June 22, 2024

Sports Enthusiast

Professional Sports Purveyors

Is Your Martial Arts Or Self-Defense Program Really Teaching You the Right Lessons For Self-Defense?

Countless adults enroll in martial arts and self-defense programs every year. Likewise, it seems that there is a never-ending line of parents enrolling their children into martial arts schools. And, while many of these people – adult students and parents alike – are looking for a sport or activity, most would say they are looking for self-defense.

Why then, do most adults who have dropped out of a martial arts program within the first hundred days say they did so due to a lack of real-world self-defense training early on? Who do parents convey a sense of doubt that “Johnny” will be able to defend himself, despite the fact that he’s earned his Black Belt?

Why do most women, and many men, still voice their own doubt to be able to actually use what they’ve learned under pressure should they ever be attacked by a real attacker in the real world.

While there are many factors that play a part in whether or not you learn any subject well enough, there are 7 areas that you can take control, or be aware of when researching, choosing, and participating in a martial arts or self-defense program; especially if your goal is the development of real-world self-defense skills.

7 Ways To Know If Your Martial Arts Or Self-Defense Class Is Worth Anything

Many people ask the question, “If I have no experience and don’t know what a real street attack is like, how can I even begin to know if the program I’m in is teaching me what I need to survive?”

And that’s a really good question.

Here are 7 things that you can look for that will help you to gauge the value of any martial arts or self-defense program that’s promising to teach you real self-protection skills and ability against a real-world attacker throwing real-world attacks at YOU!

1. The attacks that you’re practicing against are modern, street-fighter, attacks. You’ve seen what real, modern attacks look like. All you have to do is to watch an action (non-martial arts) movie, a boxing match on ESPN, or remember the fights you saw in school, the bar, or wherever.

Make sure that you’re not defending against robotic, 16th century-type attacks that you’ll NEVER see in today’s world.

2. Techniques EASILY work on bigger, stronger attackers. Not because you have to be the bigger, stronger fighter, or because your partner fell down for you.

Many things will challenge you in the beginning, like where to put your foot, or which hand-does-what. But…

…in the world of self-defense training, remember K.I.S.S – “Keep It Simple Stupid!”

3. You don’t have to be a super-fit athlete to do well. Again, self-defense situations are very different from the sport and competitive world. In sports, you are always matched up with someone who matches your size, skill level, experience, etc. However, in a real-world attack scenario, you are almost always the underdog.

As I always tell my students, no attacker is going to look at you from across the street and think, “They can kick my butt. I’ll attack them!”

You should never have to be the bigger, faster, stronger combatant to win. Because, in a self-defense situation, unlike a sport-oriented tournament… You WON’T be!

4. You’re lessons are based on principles and concepts, not preset, stylized moves that always conform to the “style” being taught at that school. It’s true that there will probably be “techniques” that you’ll be learning. But these should be “models,” or examples of an idea that is flexible and adaptable to the situation.

An example of a principle or concept would be, “remember that the thumb is the weakest joint in the hand.” So, when you learn the technique for escaping a wrist grab, you know “what” you’re doing to cause the escape to happen. Not just that “pulling your hand out ‘this’ way.”

5. Your teacher has real-world experience. Contrary to popular belief, a black belt around someone’s waist, or a certification in a particular training program, has NOTHING to do with whether or not the person has ever had to use what they’re teaching in a real-world self-defense situation against a violent attacker.

Is it possible that a person with no actual fight experience can still teach viable, effective self-defense?

The answer to that is, of course, “yes.”

But, and this is a BIG but (n pun intended!), he or she will have to:

  • Have done a ton of research on what it’s like INSIDE a self-defense situation
  • Know the body’s responses to, and limitations when under the fight-flight-freeze response, or…
  • Have a teacher who has the experience and made sure they passed on the right lessons in the first place

6. You’re seeing progress immediately and often. It’s one thing to learn something. It’s something altogether different to KNOW that thing. And, it’s something different still to be able to USE what you know, under-pressure, when you need it most.

I’ve seen programs where beginning students are stuck at either of two extremes. While some are forced to endure classes where they do nothing but bow, block, stretch and exercise for weeks or months until they can move onto the “next lesson,” others are at the other end of the spectrum where they are given so many different techniques that they can’t get good at any one thing.

In a solid program teaching effective skill development and understanding of self-defense principles, students have the time to develop the skills they’re learning, while being given a few options that will allow them to produce results in a short amount of time.

7. No part of your training is there, “just ’cause.” So many programs being offered are lacking in substance, either because the person teaching doesn’t have enough knowledge, or the program itself consists of little more than a few “tricks” that are guaranteed to work against every attack.

Many martial arts programs, in an attempt to maintain connection with the foundations of the lineage and remain “traditional,” overload students with information that has absolutely nothing to do with being able to defend yourself. This is in no way meant to take away from the importance of a student understanding the roots of the program they’re learning. But, such information should be used to valid and add value to what you’re learning, not add “fluff” and substance where little exists in the first place.

It is up to you, and you alone to insure that you are getting what you need from a program that’s supposed to be teaching you how to keep yourself and loved-ones safe. No amount of blind-faith, discipleship, or blaming after-the-fact will substitute for learning good, solid, and effective techniques, tactics and strategies that will allow you to be effective against a brutal assailant looking to beat, break, or kill you.

I know how easy it is to choose a school, program, or teacher because it or they are…

  • close to home
  • a friend
  • inexpensive, or…
  • they’re wearing a black belt

But, none of these things has anything to do with effective self-defense. Choose wisely, and above all, look for value and the key points that I outlined above. And, in the end, if you ever have to go through the hell of a raging assault, you’ll be glad you did what you needed to – not what was easy.