Thursday, May 26, 2011

The media and unrealistic advice

Unfortunately the local media recently released a story promoting traditional martial arts training under the guise of "women's self-defense". I attempted to post a response to the story on their website but the server would not allow me to sign in. So,I decided to send an e-mail directly to the station. You can view the actual video of the story by clicking the link above. Below is the e-mail that I sent-

"This is in response to the story "Dangerous Places for Women: How to Protect Yourself". I tried to post this as a comment to the story but for some reason the server won't allow me to sign in-

Teaching people to keep themselves and their families safe is great. I have spent half my life doing just that. However, promoting traditional martial arts techniques that don't reflect reality can actually do more harm than good. This can actually lead to false confidence which will quickly deteriorate when a real attack does not go like the mock-attack did in the calm training environment. Traditional martial arts are great for fitness, fun, and athleticism but have little value when a life is on the line. My advice would be for WSBT to do some research on real self-defense before promoting such techniques or instructors on the air."

I was presently surprised to receive an e-mail response from the station. However I wasn't surprised by the actual response itself. Unfortunately many people do not understand the difference between martial arts and self-defense. Here is the response I received from the station-


Thanks for watching WSBT!

The class we went to and showed on TV was a Women’s Self-Defense Class. They were not teaching martial arts. They were teaching actual, basic, self-defense moves that women can use in everyday life. Our purpose was to encourage women to take one of these classes or a RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) class to gain confidence and defense skills. Law enforcement officers have acknowledged these classes work and are recommended.


Of course I responded with hopes that I could help them understand that what they had promoted was in fact traditional martial art and NOT self-defense. Here is my response-

Thanks for the response,

Actually many martial arts schools and instructors will repackage their traditional programs and promote them as self-defense programs. However, that doesn't take way from the fact that they are still traditional martial arts skills that have proven to be ineffective for dealing with potentially violent and life-threatening situations. Also, an endorsement from local law enforcement officers doesn't automatically make it a good program either. I have been involved in this field for over 20 years. I am certified to teach many law enforcement safety programs and I have trained many police officers. Unfortunately many of these officers didn't understand the difference between martial arts and reality-based self-defense unless they had previously been forced to test their skills. Remember, police officers carry firearms, batons, and other tools designed to keep themselves and other officers safe. They have options that most civilians don't and therefore don't have to rely of physical self-defense skills very often. So their knowledge of such skills is limited to what they have been taught in officer school or what they learn at local martial arts facilities.

I mean no offense to WSBT, the martial arts instructor, or the officers consulted but there is a big difference between martial arts and real self-defense. I just wanted to point that out.

Check out this youtube video. It's based on a program called FAST Defense that better reflects reality. While I don't teach FAST Defense, I do offer a similar program and have been teaching it for around 10 years. This is the type of training that actually prepares women and even men to better protect themselves and their families. Practicing traditional gun disarms and fancy wrist locks like those demonstrated in your news story will do nothing but get someone severely injured or worse.

Then a few hours later I decided to e-mail the station again to better elaborate on how to determine if a program is based on self-defense or traditional martial arts. here is that follow-up-

I thought it might help to follow up on my previous e-mail with some explanations to assist in defining real self-defense. When talking about this I often refer to a litmus test, a simple way to determine if a self-defense skill is based on martial arts or on natural and instinctive survival skills.

The easiest and most effective litmus test available is a series of adrenal response drills. These are simple drills that loosely replicate real attacks. During the drills the "defender" will face a padded assailant, an instructor wearing a padded protective suit. These are very simple drills that will actually invoke an adrenal response in the "defender". Physiologically the response is no different than what the person would face if placed in a real situation. This does a number of things. First of all, it let's these people feel the effects of adrenaline on the mind and body BEFORE they are forced to face it during an actual attack. They learn how to harness this natural survival tool and use it to either flee or fight. The participants also learn how adrenaline enhances speed, strength, and aggressiveness which can be used against their assailant. One of the most important things they learn is whether or not the skills they were taught during the class will work under the stress of an attack when adrenaline is flooding their bodies.

Any skill being taught for self-defense should be pressure tested in this way to see if it actually works. The key to the test is finding those skills that are natural, instinctive, and based on large gross motor movements. Those skills that are already hardwired into our nervous system seem to work the best. Skills such as instinctively extending the arms during a fall or during car accidents fit the bill nicely. These are skills that most will perform with no training, it's instinctive. We refer to these skills as flinch responses. Once participants understand this concept they can quickly learn to use it on purpose to protect themselves during an attack, both in a defensive and offensive manner. This allows people to learn real self-defense in a relatively short period of time, often only a few hours.

So, here are the questions we need to ask regarding self-defense skills...can the skills in question be used effectively for protecting a person during the stress of a real attack? Are the skills based on fine motor movements which tend to deteriorate under the adrenal response, or are they based on natural gross-motor movements that actually improve under stress? Can the skills be learned in a relatively short period of time or do they require months or even years of practice? Have the skills only been tested against cooperative training partners?

During the news story you quickly demonstrated a gun disarm technique. If I asked you to defend yourself against a replica gun that shoots safe but painful projectiles by using that same technique, do you think you could pull it off without being shot with the projectiles? Do you think that any of those other ladies could? If you knew that the gun could actually shoot you would you be as comfortable with the techniques taught in that class?

Please keep in mind that I don't work in this field to make money. I do it because I care about the safety of those that need this type of training. I also do it because there is an unfortunate need, regardless of where people live. I just want people to understand that the information they pass on can either help or hurt potential victims. While many of these instructors have good intentions they often don't do any research into the effectiveness of the information that they often pass on. I have seen people receive sever injuries and in some cases people have lost their lives while attempting skills taught in some of these classes. While there is always a risk of injury or death in such situations I prefer to limit the risks as much as possible while giving people skills that have a higher rate of success.

The point is simple....if the media is going to report on the topic of personal safety and crime prevention they should spend some time doing some research. They should find out what is being taught out there and whether or not it can actually enhance the viewers safety or make them more vulnerable. There is so much good advice out there but unfortunately the media tends to only promote the questionable.

As I have said before, don't take my word for it and especially don't listen to the media. Do the research for yourself and base your training decisions on logic and common sense.

Take care and stay safe,
Steve Zorn, ICPS


About Me

My Photo
-27 years training in personal safety -Multiple martial arts black belts -Multiple instructor certifications -Certified law enforcement trainer -Crime Prevention Specialist -Previous self-defense trainer for one of the country's largest airlines -Child safety specialist -Certified Fitness Trainer -TACTIX Fitness Trainer -High Intensity Training Specialist -FAST Defense Instructor -Kid Escape Instructor
View my complete profile


Copyright 2006-2011. Powered by Blogger.