A video that Breda posted with a posed question about firearms raised several other concerns from Weer’d , SaysUncle and Mike about the particular training observed in the video. These concerns specifically addressed how the training is bad advice and ineffective. I’ll go farther and say it’s stupid, misleading, and will probably get someone seriously hurt or killed.
I’ve met countless women that tell me they feel more confident after taking a self-defense class or tae-bo class at their local gym. I tend to ask what they learned and why they feel more confident. The most common answer is, “because I feel like I can defend myself.” I usually say something to the effect of, “no you can’t, but if you’d like to practice the techniques or learn some new ones I’d be happy to work with you.” That reply almost always incites RiotGrrl bravado about empowerment or, “I know some stuff now and I don’t have time to practice more.” Both answers illustrate why this type of training is bad; it gives people confidence in nothing. It takes long hard practice to get proficient at self defense of any kind, much less unarmed self defense. This is usually the part of the conversation where I get uncomfortable. I am torn between feeling like a preachy, lecturing asshole and feeling like if I’m not, this person is not going to realize that what they learned is only going to get them seriously injured or killed. “I know, but wait!” you say, “You were already an asshole with what you said before.” I just can’t help that initial reaction. Before you judge me, though, let me tell you an interesting story and take from it what you want.
I have a background in martial arts and I’ve had several instructors, but one in particular was entirely different from the usual sort of instructor. He was in fact a little strange and mysterious. For this story I’ll call him Bob. Bob was a very good instructor and teacher and he knew the techniques very well like the other instructors, but after he taught you something he would say, “So how do you think you’d actually use that technique in a self defense situation? Let me show you.” He would then start a sparring match with someone in the the class and emphasize the usefulness (or lack) of a particular technique in a real world situation. This truly was odd. Other instructors would show you techniques and how they worked accepting that they were good, but they’d never make you prove it nor point out their weaknesses. This really set Bob apart. He was also mysterious in discussing his past experience outside of class, yet if you ever saw him fight or move through techniques you knew he was good and seemed to have a lot of experience fighting. He really looked like he knew what he was doing.
In our class Bob had a star pupil – I’ll call him Dan. Dan was very good: he held 3 black belts in various disciplines and obtained the last one by embarrassing a higher level figher so badly in a tournament that he was promoted on the spot. This guy wanted to be a martial artist. He wanted his own Dojo and did nothing but practice and teach on the side to make extra money. He was fantastic to watch in action. Dan is a very nice guy and was a great assistant instructor, but once in a while – usually after a tournament – he’d get a little cocky. Bob would pick up on this in the following classes and arrange a little match.
While Dan was Bob’s star pupil, I was his favorite demonstrator model. This led to me obtaining many aches and pains and bruises but I also learned a lot. I guess it was because I was the biggest guy in class, and hey if you can do it to him it just might work.
So Bob’s match would be set up between Dan and I. Bob would say, “I just want to see what you guys can do.” I’d like to point out that at this time Dan had 3 black belts and about 8 years of constant experience, and was about 5’10 and weighed about 165 or so. I had no black belts and about 2 yrs experience. I was good, but also nowhere near the level of Dan’s technique. I was about 6’4 and 250. So we’d suit up and go not quite full contact. I’d catch a lot of punches and kicks in the face and body usually, but eventually I’d get close to him and we’d lock up. When that happened 7 times out of 10 I’d get Dan into a position where he’d have to give up or risk serious injury. How could I possibly beat this guy? The answer is simple: the size difference gave me the advantage. He was in great shape, had all of the technique and practice, but the leverage and mass of my size with a little bit of knowledge allowed me to win. Not that I didn’t pay for it, mind you. As Bob would always say, “No one ever wins a fight, there’s only degrees of losing.” That was indeed the case after our battles.
After a few matches Dan finally picked up on what Bob was trying to teach him and his after match cockiness went away. We did continue our bouts so we could get better and the more matches we had, the more the outcome would favor Dan. He adapted, he pulled techniques I had never seen and he got smarter about his fighing. He had to practice very hard to even out the size difference and it took a lot of trial and error and time. The initial outcomes were not flukes – it was purely due to the difference in size and weight. Keep in mind that this was a pair of guys who weren’t really trying to injure, maim, rape, or kill each other. Think about that when your self defence confidence is high after your hour long class. How well do you think you stack up to a guy with 3 black belts and 8 year experience against an attacker twice your size with real intent to hurt you?
I’m not against training and technique, but make sure you don’t kid yourself as to your effectiveness. Please think about this.