Millions of people across the world take self-defense classes every week. But are they just wasting their time and money? Wouldn’t you rather spend this with your friends, family or go out on a date instead?
And after all this sacrifice – does it even work?
No-one can deny that there are a lot of charlatans involved in Martial Arts. Instructors with fancy names who ensnare students with belts, grades, titles and certificates.
Maybe self-defense classes aren’t necessary at all. Maybe you can greatly increase your odds of survival without bowing down to an instructor with a funny name in an even funnier uniform.
Here are 5 effective alternatives to self-defense classes:
1. Get Fit, Stupid!
Being physically fit has so many advantages and is vital to your survival. The best form of “Self-defense” is literally not being there.
“Running” is a great solution, and is always put forward by the more sensible instructors. Yet, the waistlines of many “Masters” show the last thing they ran for was ice-cream in fifth-grade. Sure, maybe they can show you how to rip a throat out like Patrick Swayze in “Roadhouse”. What good is that if you’re waddling towards the real killer, “Master Cardio-Vascular Disease“, one cheeseburger at a time?
So first and foremost, being physically fit will help you live longer. It reduces stress – another “Master Killer“. It also increases your mental acuity. And let’s face it. A lot of self-defense situations are caused by stupid people making stupid decisions.
There’s also many fun, inexpensive ways you can get fit. By and large, they’re all good. For our purposes, focus on exercises that will increase your short, explosive power and stamina. Check out “Pylometrics” for some great ideas on this. Tabata training is another good option for those wanting the maximum results in the shortest amount of time. And who doesn’t, right?
Finally, another benefit of getting fit is you look and feel fit. This is very important when thinking about why people are targeted for violence. They are not picked out at random. Usually, predators are looking for those who won’t fight back. Looking fit and strong can make them think twice. Which brings us nicely to our second alternative…
2. Hit the Catwalk Instead!
Research shows that walking shows how vulnerable we are to an attack By changing our walking style we can significantly increase our personal safety.
Inmates in a large East Coast prison were shown quick slices of a typical New York street scene. They were asked to assess each person on an “ease-of-assault” scale. A later experiment in New Zealand using a “point light walker” technique. This only showed reflective tape on body parts and removed the effects of features or clothing.
Here are the take-away points from the experiments:
Walkers rated “Easy to Attack:
- Had Short Stride Length relative to height
- Had a “Gestural Walking Style”, a low-energy style with limited
arm swing and lifting of the feet.
- Weigh relatively little
- Wear restrictive clothing like high heels and skirts
Walkers rated “Difficult to Attack”
- Had a “Postural Walking Style”
- Has Long Stride Length with Swinging Arms
- A Swinging Foot Position
- Energetic, Fast Walk
- Weighed More
What the would-be muggers were looking for were snapshots of powerlessness. A victim. Somebody who offers sufficient reward for relatively little effort.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. One sample group was given a short self-defense course and filmed again. Their odds of being selected did not change. However, another sample group received tips on how to improve the synchrony and energy of their walk. Their odds of being selected significantly decreased.
So in the grand scheme of things, walking lessons could well be more effective than self-defense classes.
3. Learn How to Back-Down and Say “I’m Sorry!”
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Jesus did teach “Turn the other cheek”. He also ended up nailed to a cross with a big spear in his side. So blindly following “What would Jesus do?” is fraught with difficulties when contemplating self-defense solutions.
That doesn’t mean losing one’s ego and saying “Sorry” (or pretty much anything that allows you to walk away) is a bad thing.
For further example, we can look to the work of former correctional officer and violence expert Rory Miller. In his book Facing Violence he sequences how social violence usually starts. He outlines “The Monkey Dance” theory, which has the following order:
- An aggressive, hard stare
- A verbal challenge, e.g “You got a problem with me?!”
- Closing to within arms-reach with increased signs of Adrenalin (arms gesturing, chest puffed out, face turning pale)
- Escalating Violent Threats which are usually monosyllabic.
- Eventually, one of the participants will make contact with their index finger on the other’s chest. This can rapidly escalate into pushing and shoving
- Finally, one of the participants touches the other’s face, usually the nose with an index finger. This leads to a large, looping overhand punch being thrown, and the fight begins.
