not to mention the reflexes of the eyelid are lightning-fast and you will not get past them. But this does not make them a bad target. Pressing hard on the eyes will cause a lot of pain and a potential ocular concussion, which could result in loss of consciousness. The eyes are a great target, just know what to expect.
The point is when the instructor makes a wild claim about the results of a strike or other attack, be suspicious. Question everything. There are a lot of myths out there and believing them could get you into worse trouble. Not to mention, it calls into question the real-world experience of the instructor.
Many people tend to think of boxing or kickboxing when they think of finding self-defense training. While these are great options, they also take a long time to get good enough to be effective. The same goes for any martial art. Self-defense by its very nature should be simple and effective, right away. Martial arts and competitive sports, like boxing and kickboxing, take time.
I recommend starting with a self-defense seminar and building an immediately usable base or foundation. Then move on to a longer, more in-depth self-defense course. Finally, if you would like to continue training, find a martial art or competitive sport that is right for you.
For example, if you are more passive, you may want to consider something more like JuJutsu, Judo, etc. However, if you are more aggressive, then something like boxing, kung fu, karate, FMA (Filipino Martial Arts), etc. might be more your speed.
Selecting the right martial art or competitive sport is important because if it doesn’t fit your personality, you’ll stop going. But if you enjoy it and it suits you, you won’t be able to wait for the next class.
Over time, it will all start to come together and provide a skillset you can rely on. But it takes time. So, start simple and don’t overlook the importance of firearm training and carrying a defensive pistol as a force multiplier. Every little bit helps.
Keep it real and stay safe.