Self-defense classes are almost always a waste of time and money.

I was watching the local news last night and they did a piece about little kids (12-15?) taking martial arts classes. They showed some clips of these kids flipping each other around and doing the “almost” punch thing when they were down.

They also interviewed some of the parents who expressed how glad they were at little Johnny being able to “take care” of himself. I think they mentioned something about “a high heel being able to inflict some damage” or some nonsense along those lines. This bothers me.

I don’t think that martial arts are a waste. The self discipline, focus and concentration along with everything else I know about m.a. (which is not much, admittedly) seems to be very good for people, probably very good for kids with confidence problems.

I am also well aware of using leverage and manipulation to subdue an opponent. I wrestled in high school and a little in college and have been put into holds that hurt.

I’m bothered by the fact that there are children and women that take these classes and believe that if a 200lb 6ft guy tries to take their money that their “self-defense” skills will help them defeat the robber. I’m pretty sure that in martial arts you are told to avoid a fight at all costs. But a 5’2’ 120lb woman that kicked a padded man in the groin in practice and then on the street tries to fight against a mugging is potentially going to get her face broken.

There is a reason that wrestling (the real kind) and boxing have weight classes so close together. It makes a difference.

Am I wrong here?

You are wrong for a couple of reasons:

  1. A confident person is less likely to get attacked - if a woman, even a small one, has taken a class (or 27) of some sort, and feels confident in her abilities and carrys her self in a confident, she will be a less appealing target than a woman who slinks around nervously. Why? The nervous woman looks like she’ll put up less of a fight - good for maurading psychopath.

  2. The element of surprise - lets say the small woman is attacked - she’s small - any shot that she can get it could potentially startle her attacker enough for her to get away.

  3. Taking a hit. I’ve been hit in the face. I know what it feels like. It makes me mad, but it doesn’t make me fall to pieces - however, the first time I was hit in the face it DID make me fall to pieces. Good thing it happened on the Dojo where the hitter didn’t have any nefarious intent, as opposed to on the stree where you assume the hitter would.

  4. Kicking some serious ass. In my Hap Ki Do class, there was at least one woman - not particularly large - that could seriously injure just about any guy that attacked her, even if he had martial arts training.

Generally, men are stronger than women and if they attack and the woman attempts to spar them or fight them, the woman will wind up in trouble. However, if the woman distracts them, stomps on their foot, pokes them in the eye, dislocates their shoulder (you have no idea how easy this is) she gives herself the oportunity to get the hell out of there.

Certainly not useless.

Please ignore the typos in that post. :rolleyes:

When I was in college, there was a “serial crotch grabber” (yes, I know how ridiculous this sounds) who would run up to women walking either alone or in groups of two, grab their breast or crotch, and then run off again. This guy was really hard for the cops to track down because nobody could get a good ID on his face.

He was finally foiled by a girl who’d been taking some kind of martial arts class – I want to say aikido, maybe? – and did some kind of leg sweep on him when he tried to grab her crotch, then pinned him to the ground and sat on him until the police showed up.

Are instructors really advertising these classes as teaching how to overcome any and all aggressors? I mean, I spent four years in TKD, kick-boxing, and jiu-jitsu classes in college, and yet I don’t expect to have any luck should Mike Tyson get the urge to mug me. However, the number of situations I am able to handle has been increased, as has my self-confidence, which is one of the most important deterrents from being attacked.

If the instructors are telling the students “Nice ankle lock - now you can defeat 400 lb gorillas!” then obviously that’s a bad thing. I don’t think that is going on, though.

Well, I dunno that any self-defense class claims you will be able to take any attacker down. However if practicing enables you to remain calm and evaluate the situation, then yes, there is some merit to it. Also, people who carry themselves with confidence are less of a mark than people with “helpless” body language. So that factors in too.

Also, I think a distinction should be drawn between “self-defense” class and martial arts classes. Martial arts are an end in themselves, I don’t think most people take them for the purpose of self defense.

