It's impossible to teach someone "Self Defense"

Steve

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The recent discussions on sparring and all that have got me thinking. Is the entire idea of learning "self defense" or learning "how to fight" a hopeless endeavor? I believe that it is. I think that it is impossible to become competent (much less adept) with a skill that you will likely never apply. You cannot, for example, teach someone to be a competent driver unless you actually at some point put them behind the wheel and let them drive.

First, when I use the term "self defense" in this post, I'm specifically referring to self defense techniques, including disarms, joint manipulations, take downs, escapes and stuff like that.

I'm struggling with how to articulate what I'm thinking, frankly. I guess what I'm trying to get at is that we all recognize that there's overlap among styles of training. And most of us recognize that in order to move beyond theory through competence and into the arena of expertise, there MUST be application. You have to put a lot of miles behind the wheel of a car before you can be considered an expert driver.

But, there's a disconnect when we talk about self defense (or even street fighting or whatever). We say that sparring is the next best thing... and I'd agree 100%. But when we spar, as the counter argument goes, we're still not fighting. It's close... but not exactly the same thing.

So, one position is that sparring isn't necessary. Since it's all artificial anyway, I can do what I want. I disagree with this.

What I would conclude is that it's virtually impossible to teach self defense. Simply put, because most of us will not ever have a chance to apply our skills, we will never move beyond theory to application. And even further than this, most of our instructors are not experts in self defense, either.

This gets to the heart of why competitive arts make more sense to me. I can't teach you self defense. But I can teach you how to correctly apply an armbar to a resisting opponent.

A fencer couldn't teach you how to swordfight in a life or death situation against multiple, armed opponents. But he could teach you effective technique that can be applied effectively in a fencing match.

A traditional karate studio can't teach you how to fight. But you could learn proper technique within the style and how to correctly perform the kata.

In the same vein, self defense that cannot be taught because it cannot be applied would include all of the physical techniques. Self defense that can be taught because it CAN be applied would include things like situational awareness, tactics, body language and effective communication/de-escalation techniques.
 

Flying Crane

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you can teach skills and theory. When the fit hits the shan, the individual needs to be able to bridge that final gap. That is the responsibility of the individual and nobody can truly teach that. We can only get as close as our creativity in training allows.

that's life. It doesn't make it not worthwhile.
 

Big Don

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I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

What is self-help, if you did it yourself, you didn't need help...
George Carlin
Self defense is like that, IMO.
 
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Steve

Steve

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you can teach skills and theory. When the fit hits the shan, the individual needs to be able to bridge that final gap. That is the responsibility of the individual and nobody can truly teach that. We can only get as close as our creativity in training allows.

that's life. It doesn't make it not worthwhile.
I think I get what you're saying. Let me put it in terms I'm familiar with. I train in BJJ. I don't do MMA. I love the sport. However, I am in no way interested in learning how to punch people or kick them (or being struck in return). The fact that I don't train in striking doesn't mean what I'm learning has no value.

In fact, what I'm getting at is the exact opposite. While I'm not learning 'self defense,' I am gaining some solid conditioning along with skills and techniques I'm very comfortable executing against technically capable opponents. Because I am very clear about what I'm gaining from my training, I would suggest that I'm learning something that is MORE valuable than "self defense" training.

This doesn't mean that I'm capable at every range. Rather, it means that I know what I know, and also know what I don't know.

Let's take example A: Here's a guy who has trained in... some martial arts style (you pick) and doesn't spar or compete or pressure test his technique. He is, however, told that he's learning 'self defense.' So, someone squares up against him in a bar and he's got confidence in skills that he's never tested. He's now under stress in an uncontrolled environment and doesn't know the limits of what he's learned.

Example B: Here's a guy who trains in a school that spars regularly and pressure tests the techniques that are taught. He is under no delusion that he trains in 'self defense.' Rather, he's having fun and getting into shape. He's having a good time at the bar and someone squares up against him. He's got confidence in the skills he's learned, but the biggest advantage that he has is that he knows his limits. I, for example, would be confident that I could disengage or avoid a grappling situation, but I wouldn't want to trade punches with ANYONE.

In these two situations, Example B would be most likely to make a smart choice. He'd more likely avoid confrontation and work to deescalate the situation. And I also believe that, because Example B has moved beyond theory to application, if the fish hit the shan, he'd be more likely to execute his skillset under pressure.
 

SavageMan

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I get what your saying Steve. And I agree that a lot of it comes down to the type of training that is involved. But Flying Crane makes a very valid point. It's in you or it's not. In Law Enforcement we train for muscle memory. Whether it involves drawing a weapon, blocking a blow, or take down technique. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Even so it always comes down to the moment of truth. When its go time some times you have to improvise. Either their going to go all out and excel under stress or they fold or freeze. I've seen both. I firmly agree with you on the training. I've worked for agencies that train full out, you get hit so its not a surprise when you get hit. Believe it or not there are officers who come in who have never been in a fight. When I train women in self defense I tell them that if they think going over a few techniques is going to turn them into Buffy the vampire slayer their wrong. You have to practice, you have to train and it will be rough if its worth a spit. And when all else fails, commonsense wins every time, its not self defense its survival. That's why they make running shoes.
 

