Top 3 Reasons You Can’t Call It Self Defence

by | Nov 23, 2022

Dont call it self defence

So you want to learn self-defence but are told the training might not be appropriate for you. Here are my “Top 3 Reasons You Can’t Call It Self Defence” if you have thought someone might not make a good client or your training scares away a segment of the population. 

Let me make it clear. I am not saying what you teach has to be suitable to anyone and everyone, but if you call what you teach “self-defence,” you must understand what self-defence is and call what you teach what it is.   

Self Defence is not a style or system with a long lineage. Still, more important than that, self-defence must have principles and concepts adaptable to everyone regardless of their limitations. 

Over the years, here are my top 3 reasons some should not call what they teach self-defence. I have heard this firsthand and from people who were seeking self-defence training. 

Reason #1: 

Sorry, but you are too old. Geez, talk about a slap in the face to someone who is in a more vulnerable position. I am almost 58 years of age. I am now considered a senior citizen in some countries, so this one hits home a bit more. 

The explanation given to many older adults is the training will be too difficult for them and the risk of injury more significant. 

This is a perfect example I have brought up many times of how many instructors approach backward violence prevention and self-defence. To begin with, the physical aspect should be the last aspect of self-defence, not the primary one.  

Secondly, who is someone to judge you by your age or perceived physical abilities? I am in pretty damn good shape and can keep up with most people half my age (well, I like to think so). Even then, if your self-defence curriculum only considers some ages and limitations that come with age, do not call what you teach self-defence. 

Reason #2: 

Many have to dance their way around this one, but many will not teach people with physical disabilities. Similar to age, there may be mental or physical limitations that bring forth challenges, but if what you teach is true “self-defence,” what can you teach them? 

I have taught people in wheelchairs who were blind, along with other mental disabilities. And while I may not have had all the answers at first, I listened to their day-to-day lives and experiences and devised plans for each of them. We were able to do this because what we teach is based on much more than a set curriculum of physical moves that require using legs, arms, the ability to see, or full mental cognition. 

And most important, the preventative content becomes even more critical if one has some limitations. So, if what you teach can’t be taught to anyone and everyone with adaptations to the curriculum, do not call it “self-defence.”

Reason #3:  

You need to be in better shape. Again, this one is usually told or shown indirectly to someone. Or, I have heard they let the person participate in a class, knowing the person will not stay after a class of high-paced, too intense training for a beginner. Weeding out the undesirables is often achieved this way. 

Of course, being in great shape is a valuable tool in self-defence, but does not everyone and anyone, regardless of their conditioning, have the right to learn self-defence? Some people might have the mental fortitude to stay and stick it out, but those people are few and far between. 

If you only teach a “hardcore” style of self-defence that requires strength, power, and a high level of physical conditioning, which is your focus, great! But only call it self-defence if your curriculum addresses people of all fitness levels. 

Outside of these three reasons, here is an article you might find interesting that explores another area of concern with Self-Defence Training and what its goal should be.

Another excellent free resource is from our friends Richard Dimitri and Pamela Armitage. Visit

Keep SAFE!

Chris Roberts, Founder SAFE Violence Prevention & Self Defence