Would you rather be an encyclopedia of self-defence knowledge or have a firm grasp of the nuts & bolts of violence prevention and self-defence?
Well, that depends on your reason for studying the issue. Are you merely interested and fascinated with the subject for yourself, wishing to explore every aspect and crevice of violence, or do you want to teach others?
And if you’re going to teach, who do you want to teach? Are you teaching law enforcement, military, or any profession with specialized safety concerns? Or, in my instance, the public, those deemed vulnerable.
And when you teach, are you more absorbed in presenting as that encyclopedia or the authority with half your teachings flying far above the heads of your students or providing straightforward, direct, digestible content that the client can adapt in hours, not years?
Perhaps I lean the one direction because the alternative is out of my realm of possibility. At one time, I used to think simplicity was a sign of an absence of knowledge, but I learned that simplicity is much more useful than complexity when teaching skills that have the power to save lives.
This is where the intention of the instructor comes into play. Is their purpose of impressing the client putting themselves on a pedestal the goal or to provide the most down to earth, flexible education? I might argue that it is just as critical, if not more, that the teachings be kept as simple as possible if many restrictions and regulations are requiring this knowledge for the careers.
While the instructor may be the “authority” on self-defence and violence prevention, it is not a question that can be a one-way street when teaching thinking “their system” is the only way. It is not like teaching math where there is a problem to solve and one total solution. It is more complicated than that because we are dealing with more than one plus one equals two.
You are dealing with a vast number of differences in your clients, including age, size, strength, physical and mental limitations, lifestyle, history of abuse, trauma, upbringing, beliefs, and so on. So, I find it interesting how critical simplicity is when teaching and one other crucial aspect of listening!
As I mention on my website, SAFE International’s courses have changed year to year since 1994 based on the feedback, stories, and discussions from those we have taught. When I began teaching, I feel I kept it simple, but simple more from thinking I had to give a simple one answer solution to any problem or question asked. Nowadays, an elementary example of this is when someone says, “If they attacked me, I would just kick him in the nuts!”
I said simplicity is critical, but I do not mean simplicity by giving one answer, but clarifying the principles and concepts of self-defence that anyone can adapt to their life. Just as dangerous is the instructor who will provide one hundred solutions to a question. I often say that I have no answers, only options. While I get many confused looks, some even ask me, “But I am paying you for answers.” I stand behind this, and people seem to understand what I mean by options at the end of the training. Please do not confuse me by saying that I only offer options with one who might teach one hundred options that they attempt to have their clients memorize regarding the physical aspect of self-defence.
No honest teacher would teach one hundred memorized techniques to any specific attack if they genuinely had the student’s best interest and safety at heart. I argue their wallet is the priority when this type of teaching is prominent. There is nothing wrong with earning an income, but not at the cost of one’s safety.
The nuts and bolts of self-defence training would provide the students with what violence is, how it presents itself, how to recognize and avoid it. And all the time listening to how your students have experienced it and handled it, considering their personal story as mentioned previously. Self-defence should not involve flow charts, graphs with explanations that are not accessible to the clients.
Self-defence should involve teaching, listening, sharing stories, and analyzing options rooted in a simple understanding of principles and concepts.
Managing Director, SAFE International