Flying Crane

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I think I get what you're saying. Let me put it in terms I'm familiar with. I train in BJJ. I don't do MMA. I love the sport. However, I am in no way interested in learning how to punch people or kick them (or being struck in return). The fact that I don't train in striking doesn't mean what I'm learning has no value.

I completely understand where you are coming from. My system is a striking system. I've had just enough grappling experience to know that it's not for me. I also do not claim that it has no value. I only claim to know myself well enough to recognize that it's not a good fit for me. It's not how I want to spend my limited training time and energy.

It's important to understand what approach to "combatives" is best for you. Then get really good at it. So good that you can effectively deal with people who are coming at you with a different mindset to combat, and trying to engage at a different range.

In fact, what I'm getting at is the exact opposite. While I'm not learning 'self defense,' I am gaining some solid conditioning along with skills and techniques I'm very comfortable executing against technically capable opponents. Because I am very clear about what I'm gaining from my training, I would suggest that I'm learning something that is MORE valuable than "self defense" training.

I understand your point and I agree with you. I believe that martial arts is not necessarily the same thing as self defense, tho there are a lot of overlapping skills and gray areas. You can use martial arts skills to defend yourself. You can also defend yourself with tactics and skills that are not, strictly speaking, martial arts (running away, defusing a situation by talking down an assailant, simply being aware of your surroundings and NOT being where the **** goes down).

In my own training, we don't spend a lot of time talking about, "well if the bad guy grabs you like this, then HERE is how you break away from him, and then you defeat him by doing THIS and then THIS..." Rather, we focus our training on learning how to engage the body in a certain manner that derives power from the entire body. That is the real concept that my system is built around. When you learn how to do this, then ANY movement you make can be a devastating technique, because you can fully engage the body with everything that you do. The actual techniques that we practice, the various punches, forms and whatnot, are just tools and examples to teach the body how to do this. While these techniques are useful in and of themselves, ultimately they don't specifically matter. They are just tools to teach you how to move with full engagement, they are examples of how you MIGHT strike someone if needed.

To me, this is far more useful than a bag of tricks, "bad guy does THIS, you do THAT" kind of thing. Our approach is more abstract and it probably takes longer to make those skills useful, but I firmly believe that in the long run you get more bang for your buck. You just need to be willing to stick with it for the long run, and you need a teacher who is good enough to get you to see and realize the potential that resides in the system. Once that light was turned on, I couldn't get enough of it.

This doesn't mean that I'm capable at every range. Rather, it means that I know what I know, and also know what I don't know.

honestly with oneself is extremely important. I am right there with you.

Let's take example A: Here's a guy who has trained in... some martial arts style (you pick) and doesn't spar or compete or pressure test his technique. He is, however, told that he's learning 'self defense.' So, someone squares up against him in a bar and he's got confidence in skills that he's never tested. He's now under stress in an uncontrolled environment and doesn't know the limits of what he's learned.

that gap that I mentioned in my first post, that the individual needs to bridge...well for some people the gap is wider than for others. That is a reflection of how good their training was, and how close it gets you to the real thing. No training can actually BE the real thing, because people would get seriously hurt in training. But some trainig gets you closer than others. And some people have no idea what their own real limits are, and that is dangerous to them. Self-honesty is extremely important.

xample B: Here's a guy who trains in a school that spars regularly and pressure tests the techniques that are taught. He is under no delusion that he trains in 'self defense.' Rather, he's having fun and getting into shape. He's having a good time at the bar and someone squares up against him. He's got confidence in the skills he's learned, but the biggest advantage that he has is that he knows his limits. I, for example, would be confident that I could disengage or avoid a grappling situation, but I wouldn't want to trade punches with ANYONE.

again, self knowledge and self honesty. And again, that overlap in skills and the gray area between practicing martial arts and training self defense. This guy is training martial arts, but his skills CAN be useful in self defense, if he needs it. Even if the focus of his training is not specifically, "Bad guy does this, YOU do that..." kind of approach. And the gap he needs to bridge is smaller than for the first example.

I'm not sure I've made any conclusions, but maybe it helps the thought process on this topic?
 

Bill Mattocks

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I believe that training for self-defense is possible. It's not perfect, because not every situation can be anticipated. But it is far better than nothing, in my opinion.
 

Dirty Dog

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I believe that training for self-defense is possible. It's not perfect, because not every situation can be anticipated. But it is far better than nothing, in my opinion.

