Self-defense in your curriculum: when and how?

exile

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Self defense is one of the handful of reasons people commonly give as their reason for studying martial arts, but there doesn't seem to be any standard way different MAs, or even different schools within the same MA, approach instruction in self defense as part of their curriculum. There are any number of ways it could be taughtas an add-on to kata/hyung/pattern performance and kihon line drills, or in lockstep with kata/etc. instruction, teaching careful, realistic kata bunkai along with the kata and drilling the use of these bunkai, or any number of ther ways; it can be most of a curriculum or only a (possibly small) part of it; it can be taught to white belts on day one in a suitably basic way, or held in reserve till middle colored belt level... all kinds of combinations of when and how are imaginable. I'm wondering what people's experiences have been, so far as `when' and `how' go, either as students or instructors (or both), and any ideas you have about the optimal way to teach it.
 

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I teach awareness as an on-going issue. Our curriculum includes falling and releases for white belts, and works up from there, with releases leading to controls and throws.
 

IWishToLearn

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Self defense is one of the handful of reasons people commonly give as their reason for studying martial arts, but there doesn't seem to be any standard way different MAs, or even different schools within the same MA, approach instruction in self defense as part of their curriculum. There are any number of ways it could be taughtas an add-on to kata/hyung/pattern performance and kihon line drills, or in lockstep with kata/etc. instruction, teaching careful, realistic kata bunkai along with the kata and drilling the use of these bunkai, or any number of ther ways; it can be most of a curriculum or only a (possibly small) part of it; it can be taught to white belts on day one in a suitably basic way, or held in reserve till middle colored belt level... all kinds of combinations of when and how are imaginable. I'm wondering what people's experiences have been, so far as `when' and `how' go, either as students or instructors (or both), and any ideas you have about the optimal way to teach it.

Self defense is the primary focus of my training. Through training for self defense I've developed interpersonal communication, analytical evaluative skills, self-determination, and leadership skills. The focus is and always has been on learning to fight, and this is the focus I continue to teach from.
 

Sukerkin

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I have to say that back in the days when I studied Lau Gar, self defence was first and foremost on the curriculum from day one.

Classes used to be structured so that there was a fair bit of physical excercise and stretching at the start {I was very fit, or so I thought, when I started and soon learned otherwise :lol:}.

Then there would be the "techniques for today" kata section and then free(ish)-sparring where we would be encouraged to utilise different attacks and defences but try to include what we had learned today.

It was a very effective method of teaching as you learned how to improvise and adapt kata-nised techiques into a more 'real' situation. As I've gone into elsewhere, I find it hard to pick fault with it as it worked for me when I needed it.
 

Steel Tiger

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Self defense is one of the handful of reasons people commonly give as their reason for studying martial arts, but there doesn't seem to be any standard way different MAs, or even different schools within the same MA, approach instruction in self defense as part of their curriculum. There are any number of ways it could be taughtas an add-on to kata/hyung/pattern performance and kihon line drills, or in lockstep with kata/etc. instruction, teaching careful, realistic kata bunkai along with the kata and drilling the use of these bunkai, or any number of ther ways; it can be most of a curriculum or only a (possibly small) part of it; it can be taught to white belts on day one in a suitably basic way, or held in reserve till middle colored belt level... all kinds of combinations of when and how are imaginable. I'm wondering what people's experiences have been, so far as `when' and `how' go, either as students or instructors (or both), and any ideas you have about the optimal way to teach it.

I teach self-defence from the outset with new students, but the method changes over time. At first self-defence is learned along-side forms and stances. This is fundamental stuff, punches, kicks, blocks, parries, and evades. Later, when students have some grasp of the movements of the forms, they are shown the applications of the techniques represented therein. Practice of fundamentals continues throughout training of course.

This method I have found to be very successful. The main reason for this I think is that once we move on to a study of the applications of forms techniques, the students already know, not only the essential movements of the forms but also the fundamentals of attack and defence. With these bases they are more readily able to comprehend the more advanced techniques found within the forms.

Early on I tried a different approach, whereby I would break the form down into segments, and teach each piece and then the application of the techniques within that segment. This I soon found produced a case of information overload, with students getting confused as to what was form and what was application. So it had to change.
 

Sukerkin

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Excellent approach, ST :tup:.

The old adage about being able to walk before you can run is the one that applies quite strongly in martial arts.

