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Paul Tsd
Paul Tsd's picture
Real experience to teach 'real self protection'?

Is it necessary for a person to have a violent background to be able to teach 'real self protection'.   I am big fan of many of the leading people in this area and many of them have either done door work, security work or even been football hooligans etc.  I feel it necessary for me to pass on what I have learned over the years but I can't help feeling that I lack the experience.   I have had some incidents like many others, but nothing really serious.  I am always honest when I teach and never pretend that I am some great street fighter. I just think it is important that people know what works and what probably won't.  

Katz's picture

I'm in your exact situation (although not teaching much yet).

From what I've been reading, though, I believe it's okay to teach if you don't have first-hand experience, as long as you're honest.

Many people will teach self-defense without a clue either, and will pretend they know what works or what doesn't. They will likely believe it themselves. That's dangerous.

On the other hand, you've been reading and learning from people who you feel know what they're talking about. Of course you will interpret some of what they say, and change some things, even without noticing. It won't be perfect. Still, most people don't have a clue about violence. Teaching them what you were taught should be beneficial. There are way more people that don't know anything about violence than people who've faced it. The last can't teach all the former.

Also, I just finished reading Rory Miller's "Meditations on Violence". From that book (and it makes sense to me), just because you've faced hooligans doesn't mean you have any clue about what to do against a mugging, just because you've defeated many muggers doesn't mean you know what to do if taken hostage, just because you're a hostage negotiator doesn't mean you know how to face a violent home invasion... Very few people have experience in different kinds of violence anyway. It helps to know one, but won't prepare you entirely. You have to take the word of experts at some point.

Of course that's my opinion, as someone who's never faced violence... I'd love to hear other opinions!

keithbaileymbe's picture

From miltary experience we do not need to teach martial arts from a violent background, we teach Martial Arts which depending on your interpretation it is in effect Self Defence. We drum into students, Do not take this on to the street as Martial Arts is all about defence; Defence of our Family, Friends and Ourselves. I do not feel that you need to have had a violent back ground to teach self defence. I do believe though that common sense and knowing you abilitys and limitations is important. You can not physically teach everyone about every sort of violence one is likely to encounter, but what can be taught is the ability to respond through good reactions. Bruce Lee was asked "Would you ever kill anyone?" His reply was "Not deliberately but possibly through reaction"

We must be honest and indeed I am with all my students as to inform them the reality of violence and of course the repercussions that many may encounter.  Through personal violence or bullying most will experience the "Freeze" the moment the adrenaline kicks in and we are suddenly victims, no one can possibly say how any person will react when confrontet as every situation is different. Through robust training and good teaching it does make a difference because you get to decide through the dicipline of martial arts how to deal with the situation, or take flight. 

I know of 3 experienced Black Belts in London many years ago, they were on their way to a training session and were approached by a group of youths with weapons; All 3 surrendered their wallets to the group. Just goes to show through martial arts you know when to back off.  

A great knowledge of pressure points is advantageous, if you have the time to use them, pretty much as with many other techniques. It is not hard to show any student the vulnerable areas of every human being, it is knowing how to get to these areas when the adrenalin rush is on. Sadly you can not teach experience and, not even you will know how you will react until you are confronted with a situation.

Oss - Yours in Good Training. 

Again this is just my oppinion and observations over the last 30 years in the Military & Martial Arts.

shoshinkanuk's picture

We have covered this subject before, im sure someone will be able to link?

It's a good subject for sure.

Personally I wouldn't train in a dedicated way with anyone who haddn't experienced violence, on several occasions. Im not training to be special forces - and im also not training to deal with three armed madmen, Im also not training to learn the 'death touch' but I would like to be able to use what I do within sensible parameters.

Of course others can do what they wan't, I have no opinion really on kids karate, sport kata, or XMA apart from im really not interested in those things!

Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture

This is one of the reasons I've gone back to teaching 'Combat Sport' rather than making bold but hard to substantiate claims about teaching self-defence, despite some relevant personal experience.

Combat sport gives evidence of competence.  Trophies, results etc.  so we can prove our training methods work in that context. While some students may also be able to execute those skills in other places (i.e. during unprovoked attacks) undoubtedly some won't.  

I no longer feel honest advertising and selling skills that I know some - the most vulnerable - may not have the power and ferocity to apply. 


JWT's picture

shoshinkanuk wrote:

We have covered this subject before, im sure someone will be able to link?


Hi Jim, I think this is the thread you were thinking of:


Paul Tsd
Paul Tsd's picture
Thanks for all your comments. I also had a look at some of the other threads last night, some great advice there also. Regards. Paul.
Michael Hough
Michael Hough's picture

I've had very little "real experience." I have had the opportunity to learn from guys like Iain, Marc MacYoung, and Rory Miller.

Most people are not going to have that opportunity (even if offered). Most people are going to settle for me. Now I can approach that in a few ways.

1) Lie about my experience.

2) Be honest about my experience, refer them to Marc and Rory, then refuse to teach them things I've been taught by people I trust.

3) Be honest about my experience, and pass on the knowledge I have as best I can.

I went with 2) for a while, but as I've gained confidence, I don't feel bad about doing 3). Maybe someday I'll be in a position to offer:

4) Bring Marc and Rory here to teach us directly.

But that's not now.

Th0mas's picture

I think the obvious comment here is that unless your instructor is some kind of sociopath they will not have had direct experience of applying half of what they teach.

Does that make their instruction invalid, personally I don't think so.

The goal of instruction is to teach people skills that eventually become habit-based principles that can be applied by the individual and be built upon through new personal experience. So my senior technical instructors 25 years of door and protection work is invaluable for me because it ensures my instructor has grounded his teaching through his personal experience. Do I pass on some of his principles to the people I instruct? yes of course I do.

Personally, the few situations I have experienced in my adult life invariably ended without escalation into full fight and flight.... The rather reassuring fact is that the most likely place I will experience violence is in the controlled environment of the Dojo.

Which may be another reason why "traditional" Karate has evovled they way it has...but that is a completely different topic :-)