Agreed. This is, to my way of thinking, exactly what we do when we teach or are taught SD techniques. We test ourselves, we put ourselves in whatever situations we can imagine, and try to find effective ways to block/counter/escape/whatever. Obviously it's not perfect, since if nothing else, you cannot simulate the emotional responses to an assault. Nor can you practice defending every imaginable attack from every imaginable direction and angle. But it still helps. In the ER, we are in confrontations as oftne, or nearly as often, as the police, and I will say that if the attack is even CLOSE to something I've trained against, my response will be automatic. And if it's not, I think I'm better equiped, by my training and practice, to come up with an effective response.
 

Kong Soo Do

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First, when I use the term "self defense" in this post, I'm specifically referring to self defense techniques, including disarms, joint manipulations, take downs, escapes and stuff like that.

Let's take a look at this Steve. First, I completely understand what you're saying. I've often put it this way; some have the perspective of 'experience' and some have the perspective of 'theory'. Let me explain. Using 'you' as a generic term and not you personally...If you have never actually been in a violent encounter, you tend to wonder how you would react i.e. fight or flight or freeze. Now if you train in a martial art, what about your instructor? Does he teach from experience or theory i.e. did he ever put anything to the test in defense of himself or another? Did his instructor? What about the all the way up to the 'Grandmaster'? If, for the sake of example, none of them every used any of the training then one has to ask the legitimate question; will any of this work under duress in a violent encounter? That is part of the issue.

Secondly, if the training is in fact 'good' training i.e. it has been acid tested, how is it then taught? All to often the dojo/dojang is a sterile environment. Training is in bare feet, usually on either a wood or matted surface that is level, dry and well lit. Outside environmental factors aren't really a factor. For example, we get all warmed up and stretched out in nice, loose fitting clothing. If we have an 'opponent', it is usually just one in some type of pre-arranged drill. Not too much chance of him/her freaking out and going wild on you. Not too much chance his/her buddies from across the room are going to jump you during the drill. Nor is there much chance he/she is going to pull a blade on you suddenly. Therefore, the training is predictable. It does not provide you the opportunity to experience (or gain experience) in a chaotic, unplanned attack. Therefore if/when it does happen you are already behind the 8 ball. http://excoboard.com/martialwarrior/148250/1801375

Thirdly, we can teach the proper techniques i.e. gross motor skills based on the flinch response as an example. We can teach proper conditioning. We can teach situational awareness, avoidance, escape, evasion, de-esculation etc. And we can even cover the proper mind set...but that is the point in which the student is going to have to make a decision. Will they have the proper mind set if/when it hits the fan? That is the part that can be covered...but not exactly taught.

I've taught people that have gone on to defeat a date rape, stop the escape of a felon, effect an arrest, defeat a mugger etc. But these people had the mind set necessary to implement what they had learned. I once taught a woman that said she could never gouge out someone's eyes. I asked her what she would do if someone was trying to rape her 8 years old daughter, she replied that she would ripe his heart out. Take what I'm saying in context please. I'm not advocating excessive force in any situation. Force should be appropriate to the situation. But we also need to realize that minimum force is not necessarily minimal force. And that is the crux of 'self-defense'. Can you do what is necessary with the training you've been provided to escape/survive/protect a loved one etc?

Hopefully this is making some kind of sense. Today was 'back' day in my workout and that takes a lot out of me and I'm tired and ready for bed.

Stay safe :)
 

Bill Mattocks

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Agreed. This is, to my way of thinking, exactly what we do when we teach or are taught SD techniques. We test ourselves, we put ourselves in whatever situations we can imagine, and try to find effective ways to block/counter/escape/whatever. Obviously it's not perfect, since if nothing else, you cannot simulate the emotional responses to an assault. Nor can you practice defending every imaginable attack from every imaginable direction and angle. But it still helps. In the ER, we are in confrontations as oftne, or nearly as often, as the police, and I will say that if the attack is even CLOSE to something I've trained against, my response will be automatic. And if it's not, I think I'm better equiped, by my training and practice, to come up with an effective response.

One of our fourth-dan students (and senseis) is an EMT. She is also quite attractive and fit, so she gets 'hit on' and sometimes attacked by drunks and people she has to come in contact with on a frequent basis. She has stated flat-out that her training has kept her from being assaulted or worse. She's an outstanding karateka, I quite believe her.
 

Cyriacus

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We dont become amnesiacs to our Skills in Fighting. Tis a Misconception. The Problem is how most 'Self Defense' is taught, is flawed, in that it expects You to do something specific.
When in Reality, Youre going to React. Youre not going to do some predefined action in the heat of the moment. You are going to do AN Action. The buffer is that what You do is probably going to be something Youve practiced. It just shouldnt be "Someone does this with this hand from here so you do this".
THAT is whats flawed. Not the idea of teaching Self Defense.
Im going to make a Blog Post to talk about Self Defense teaching in general. But this above is relevant to Your Specification.
 