I know about a little about the “Model mugging” self-defense system, it is distinctly differnt than what is taught in traditional martial arts… The founder was inspired when a female black belt at his dojo was raped. ttp://

The goal is actually to overcome the psychological inhibitions of striking to damage, and to eliminate the moment of shocked inaction when attacked.

While it is unlikely that ANY overmatched person (male or female)will have the ability to defeat/beat an aggressive attacker. The shock factor involved is very important in an attack. If the “victim” can get in a quick disabling move, the surprise itself is often enough to enable a person to escape. If the victim is WELL trained, they might even counter with another move which COULD very well do harm to the attacker.

In most cases if an attacker feels overconfident and does not see his victim as a threat. It is often quite easy for someone with training to catch them offguard enough to surprise them with a disabling move.

Ever been accidently hit in the groin by a little kid when you weren’t looking. OUCH

Ever been poked hard in the eye by a stick by accident, ooooh

Ever had the wind knocked out of you at all… outta there

All of these things are easy to do with a little training. It’s better than nothing for sure.

I dont know what kids are thinking in Tae Kwon do and Red Dragon classes but if you seriousl study the techniques and practice with your classmates, everyone will get a sense of what the limits of their abilities are. I dont know of any kid that can honestly say that they can take dowb a 200 lb bruiser. I know a lot of them that can honestly say they can get a few shots at him but none (of the classes i visited) ever teach to go toe to toe with someone of a higher weight class. Even in these kids martial arts training they do divide them into different weight groups.

I probably should have made a better distinction. a) People who are serious martial art students. b) Men, women and children who take a “defend yourself in 6 weeks” class. E.g., Bruce Lee (removes hat and places on chest) looked like he was around 150lb, 5’6’’? I’m much bigger than that and I’m sure Bruce could have kicked my ass.

But I’m sorry. If I really, really wanted to punish a 5’ 110lb woman or a 12 year old kid for that matter, I don’t care what they know, I could do it. That doesn’t sound good at all. Ick

MsWhatsit, he probably liked it :wink:

Around here a self defense class often consists of hand gun training and lots of target practice. There’s many a 110lb females totin’ pistols (and know how to use them) around these parts, so be careful!

Well, the point of self-defense is not to kick ass but to get away. Getting away is a very different (and more achievable) goal than knocking down a guy twice your size. Other posters have chimed in as the the importance of surpise, and striking the most vulnurable (surprising) targets.

Bruce_Daddy you could definitely put the hurt on me (5"2’, 130 lbs). That is not in question. The question (and I think the answer is yes, with proper training) is could I get one or two shots in that would make you pause long enough for me to run. The physical equivalent of pepper spray (hurts, suprises, does no real damage).

Well I taught a self defense class and assisted in a couple others. I always told students that they would not come out of this after 8 weeks or so and be able to kick ass. They would have to practice the techniques daily until they could do them automatically. Only then would the techniques be useful. That could take about a year. I said that developing awareness of their environment would be more useful to them than the techniques.
If the instructor is competent and honest, I believe the class can be useful but most people don’t put in the effort required.
As for kids, I believe the physical differences between adults and kids are too overwhelming for a child to overcome but if they keep their practice up, by the time they are adults, they ought to be able to handle themselves against most aggressors.

Firstly, I’ve been studying martial arts for about 7 years now…

I agree with the OP in the sense that false confidence can be dangerous, I have seen schools where they’ve taught the single “showstopper” knee stomp to women as a foolproof means of fighting someone off, then sent them off in the world with their certificate of completion in the “2 week invincibility” course. In reality, knee attacks are dicey propositions to use effectively, even for people with years of training. Same deal with kids classes.

However, those irresponsible schools are the exception. When taught responsibly and with realistic knowledge of its usefulness, a short self-defense class can be extremely valuable.

