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Are We Teaching Self-Defense?

Most teachers think if they are teaching a martial art, such as karate, kung fu, aikido or judo, their students are learning self-defense. But are they?

This can be a dangerous assumption. Ninety-nine percent of self-defense has nothing to do with the techniques learned in most schools. This is mental self defense and having a plan.

This involves learning how the minimize potential for attack. You have to learn to look at your home, workplace, where you walk, how you enter your car, carry a handbag, etc., with a critical eye -- thinking of potential dangers and planning strategies to avoid them. It also means knowing what to do, and how to react, just in case.

Mental self-defense requires an alert and aware mind -- alert to potential signs of danger and knowing how to avoid situations before they develop, or how to best deal with situations if they do occur. Again little of this involves actual martial arts technique. They are a last resort. Often assertiveness in speech, walking or hand actions can forestall a situation, or dissuade an aggressor from further action.

What is more, much of what is being taught in martial arts classes does not always serve the students well if students are actually physically confronted or attacked. Stories abound about black belts not being able to defend themselves, or worse getting killed trying because techniques don't work. They often just don't know how to react or what to do. Others are just overwhelmed with the intensity, or shock, of the situation.

So, what are you teaching? If you are offering self-defense in your school you have a responsibility to your students to teach mental self-defense and planning too. You should also be sure that your students know how to defend against realistic and powerful attacks. And if you have joined a school to learn self-defense, be sure of what you are getting. If it is just learning techniques of an art, understand its limitations. Be sure you know what to do against a powerful aggressor -- if grabbed, pushed, or if they attempt to hit you.

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