Will Your Self-Defence Training Work?
Self-defence at the highest level uses effective strategy to allow you to enjoy your life as fully as possible. Optimally you won’t get attacked or even encounter a potential attack. Life doesn’t always work out optimally. You need to learn to detect threats early enough to avoid them if you can. If not, you need to learn how to defuse the threat.
You can defuse threats from a distance simply by how you move. The Grayson/Stein study (summarized here: www.randylahaie.com/blog/?p=26) clearly implies what to work on. For a brief overview of how to defuse a situation once engaged, this article (sfuk.tripod.com/articles/3secfight.html) may help.
If you cannot avoid the threat and you cannot defuse it, you need to act. Destroy the threat. This covers what most people, including many self-defence instructors, think of as self-defence training. In reality, physical techniques comprise a small part of your overall safety and enjoyment strategy.
Once the encounter ends, you will probably have to deal with authorities. You absolutely must learn what to say and when. This can mean the difference between sleeping at home with your loved ones and sharing a holding cell with other miscreants.
Remember, your goal is to safely move on with your life. For most people this does not include prison time. A good instructor knows and imparts the key information about the ramifications of contact with violence and with authorities.
You need to learn who is most likely to attack you. How will they most likely attack you? And where. You can find an excellent summary and overview of applicable statistics at www.fightingarts.com/reading/article.php?id=348.
Emotional attacks come from ego or territoriality, or both. They can also emerge out of an intense emotional response that may or may not have anything to do with you. Bar fights, some playground fights (the High Noon show-down type), and most face-to-face duel-style fights fit in this category.
Never agree to fight someone. Don’t bother feeding the fire when someone starts their gorilla-style posturing. Defuse and disappear.
Predatory attacks target the vulnerable. The attacker derives pleasure or satisfaction from the attack. They may torment you like a cat toys with a mouse. As much as domestic abuse seems emotion-based, the abuse more often turns out to be predatory. The abuser attacks the weak within the home and often attacks with a sadistic pleasure.
For more on these distinctions, review www.hoplology.com/articles_detail.asp?id=14.
Where you can most likely expect an assault makes a big difference. The way you handle a date rape will differ considerably from how you deal with drunk uncle Albert at the family reunion picnic. What contexts concern you? What contexts should concern you? Does the course cover your areas of concern? You don’t want to learn to handle a bar fight if you worry most about date rape.
Assaults vary by age, gender and country. A 15-year old male in British Columbia, Canada will most likely face one type of assault. A 44-year old married woman in London, England will face a very different type of attack. Does the course or instructor take this into account? Does the instructor know the relevant statistics?
How you react to the appearance of authorities (police, security, teachers, etc.) can determine whether or not you will be ending your experience in handcuffs. What should you say and what should you not say when you encounter the authorities? How does it differ based on the context you find yourself in? What rights will you actually have and what ones disappear as soon as the authorities get you behind closed doors? Does your instructor have you drill a safe script for this situation?
A danger signal in one context could be banter in another. How do you tell immediately what the signal means? How do you determine the level of threat? Does the instruction start with the beginning of the violence (bad) or at first visual contact or threat indicator (good)?
Body language in general can serve you well. One of the foremost experts is Paul Ekman (paulekman.com). David Givens (www.center-for-nonverbal-studies.org/1501.html) also offers a science-based approach.
A thorough self defence program takes you through your usual environments. You learn which stores and homes you can run to and which ones are closed when. You need to learn to spot the exits and escape routes. And you need to know how to escape and evade danger in a way suitable to your body type and capabilities. Does your course cover that?
Whenever possible you want to avoid using your physical skills. Can you de-escalate a situation or smoothly disengage and leave? Does the course teach this? Do they cover the different reaction patterns best suited to emotional attacks and predatory attacks?
Evaluate self-defence classes with these criteria and you will properly prepare for any situation you specifically might likely encounter.