A_in_W was right in that an air of confidence is the greatest protection you have from getting attacked in the first place. Bad guys pick on easy victims first and will pass over someone who looks confident and aware in favor of someone who looks meek and unsuspecting.

You often don’t have to be effective in your technique when fighting back to get an attacker to give up, simply putting up an unrelenting resistance can be enough. Ever tried giving your cat a bath? :wink: When we teach, the most important techniques to remember are “noise, clawing, screaming, noise, and noise.” If you happen to also have the presence of mind to remember your nerve points, eye strikes, and joint locks, then that is just gravy on the cake.

I’ve never seen bigger cry-babies than wrestlers who have fallen for a choke. A small woman who is an experienced judo student will have moves that will suprise a larger opponent–she’s trains in the dojo against large men who know how to defend against her attacks, so she had better get good at working on guys who are larger. That’s not to say that a little judo automatically puts her in the winner’s circle, rather it improves her odds. It will also shrink the set of potential attackers as her skill increases.

My old judo instructor at college was (still is) a sexual assault expert. He also taught sexual assault self-defense classes and was quite specific that self-defense for sexual assault focuses on things considerably different than what is taught in the dojo. For a woman who trains in the dojo, I would still have to defer to his opinion that some sexual assault specific training should be done as well. (Men, too.) But I would still tend to suspect that the pool of potential rapists decreases with time in the dojo. The opportunity rapist, such as a garden variety burglar who happens upon a sleeping woman, is probably a considerably different person than the sexual predator or serial date-rapist. But that’s a WAG on my part.

Having seen how long it takes to become able to effectively throw an unwilling opponent, I am skeptical that a short self-defense class would really count for much of anything for a person who has not previously trained in some fighting style. For someone already versed in a martial art, I can see the self-defense techniques, if practiced enough to stay in the tool-box, being effectively used without making them full-time elements of the training. (I’ve used BJJ moves after merely having seen them demonstrated.) But I can’t image taking someone who has never trained to fight, even fight on the mat, giving some nominal exposure to fighting moves and then expecting the person to perform under pressure. Even that model mugging training previously linked to makes me wonder about how effective it really is when the student only gets 24 hours of class time.

I would imagine that the two real positives from short self-defense programs are that the marginal assaulters are taken out of the pool, and some of those taking the course may decide to train more long term.

Of course, on the other hand…I once knew a college student who, as a child, was taught by her dad to slap an attacker’s ears with open palms (thus hurting the ear drum & his balance, etc.). When she was about nine, she was assaulted by would-be kidnappers and got away using that very strike. So maybe those classes do work.

I took a “self-defense” class in college that had a lot of focus on being aware of your surroundings, carrying yourself with confidence, avoiding confrontations, and how to yell your head off (not screech like some drunken girl, which doesn’t tend to get people to see what’s wrong) loudly and forcefully. We also learned some strikes, some hold breaks, and a throw from the prone position. The idea that was reinforced with us time and again was to avoid at all costs. If it looked like an attacker was going to force the situation, yell loudly/blow a whistle, and run if possible. If it came down to a fight, do what you could to injure the guy, and run at your first opportunity.

I’m wondering if a lot of the media coverage of these self-defense courses doesn’t misrepresent what’s going on. Hopefully most of them are like the one I took, and the media simplifies it down to “now Mary/little Bobby don’t have to worry about bad guys any longer!”

I think there is a great deal of validity in what you say, Bruce. For most folks, serious training in practical martial arts will help even out the odds should they get involved in a violent situation - or optimally, help them avoid such situations in the first place.

But especially for women and kids, I consistently encounter training - either supposedly practical self defense or some more “traditional” MA training - that will be of little if any use in self defense. And it is very common to encounter kids who have black belts at a ridiculously young age, who are presented as being able to defend themselves against adults. Some will have attained high rank with little or no full contact sparring. Sorry, but all your kiais, kata and “wax on/wax off” ain’t worth shit against a determined opponent.