What my iaido sensei does is very similar. He teaches the mechanics of the kata first, let's us grind through that a bit and then adds just enough bunkai so that what you're doing suddenly makes sense. Later the bunkai is elaborated and the technique is refined. Later still, the whole situation is mirrored and you learn that "this" is the answer to "that". Later still the chain grows so that "this" is the answer to "that" but is countered by "the other".

It's a marvellous way to learn, especially if you've managed to reach a glimmering of the same conclusion by yourself before you're told :D. It never fails to bring a smile to my face when a movement that was a bit of mystery to me suddenly becomes vitally clear.

It reminds me of what sensei said on day one.

"Some of the things I will show you will make no sense to you at the moment. I can only ask that you trust me that nothing that I will teach you to do is wasted movement. Later, I may show you how to do something a different way. That doesn't mean that the way I teach you first is wrong, just that you have to be able to do the first before you can do the second".

I've probably mangled what he said a tad but that was the gist of it. I know its twee but I knew right then that I was in the right place :lol:.
 

Steel Tiger

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Excellent approach, ST :tup:.

The old adage about being able to walk before you can run is the one that applies quite strongly in martial arts.

What my iaido sensei does is very similar. He teaches the mechanics of the kata first, let's us grind through that a bit and then adds just enough bunkai so that what you're doing suddenly makes sense. Later the bunkai is elaborated and the technique is refined. Later still, the whole situation is mirrored and you learn that "this" is the answer to "that". Later still the chain grows so that "this" is the answer to "that" but is countered by "the other".

It's a marvellous way to learn, especially if you've managed to reach a glimmering of the same conclusion by yourself before you're told :D. It never fails to bring a smile to my face when a movement that was a bit of mystery to me suddenly becomes vitally clear.

It reminds me of what sensei said on day one.

"Some of the things I will show you will make no sense to you at the moment. I can only ask that you trust me that nothing that I will teach you to do is wasted movement. Later, I may show you how to do something a different way. That doesn't mean that the way I teach you first is wrong, just that you have to be able to do the first before you can do the second".

I've probably mangled what he said a tad but that was the gist of it. I know its twee but I knew right then that I was in the right place :lol:.

I like the quote. It makes a lot of sense to me. When you mentioned chains that led me to think of a whole other area of self-defence training I teach - Qinna. Basics are absolutely vital to Qinna because it is all about understanding how the body, especially the limbs and joints, moves. In Qinna training we use a series of chains which show application of a techniques, a counter, and an application of another techniques and so on. Some of the chains have six or seven techniques in them. If you have seen Jet Li's movie "Once Upon a Time in China II" you may have seen him teaching the first chain to Aunt Yee.
 

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As you can see from another post that I did, I teach a very large number of kata, but if somone would sum up my teaching, I teach half of my time on kata and the other half on self defense (I do point sparring too, but that takes place after class).

In my self defense, I pair everyone up and give them a technique. I will go to the upper ranks and give them add-ons to the move, but will keep it simple for the lower ranks. We put down the mats for takedowns and my self-defense tends to be on the "hard" (opposite of soft) side. I have lately been teaching more "soft" moves since I have some students that are on the weak side, but that is always good to teach different types of techniques.

Last class day, I taught self-defense the whole night, but normally I try to split it in half (kata, sd) and when I do a sd night, I try to follow that up with a whole night of kata or bag/shield drills.

AoG
 

Sukerkin

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Aye, I have the Once Upon a Time in China" trilogy - I shall now have to watch them again, thanks :tup: :D.
 
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exile

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I teach self-defence from the outset with new students, but the method changes over time. At first self-defence is learned along-side forms and stances. This is fundamental stuff, punches, kicks, blocks, parries, and evades. Later, when students have some grasp of the movements of the forms, they are shown the applications of the techniques represented therein. Practice of fundamentals continues throughout training of course.

This method I have found to be very successful. The main reason for this I think is that once we move on to a study of the applications of forms techniques, the students already know, not only the essential movements of the forms but also the fundamentals of attack and defence. With these bases they are more readily able to comprehend the more advanced techniques found within the forms.

Early on I tried a different approach, whereby I would break the form down into segments, and teach each piece and then the application of the techniques within that segment. This I soon found produced a case of information overload, with students getting confused as to what was form and what was application. So it had to change.

This is very useful to know, ST. I think it's very tempting—no, I know it's very tempting—to want to go right from the form to the app; it's nice to be able to tie the kata and the SD aspects together in a unified way. But until the student has a certain degree of sophistication about the basics, and what they feel like when done correctly, they very likely can't quite get a gestalt picture of the way the pattern instructs you in the application.

The old adage about being able to walk before you can run is the one that applies quite strongly in martial arts.