Sound familiar? If you’ve not been in one, you’ve probably seen plenty in the school-yard, outside bars and clubs or most places where alcohol’s consumed. And sadly, most men (and due to the differences in how adrenaline affects the sexes it’s almost always men) haven’t progressed emotionally beyond the school gates.
It’s not all our fault thought. The “Monkey Dance” is hard-wired into us. We also find it difficult to say
“You’re right. My bad. I was being an asshole.”
It’s really hard when we ARE actually being an asshole. Close to impossible when you’re “In the right”. Being “right” offers scant consolation if you’re beaten right into the local ICU…
By being submissive, you’ll be able to back out of the “Monkey Dance”. It’s possible to avoid a fight all the way to step 6. Yes, it may not seem “Manly”. You may well get called a few less-than-savory names on the way out. There are other bars, clubs and nights to be had.
Never underestimate the power of good people skills. 99.9% of the time you won’t develop them inside a self-defence class.
4. Be Careful Who You Get Intimate With
Violence between partners is that bad, the CDC has called it “A serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans “.
On average, 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States. Over the course of a year, that equals more than 10 million women and men.
The statistics say that around 15% of the victims are men. This figure could well be understated. Men are slightly less reluctant to report wives and girlfriends beating on them.
Now, everybody likes a bit of crazy now and then. Sometimes it’s the spice of life (well, the make-up sex part anyway).
When your friends and family start telling you “They’re no good” you should start to listen. When a pattern of habitual violence starts forming, you should leave. The earlier the better. Easier said that done.
Here are some signs to help you spot if your relationship could turn violent:
- Does your partner respect you?
- Does your partner always blame you for everything that goes wrong?
- Does your partner make all the decisions in the relationship?
- Are you ever afraid to tell your partner something?
- Have you even felt forced to do things you didn’t want to?
- Have you done anything sexually with your partner you didn’t want to?
- Does your partner promise to change but keep repeating their behavior?
You can find more online resources about Intimate Partner Violence from the CDC here.
5. Learn How to Box
O.k, I’m getting off on a “Technicality” here. Boxing is a “Sport”. It’s not a
self-defense class per se.
It does offer a great alternative to self-defense classes.
- The training alone will get you fit
- It will improve your movement and co-ordination
- You get to deal with adrenaline in a reasonable safe environment
- It’s reasonably cheap
- You can get to a reasonable level inside of a few years
- You take your hands everywhere (see: “I have a gun / knife / for self-defence)
- It will help develop “Warrior Spirit”
The last one does sound funny. But consider this. Self-defense classes are often sterile environments where lots of scripted techniques or “Scenarios” get rehearsed.
There’s probably not a great deal of resistance going on (I.e “The Bad Guy” is not going all out to actually hit or hurt you). Take female self-defence for example. Who usually gets to wear the protection? The instructor.
To get good at empty-hand fighting, you need reasonably hard sparring. You also need to get used to taking a shot and continuing on. It’s imperative that you train with people who provide as close to “live resistance” as possible in a training context. Boxing has all this in spades.
There’s an argument that “I’m too old for boxing”. To this I’d say:
Most violent attacks happen on people between the ages of 18 – 24. The threat of being attacked goes down considerably after 40. If you’re really too old for boxing, chances are you are also pretty low on the risk scale for even needing self-defence training.
Check this old geezer out. He certainly wasn’t too old for boxing.
“I have a gun / knife / spray for self-defense”
Well, that’s just super. Where is it? Sure, I’ll wait while you go get it. Said no attacker ever!
Have you actually practised retrieving and using your “equalizer” in a highly adrenalized state? Or do you just start practising when it’s already in your hand and ignore that part?
It’s hard to “equalize” anything if it’s stuck in your bag / pocket / truck. Near impossible if you’re already taking blows.
Good empty-hand skills can allow you to create space to either get to a weapon or get the hell out of there. It also easier to prove “reasonable force” in a court of law.
If you shoot or stab somebody (even in “Self-Defense) there’s a good chance that’s where you could end up. Again, this is something that is rarely considered in self-defense classes…
The Bottom Line
Remember, the best defense isn’t a good offense. The best defense is not being there. Period.