Many folk advocate styles such as aikido which - IME&O - have a tremendously long learning curve. Realistiically consider the time you have to spend on training. If you are only going to tran for 6 months, figure out what style and method of training will get you furthest along in that time. Even a style as awesome as judo can be extremely difficult to do against an uncooperative opponent.

I trained and taught various MA styles for several years, and competed in JJ and NHB. I was regularly asked to present short courses - or even single seminars - to teach women street defense. Can’t be done. The best that could be hoped for is to convince folk to be more aware of their surroundings and take certain basic precautions. But you can forget all that key in the fist/stomp on the instep bullshit. And speaking from experience, pepper spray is unpleasant, but by no means is it incapacitating.

You have to realize that as with any instructor, most MA/self defense instructors need to get and retain students. There is a tremendous incentive to encourage students to continue with what the school is offering, instead of pursuing something that might be better suited for them. Such as firearm training as suggested above.

Think of how hard it is to become accomplished in any other physical sport or endeavor. Defending yourself is certainly no easier and, IMO, is probably significantly harder than many.

One final thought - it is astounding how many folk will simply taker a course or attend a seminar, and figure they are set for life.

I always considered the ability to defend oneself like insurance. And the same way you have to keep mailing in those insurance premiums, you have to practice whatever self sefense skills you have learned if you expect to have any chance to be able to rely upon them instinctively while under stress.

Simply put - learning and retaining the ability to defend oneself is very very hard. IMO - anyone promising an easy and painless route is lying.

[nitpick] Since the aikido student learns “less” for any given time period, the learning curve is tremendously flat, not long. [/nitpick]

To jump in or tell a story? THAT is the question…

Hi Dinsdale! Funny to see you here! :wink:

OK, Last Saturday, Kickboxing class, me (6’ 180lbs) and a 5’2" 120lbs woman get paired for some sparring. She’s good. Real good. She has a problem with my monkey-armed reach, but she is keeping herself covered. I get a few shots in, but they aren’t that powerful. And we circle…

I get turned to goofy-foot (right foot leading) and she fakes a right to my stomach. For some STOOPID, IDIOTIC reason I drop my right guard to block it.

She slips left.

She hooks left.

My chin is not covered. My head is turned slightly to the right.

SMACK! Straight on the chin. My head doesn’t turn, it goes straight back.

I see stars, my ears start ringing, my jaw HURTS. My brain is hitting the ‘reset’ button and I’m bending over holding my knees trying to keep myself from falling over. If she had decided to continue there would have been little if anything that I could have done. Thank god I had a mouthpiece in- she would have broken teeth. As it stands I still cannot chew properly 5 days later.

I haven’t been hit that hard in close to 4 years of kickboxing at this school. Heck, I can’t remember the last time I was hit so hard. She clocked me good.

Now, she obviously has been training for awhile and is preparing for a competition next month. So yes, with training small women can take down bigger guys. But 1 day of training? HMmmm…I don’t know. But it still might be better than nothing. Or at the very least, I don’t think short training hurts because I don’t think women will get INTO a problem because they have taken a self-defense course. I can’t picture a realistic situation where a woman would get into something based on the fact that she knew some self-defense techniques. I’ve never heard a woman say “Heh. I took 3 defense courses, I think I’m fine to walk to my car alone at 2am in an unlit parking lot.” Women I know don’t think like that. Therefore, anything a woman does know just might help her stun the opponent that surprises her at 2pm in the Walmart parking lot so she can run away.

Did that make sense? I’m still not thinking too straight… :wink:


I think self defense classes for kids and women would be better suited for this kind of scenario rather than the “going up against a guy like Bruce_Daddy

With a self defense class, the confidence it instills along with the knowledge that you can handle reasonable circumstances might allow a better resolution than what the OP actually did.

then again popping out painted green and only wearing purple pants wouldve accomplished a lot too.