This year SAFE International
is celebrating 25 years of Changing & Saving lives teaching self-defence. From my very first talk in September of 1994 standing in front of 20 high school kids wondering if they would even listen to me, to now where we have taught more than 200,000 students, much has changed. The program I taught 25 years ago is not even recognizable to today’s program, EXCEPT in one crucial aspect. From Day 1, the priority for me was always to teach anyone and everyone how to avoid violence.
I had my charts with me, with all the awareness topics I wanted to cover printed on them, and quickly found that this was my favourite part of teaching self-defence, not the physical self-defence
material. I find most self-defence systems and styles are curriculums that the instructor or founder believes are what the people they teach NEED. I had virtually no knowledge of what others taught outside of where I trained in Karate taught and called “self-defence,” which might have been a positive or negative, not sure. So yes, I had the topics, BUT I aimed to listen carefully to those I taught and their experiences, and from that make the changes that were most beneficial to them. So those I have taught, listened to and observed have shaped today’s curriculum.
I am a MAN, LOL, to which you might think, “Yeah, so what?”. Well, one thing I have come to learn over the 25 years and talk about extensively now in seminars is that most men have little to no clue what women experience daily. Even today, whenever I have an opportunity, I want there to be both men and women in a class so that both can learn to understand. Most males who have attended our certifications, which go in-depth in this area, have expressed disbelief, sadness, and even shock when hearing the women’s stories and experiences. I think it was Gavin DeBecker
, the author of the essential book on the topic of Violence Prevention, “The Gift of Fear
,” who said the following. If you ask a group of men when they last felt uncomfortable for their safety, they will search their memory banks and usually must go back years to remember one. If you ask women the same question, you typically will hear responses like, “this morning on the bus,” or “yesterday walking home with some guy behind her,” or last week “on the elevator.”
And the sheer number of times women have these gut feelings and actual experiences dwarfs the number that most men will ever have.
Those deemed vulnerable in our society like children, seniors, disabled, women, or working in higher-risk professions is where my passion lies to help. Now, this blog post is not meant to be an educational one with advice, but to get to the point of this first blog post on www.safe101.education. That is that I no longer teach self-defence, but instead, I teach Violence Prevention.
What is the difference between self-defence and violence prevention? Just read the words. Most people immediately think of a physical response when you say self-defence, and even if they do teach how to avoid violence, in my experience, they do not. Or rather, they give lip service to the topic giving minimal advice, but with little to no detail on the matter. Take, for example, someone who teaches to “Walk with confidence
.” It sounds like great advice, but what if someone they are teaching is thinking, “But I am not confident.” If they even bring up the question out of fear, others may judge them or made foolish to ask the question; they may be told to fake it! That is neither violence prevention nor self-defence advice. It is our responsibility as instructors to not just give information, but to give solutions on how to make the advice work. And maybe most critical to be able to read our clients to make sure they understand. If they disagree, great, let’s discuss it. Any reputable violence prevention instructor will not say, “just do what I tell you, I am the expert; it will work.” Listening is to the client’s fears, concerns, and history are just as important, if not more than just teaching what you think is always right.
So, is it semantics, violence prevention, self-defence, combatives, etc? No, there is a distinct difference between them all with some overlap, but it all depends where you put the priority regarding what you want to offer your clients. I will blog and post on the differences in the future, but for now please do not assume they are all the same thing.
Honesty in what you teach is also lacking with many in this industry. If you ask anyone in this industry, “do you teach how to recognize and avoid violence, effective, verbal de-escalation strategies, the psychology and behavioural patterns of violence”, you will always get a definite yes, but do they? Now, many believe they do, while others may doubt, they do, but are not going to admit that. Now, I was one of those 25 years ago who thought I did, but kept an open mind and kept soaking up more and more education on the topic to help those we teach. So, never be afraid before paying for a course to ask for some more information on any topic. If your BS meter kicks in, politely say thanks and move on. The topic of violence prevention
is potentially life-saving content and we owe it to those we teach to be honest with ourselves. If I do not have an answer, in good conscience I can’t lie, the outcome could be tragic, but I can tell them I am not sure, but let me check with others I respect or work with inside the industry.
What is the goal of this blog post? First, to introduce you to the new site www.safe101.education which has the goal to offer lots of free, beneficial content that you can implement immediately. I will also be working on some online courses for those who want to take a deeper dive, but all will have violence prevention at the heart of them. And will I still use the term “self-defence?”. Yes, because that is what people think it is, but if I meet them I will hopefully show them why we call it violence prevention.
Some will ask why I have titled our programs SAFE 101 and SAFE 360? Check out the site for more detail, but quickly explained, the SAFE 101 content covers extensively what i consider most important concerning understanding and avoiding violence. The SAFE 360 expands on that to include the physical aspects of violence prevention if one can’t avoid having to defend themselves.
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Managing Director, SAFE International