Yup.

What my iaido sensei does is very similar. He teaches the mechanics of the kata first, let's us grind through that a bit and then adds just enough bunkai so that what you're doing suddenly makes sense. Later the bunkai is elaborated and the technique is refined. Later still, the whole situation is mirrored and you learn that "this" is the answer to "that". Later still the chain grows so that "this" is the answer to "that" but is countered by "the other".

It's a marvellous way to learn, especially if you've managed to reach a glimmering of the same conclusion by yourself before you're told :D. It never fails to bring a smile to my face when a movement that was a bit of mystery to me suddenly becomes vitally clear.

This is why MAs have the same kind of intellectual challenge that code-breaking does, or solving logic puzzles. There's a practical logic to every form, but you have to look and think—outside the box, in a lot of cases—before you can see why it's done that way. And of course, the kata-creators could get pretty tricky, so that of a series of four moves, it might well be that the third and fourth weren't actually in the same combat sequence, but rather were alternative candidates for the continuation after the second move. Without a guide, you can bang your head against that kind of brick wall all day long without the light coming on...

It reminds me of what sensei said on day one.

"Some of the things I will show you will make no sense to you at the moment. I can only ask that you trust me that nothing that I will teach you to do is wasted movement. Later, I may show you how to do something a different way. That doesn't mean that the way I teach you first is wrong, just that you have to be able to do the first before you can do the second".

I've probably mangled what he said a tad but that was the gist of it. I know its twee but I knew right then that I was in the right place :lol:.

Works for me—it's a standard prologue to certain lectures in both my undergraduate and graduate classes. Learn to think of it this way; later on, you'll understand why it's done like that. If I tell you now, you won't get it and you'll just feel bad...

As you can see from another post that I did, I teach a very large number of kata, but if somone would sum up my teaching, I teach half of my time on kata and the other half on self defense (I do point sparring too, but that takes place after class).

In my self defense, I pair everyone up and give them a technique. I will go to the upper ranks and give them add-ons to the move, but will keep it simple for the lower ranks. We put down the mats for takedowns and my self-defense tends to be on the "hard" (opposite of soft) side. I have lately been teaching more "soft" moves since I have some students that are on the weak side, but that is always good to teach different types of techniques.

Last class day, I taught self-defense the whole night, but normally I try to split it in half (kata, sd) and when I do a sd night, I try to follow that up with a whole night of kata or bag/shield drills.
AoG

Just out of curiosity, AoG, what kind of connection (if any) do you make between the kata moves on the one hand and the sd techs at various belt levels on the other?
 

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I generally teach self defense from the start of training; emphasis is on understanding the principles and being able to use and apply them. Some things are more immediately or obviously useful than others -- but, in the core curriculum, there is very little that is wasted or non-functional.

With younger students, I also set aside time regularly to cover things like awareness, saying no, what to do if if something happens, etc. I also cover what to do if they happen across a firearm (don't touch; get an adult!), especially since I typically have at least one gun around.
 

IWishToLearn

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I dunno bout that. There is a LOT of questionable instruction and questionable material around. Some of what is being taught is bad enough that it serves no real life application purpose and will only get somoene hurt.
 

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In general we spend the first 15 minutes warming up, working on basic techniques and fighting combinations (bag work). Then the rest of the class is for self defense. We don't do kata per say, but use self defense techniques as the kata. Meaning we do let student experiement with the techniques too see what works for them.
 

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We tend to get taught self defence in an actual seperate part of the lesson once a month, we spend about 15 minutes on the basics, and the higher belts teach the lower ones, however, during normal class, when we are getting pointers on techniques, our intructor, like Sukerkin said, often tells us the application for the technique e.g. for the stopping/wedging block he'll explain how it can counter someone going for your throat with both hands at the same time. Some of us who do have a thirst for it, tend to get shown more applications for moves than others who aren't as bothered or keen, while we are getting personal corrections and instruction . The assistant instructor took me through my whole pattern once giving me the real applications for each move, it smartened my pattern up no end when I realised what I was actually doing.
 

Brian R. VanCise

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In IRT self defense and personal protection are taught right from the get go as that is the primary reason for our training. (to be physically effective)
 

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We teach self defense from day one, we teach falling, rolling, technique and how that technique is applied. Self defense drills and scenarios, awareness and avoidance are practices and discussed frequently. Everybody brings something to the table, from the newest students to the most advanced practitioner.
 

