Failure of Self-Defence Systems

Mar 23, 2020

You can find many self-defence systems or styles on the internet these days. Many of these systems are popular, and often people get involved with them for the name to help promote or bring in business.  I have no problem with any of that.  I operate a self-defence business called SAFE International™ and while my goal is to make people safer, another goal is earning an income for my family.  The Failure of Self-Defence Systems I see is in the actual content many teach and how they teach it as a “system” which is the exact opposite way one should teach and approach violence prevention and self defence.  The definition of “system”. 

In the Collins dictionary it says a system is “A system is a way of working, organizing, or doing something which follows a fixed plan or set of rules.”


In my humble opinion, this is the last way you want to approach violence prevention or self-defence, whether as a teacher or student.  The first part that jumps out at me is where the definition says, “a way of working.”  Now, I am the first to say this is my interpretation and others will have differing opinions, but to me, that implies there is an individual way of dealing with Violence.  Having a “way” limits you, narrows your options.  Also, it makes it sound like Violence will present itself in a certain format, and whatever the format is, this is how you handle it. Violence has countless ways of presenting itself, and hundreds of ways or directions it may go depending on countless factors. It may begin one way, then change based on the environment, people, circumstances. 

Having a “way” to deal with it to me implies there are procedures or a “system” to follow, as if Violence will respect your system.  Yes, you want ways, but not “a way.”  And those ways must be flexible in a split-second.  Your training or teaching should place an emphasis on how to navigate through the chaos with options, not attached to a singular way.   

Of more concern to me in the definition is reading “fixed plan”. In everyday life we make plans and decisions on a multitude of things, and often those plans often go awry. But when we speak of Violence, having a fixed plan can mean the difference between life and death or something in between.  You can have a fixed plan or a general outline for yourself in your daily routines like what time you get up, how you arrange your morning, plans for the day, but if you think for a moment that Violence will honour your plans, you would be mistaken.  

When obstacles come up in your daily plans, you have time to think about them, think of options or alternatives.  If someone is confronting you or has already begun an assault on you, there is a much less time to run through your Rolodex of options.  The ability to adapt with no expectations is key.  Having expectations fits into the fixed plan scenario.  If you expect a particular result and you do not get it, this is when people often freeze.  Having no expectations, but understanding Violence can go many ways, allows you to think on your feet more if your training has taken that into account. 

A simple example of this is how people teach if a straight punch comes at them to move to the outside, putting yourself in a more helpful position to escape or strike back. This may be true, but what if there was a wall to the outside? That simple, single obstacle is just one example of how your fixed plan or intent changes everything. I prefer to teach, here are some possibilities, but if you do not get hit, whatever you did worked. So, you run the drill with unfamiliar people, of varying sizes, strengths, speeds. You add additional people, other variables, and keep throwing obstacles or challenges into the drill. You see people thinking on their feet and not trying to force any pre-determined self-defence “moves” or “techniques” in. Will you mess up? If you are not screwing up in the drills, you are not making them realistic enough. There is much more to be learned in your errors than making the goal to run the drill in a choreographed manner, with the student performing it hundreds of times in a row. This will lead to a false sense of confidence. If the student messes up the drill and wants to begin again, you make sure they understand they need to problem solve from the point of error and come up with viable solutions. Even if they train slowly, take the time to analyze the options, they will create a flexible blueprint for their self-defence drill training. Perform your self-defence drills slow, medium speed, and fast. Not all training has to be done at full speed, high impact. Combining different modes of self-defence training is all part of the bigger plan.

And even if you train optimally incorporating all these different methods, it will never be the exact same as really experiencing violence. But the goal is to bring the training as close to reality as possible so if the time comes the gap between the two is not so large that one freezes or hesitates too long.
Violence is chaos so make your self-defence training chaos friendly if your goal is empowering and educate your self-defence students.

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Keep SAFE!

Chris Roberts
Managing Director, SAFE International™

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