How to choose a self defence school

How to choose a self defence school
Not every martial arts school teaches what they say they do. There are many definitions of what is taught, but here’s the most common interpretations:

Martial sport - a refined style of sporting combat made for competitive sporting environments, for example, Taekwondo, Judo, BJJ, MMA, and some Karate systems

Self-defence science - an evolving codified system of techniques designed for empty hand and melee weapon combat, applicable for hostile situations. For example, American Kenpo Karate Self defence gets it’s roots from the military environment. Essentially, it is dealing with a real world combat situation. In our modern Australian society, this means street self defence. While we don’t live in a militarised society, military systems of combat are the common foundation of many self defence systems of combat.

A legitimate self defence system has the following features:
1. It is not a sport
2. The aim is not to score points
3. There are no “illegal” moves
4. The goal of learning is to get home in one piece
5. Your training will give you the power to eliminate threat, being through making someone fall over, or more aggressive solutions, with serious and permanent injury resulting.

Ask yourself, when you see a flyer in the mail of a local “martial arts” school or club, and they advertise the things they do, ask if:
● They teach self defence science
● They teach the tools necessary to defend oneself on the street. If something works on
the street, it will work everywhere else.
● If the same people who learn self defence only learn this through tournament training.
The higher degree of tournament style fighting taught, the more likely a student is to being conditioned to rules and what can and cannot be done. A person training to stick to rules will invariably fight in the street the same way.

Why is this a problem? Because the truth is, a real street fight has no rules. It will be highly likely that if you need to defend yourself, you will be on your own. There will be no referee to break up the fight, no chance to warm up, and no being saved by the bell.

Another thing that is totally untrue, is a black belt guarantee.

To attain a black belt is the end of an apprenticeship and the BEGINNING of mastery. The truth is, as traditionally held, getting a black belt is hard. It’s not impossible, but it can be done. The higher the barrier to entry something is, the more valuable it is. Ask yourself, if you see 8-year-old kids running around a
school wearing black belts, or people who have only trained one year calling themselves black belts, then either the system is not worth learning, or the teacher is selling grades.

Do you really want to be part of a school that does a disservice to you?

One other thing you will need to know is that if a school is teaching a legitimate system, then there is no such thing as no contact learning. You must get hit to know how to hit back. You must feel the pain of being hit to appreciate the techniques you learn. Know as well, this goes to the other end of the spectrum.

It does not mean you need to go to a school that bashes students senseless. A level of contact is required and is different for every student. Students
should never be abused by people more capable than them in a gym or school, so ask around to see what it’s like training at the place you want to spend your time at.

Some things that you think you need but actually don’t.
- You don’t need to know how to kick to head height.

If you don’t have the flexibility to kick very high, then you don’t need to spend years stretching until you can.

- You don’t need to be physically strong to learn.

A real system of self defence is about employing creative ways to get around an attacker that’s physically superior. There is ALWAYS a way to
overcome an attacker who is 6ft 8 and is built like a tank.

- You don’t need to be brave to start training.

Bravery is learnt along the way. Courage, is not overcoming fear, but acting in spite of fear.

A quality martial arts school will have the following:
- A school will tell you CLEARLY in advance what to expect.

- A school will seek a commitment from a student to learn - not for monetary gain, An instructor who has committed students will ALWAYS be committed more to their training and self improvement which will mean that the learning experience is always of quality and improving. One of the hardest things for a teacher to deal with is when a student disappears. The teacher gets just as much personal satisfaction as the student progresses. The teacher is equally disheartened when a student leaves a school.

- A pleasant environment to learn. It doesn’t need to be the shiniest brand new gym. It just needs to be clean in terms of the premises, but also the attitude. There is nothing worse than attending a self defence school where thuggery and bullying are promoted. Parents invest alot in their children to learn, and young people can be easily swayed.

- A good clean environment where good can flourish is essential to a martial arts education

- Accessibility to personalised learning is essential to this. One size does not fit all. Some people have a commitment level that borders in total devotion. Others just want a taste and a sip of it. Some people want to speak to their instructor privately. Or groups might want to just learn a specific tool. All of that should be accommodated for. Special classes need to be made available, however they must not be made available if they compromise the quality of learning or the quality of students produced.

What are two things that a school says aren’t necessary but really are?

1. Maturity.

The truth is, kids as young as 4 or 5 aren’t ready. Even some adults aren’t ready. When learning a real combat science, it’s so important. To really grasp what is being taught, attention and focus is required at all times. This only comes with age and life experience. An instructor SHOULD be responsible when teaching. They must consciously decide whether a particular student is ready or not for self defence training. Other training methods should be available for people not fit for such training as they could be a danger to themselves and others. Remember, the instructor is teaching the student how to deliver pain. Such power need only rest with individuals responsible enough to do so.

2. An open mind.

If you trained before somewhere else, your instructor doesn’t want to hear about how you do a technique from a previously studied style, or how in a movie you saw 76 guys get beaten up by 1 cripple. Somethings you will be presented with may make you feel uneasy, and some of it will make you feel uncomfortable. But it won’t kill you. Remember, you are learning for your own benefit.

Three expectations a prospect will have which leads them to bad buying decisions:

1. Martial arts doesn’t need to be rough​ - not true. Some styles and systems have a level of heavy contact that can turn people off training.

2. It shouldn’t take me more than 3 years to get a black belt​. If you’re chasing rank, you’re not doing this for the right reasons. One of two things will happen. You will get sucked into a school that is just fleecing you for your money and giving you false hope, or you will finally get what you want, and realise you missed out on so much along the way. Good things take time, and it you will need to invest time for good results. This is not to say that you cannot achieve a black belt legitimately in a short amount of time, but it would require impossible levels of commitment from both the school and the student.

3. The best learning is from a trainer who’s a champion fighter. ​This doesn’t mean anything. It just means that the trainer or coach is good at their sport. If a teacher is claiming to teach you self defence, but is a champion fighter, it means they will teach you the way they know how to fight. They know how to be great at what they know which is a sport. But self defence is not a sport. It can mean life and death scenarios.

Top tips for finding a great school are:

- Ask around - recommendations from friends or family are essential

- Try different schools out for yourself to know

- Speak to someone impartial in the industry like an equipment supplier

- Find out what people say on social media about studying martial arts

- Having a head instructor who is open, honest and approachable

- Finding a broad mix of people training in the school

- Finding that most people who train have a love of what they do there.

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