MJS

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Self defense is one of the handful of reasons people commonly give as their reason for studying martial arts, but there doesn't seem to be any standard way different MAs, or even different schools within the same MA, approach instruction in self defense as part of their curriculum. There are any number of ways it could be taughtas an add-on to kata/hyung/pattern performance and kihon line drills, or in lockstep with kata/etc. instruction, teaching careful, realistic kata bunkai along with the kata and drilling the use of these bunkai, or any number of ther ways; it can be most of a curriculum or only a (possibly small) part of it; it can be taught to white belts on day one in a suitably basic way, or held in reserve till middle colored belt level... all kinds of combinations of when and how are imaginable. I'm wondering what people's experiences have been, so far as `when' and `how' go, either as students or instructors (or both), and any ideas you have about the optimal way to teach it.

I see no reason why it can't be taught from day one. Of course, some things are more advanced, so things have to be taught in a progression. Some basic blocks, punches and kicks are taught in the beginning, and from there things progress.

Mike
 

Steel Tiger

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The assistant instructor took me through my whole pattern once giving me the real applications for each move, it smartened my pattern up no end when I realised what I was actually doing.

I have found this to be true as well. It is an interesting circle involving forms and applications. I think, firstly, you need to be confident with the movements in the form, then you look at the way the techniques are applied, and that, in turn, improves your understanding and practice of the form.
 
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Reading over this thread, I see a general consensus that self defense is an important component of MA training at every level, but there seem to be two different general approaches to it. Some folks develop it gradually, as an add-on to forms and tech practice; for others, it's the core curriculum itself (I'm thinking of Brian's Instinctive Response Training treaching strategy i particular, but there are others). The `widening spiral' approach that Steel Tiger describesyou do a bit of the formal stuff, kata and separate techs; you learn some of the defense apps based on these; you learn a bit more formal stuff, you get a somewhat more advanced treatment of the SD applications, and so on and onseems to resonate with people, and it makes sense intuitively: break up the form/application relationship into `minimum digestible units' and let people increment their skill level one unit at a time, is how I think about that approach.

One aspect I'm particularly interested that hasn't come into focus so far is the degree of realism in the SD training. Let me lay my cards on the table: I don't regard the standard `one-step' sequences in most TKD/TSD and karate training regimes I'm familiar with as the height of realismyou know what I mean: you stand there, the `attacker' awaits your signal, then advances one step throwing a standard MA tech: a lunge punch or roundhouse kick to your hip or whatever. I've looked at the one-step chapters of innumerable MA textbooks and the atttacking moves shown have virtually nothing in common with what you're going to be hit with in a parking lot by some belligerant drunk for the bar across the street who wants a fight with someone, anyone, and won't take no for an answer, or some guy you surprise trying to break into your car. And the disconnect between `one step' sparring training on the one hand and effective self-defense is frequently confirmed in these same textbooks by the appearance of separate chapters devoted to hoshinsul or `Self Defense' or whatever, illustrating scenarios that have little in common with the one-steps depicted in other chapters.

So an important part of my query is, how do you train self-defense realistically, aka how realistically do you train self-defense? How, in your own school, do the instructors (including possibly you :)) simulate a real, no rules/no mercy violent street encounter and develop the SD apps a student needs to be the one still on his or her feet at the end of the fight?
 

Steel Tiger

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So an important part of my query is, how do you train self-defense realistically, aka how realistically do you train self-defense? How, in your own school, do the instructors (including possibly you :)) simulate a real, no rules/no mercy violent street encounter and develop the SD apps a student needs to be the one still on his or her feet at the end of the fight?

I use a few approaches that as a whole will, I hope, prepare my students for an actual encounter. Firstly there is sparring. Sparring is important because it familiarises you with not only getting hit but also having punches and kicks thrown at you. Second, we drill techniques so that they become almost automatic. The last thing is a form of one step my teacher invented for us that we affectionately call the "Circle of Death". The process is as follows: one person stands at the middle of a circle of the rest of the class. In turn each person in the circle makes an attack against the centre person. It can be any form of attack (though we haven't as yet tried it with weapons) which must be dealt with effectively and efficiently by the centre person. This continues in rapid succession until all people in the circle have attacked, then we change so that each person has a turn in the centre.

The Circle of Death teaches my students to be aware and prepared for any form of attack. It also gives them an opportunity to make practical us eof the techniques they drill for so long.

One thing I always tell my students is: do not anticipate a particular attack. Either attack or react to your opponents attack. Too many times have I seen someone anticipate an attack and begin a block or parry only to find they have reacted too soon or to the wrong perceived signal and taken a smack in the mouth or a kick in the guts.
 
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