Bill Mattocks

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By the way, since I'm sick and laying on the couch tonight, I'm watching various nature programs. Guess how wild animals learn to fight 'for real'? When they are young, they spar. Hmm.
 

Flying Crane

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By the way, since I'm sick and laying on the couch tonight, I'm watching various nature programs. Guess how wild animals learn to fight 'for real'? When they are young, they spar. Hmm.

nah, you know that Grandad Tiger comes over and gives lessons and then drills them in stance training.
 

Cyriacus

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By the way, since I'm sick and laying on the couch tonight, I'm watching various nature programs. Guess how wild animals learn to fight 'for real'? When they are young, they spar. Hmm.
I spar with My Cat often. He likes batting at My gloved hand, then grabbing it and pulling it down to go with the back legs.
He was accosted by a stray once - It ran away very quickly.

I kid You not.
 

Bill Mattocks

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I'll tell you something else. I think growing up fighting is dying out. Maybe that's a good thing, but not having been in a bunch of fist fights growing up does affect one's ability to defend oneself. My dad was a hell of a fighter, never got any formal training. But he fought every day growing up; and if I thought he was just blowing smoke, his buddies confirmed his stories when I met them at his funeral; he was a scrapper and they all knew it.

Now we have to seek other ways of learning what many of us did not learn in youth. Just sayin'...
 

Cyriacus

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I'll tell you something else. I think growing up fighting is dying out. Maybe that's a good thing, but not having been in a bunch of fist fights growing up does affect one's ability to defend oneself. My dad was a hell of a fighter, never got any formal training. But he fought every day growing up; and if I thought he was just blowing smoke, his buddies confirmed his stories when I met them at his funeral; he was a scrapper and they all knew it.

Now we have to seek other ways of learning what many of us did not learn in youth. Just sayin'...
This is the other thing about Sparring.
We tend to naturally love Fighting. And Sparring is as close as we can legally get to it.

Look at the success of commercial competition. People dont Pay to watch Pro Boxing/Kickboxing/MMA/Muay Thai/Taekwondo/Karate just because its Martial Arts. They pay to watch it to watch the only real source of varied Fighting they can get.
 

Buka

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Think of an average person. Hold that thought to the side.
Now, think of all that YOU have gained from martial arts training. Think of every single thing you have - the timing, the offense, the defense, the better physical shape you are in from training, the knowledge of the body, the mind set, the attitude, the grit and the EXPERIENCE. In short, everything.

If you could make a "poof" motion with your fingers, and give all those attributes to that average person you first thought of - would that improve that person's odds in a self defense encounter? I think it would. (If you want guarantees, go to L.L. Bean)
 

jasonbrinn

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Animals "spar" to learn more about pack dynamics then how to actually fight - its about pecking order and mating nothing more.

People can definitely be taught how to defend themselves but as someone put it - it comes down to "how" they train. Bruce Lee said "we all have two arms and two feet" and in combat, sports or self defense this is true so what does that tell us? Well, there might be an infinite number of techniques and scenarios but there is really not that many different ways to move. Study how the human body moves and its dependencies and then train for the physical and mental affects of being put in that type of situation along with drive and aggression and you get a very high percentage outcome.
 

elder999

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jasonbrinn;[URL="tel:1452771" said:
1452771[/URL]]Animals "spar" to learn more about pack dynamics then how to actually fight - its about pecking order and mating nothing more.

People can definitely be taught how to defend themselves but as someone put it - it comes down to "how" they train. Bruce Lee said "we all have two arms and two feet" and in combat, sports or self defense this is true so what does that tell us? Well, there might be an infinite number of techniques and scenarios but there is really not that many different ways to move. Study how the human body moves and its dependencies and then train for the physical and mental affects of being put in that type of situation along with drive and aggression and you get a very high percentage outcome.


:rolleyes:

Bruce Lee also said:

Lee Jun Fan said:
“If you want to learn to swim jump into the water. On dry land no frame of mind is ever going to help you”

and:


A martial artist who drills exclusively to a set pattern of combat is losing his freedom. He is actually becoming a slave to a choice pattern and feels that the pattern is the real thing. It leads to stagnation because the way of combat is never based on personal choice and fancies, but constantly changes from moment to moment, and the disappointed combatant will soon find out that his 'choice routine' lacks pliability. There must be a 'being' instead of a 'doing' in training. One must be free. Instead of complexity of form, there should be simplicity of expression.

There is nothing better than free-style sparring in the practice of any combative art. In sparring you should wear suitable protective equipment and go all out. Then you can truly learn the correct timing and distance for the delivery of the kicks, punches, etc.
 
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