Often when a self defence course is run there is limited time to get the message across. As with all martial arts there is, of course, a huge amount to cover but with a self defence course we are expecting to be able to defend ourselves by the end of it.
Likewise with Karate, kung fu or whatever, part of the deal is wanting to feel safer by being able to defend ourselves in times of danger. It is not possible to realistically be able to cover sufficient ground for someone to effectively be able to defend themselves against all kinds of attacker in a short time. However, it should be possible to improve the chances of being able to do so.
A good self defence course, or self defence section of a martial arts style, should cover the following
Awareness and avoidance - being aware of potential danger is the easiest way to avoid it, providing someone with the skills to spot trouble is essential.
Simple effective defence techniques - techniques both standing and on the ground should be learned. These should be simple in execution rather than complex using gross rather than fine motor skills
Power production - it's all very well learning a striking technique and keeping it safe to train but it is essential that any given skill can be delivered with power, otherwise it is not effective
Movement skills - movement is essential not only in the delivery of techniques but also to be able to effect an escape. This is especially so for multiple attackers
Pressure testing - once learned skills should be applied under increasingly difficult situations approaching what a real fight would be like
Not all self defence courses have the time to cover all of these aspects as often training will only be available for as little as one afternoon per year, for certain at risk jobs. For me though the biggest crime is to 'forget' to include some form of relevant pressure testing.
It is all very well to teach techniques which allow a person to escape from any number of nasty situations but if the training attacker is only employed in a perfunctory manner then there is no way of knowing if the technique will work in the real world. While that is obvious it is important that techniques are practiced at a level where it can 'fail'. If you do not try to get it to fail you will have no idea of how effective it is for you!
It really is key, as all the other bases can be covered but if something really doesn't work under the pressure of a 'live' situation it really should be binned. You may very well be able to apply a gross motor technique with power on the move BUT when the stakes are upped and pressure applied it falls apart. In this case it should be dropped no matter how much you like it, or at least relegated to certain instances only, ie. those where you can get it to work. It is better to spend time developing techniques that work than to waste time practising a favourite skill.
If your self defence is important enough to train for it is important enough to train for properly and effectively!
Want to read more about women's self defence? Click through to the Epic Martial Arts Blog for more information and tips on all kinds of martial arts skills and particularly these two posts, firstly, http://epicmartialartsblog.com/self-defence-for-women-rape-defence and secondly http://epicmartialartsblog.com/adding-the-live-to-rape-defence which cover methods for effectively training self defence for women.
Dr. Jon Law is a sports scientist, martial arts instructor and blogger from Birmingham UK with almost 20 years experience.
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