Ron Amram
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The Missing Ingredient in Self Defence

What do you think is the most important element of self-defence classes?

Giving the student real self defence skills, in all their facets, is the obvious answer, but is it the first one and the only one?
Usually the argument will then go to discussion about technique, or scenarios, or the level of contact or how long it takes to get a black belt. These are all valid discussions, but often miss one important point.
Read more to find out what that point is!
Giving the student what they are after – self-defence skills – is indeed the most important outcome, without a shadow of a doubt. Where many people disagree is what those are, so let’s discuss this briefly:

  • Your technique doesn’t matter: Ok, that’s not quite true. There’s stuff that works and stuff that doesn’t, at least for the most part. But the discussion that most martial artists get stuck on – which technique is best for what – is often totally irrelevant if other more important elements of conflict are not addressed… and those are the ones listed below.
  • Pre-conflict – avoidance, de-escalation and communication, boundary setting, target hardening, situational awareness. Don’t teach it? Then it’s not self-defence.
  • Post- conflict – recovery, first aid, trauma management, litigation (both criminal and civil), retaliation, etc. Don’t teach it? Then it’s not self-defence
  • Scenario training – is a crucial piece for realistic self defence training. It must be included on a fairly regular basis if you are to be prepared for a ‘complete’ attack, as Professor Mike Belzer would say. In other word, this is a way to tie the ‘pre’ and ‘post’ together with the ‘during’.
  • Conditioning – being fit, strong and healthy is a great way to make sure that you are better prepared to handle an attack. Obviously, this is relative and changes from person to person. But at the end of the day, if your ultimate goal for self-defence is to live a long, happy life then looking after your health should be a part of that strategy. If your self-defence classes are not helping people get fitter and stronger, and are nothing but light, technical workouts they are probably not helping much.
  • Adrenaline management – a by-product of most of what is discussed above, but needs to be understood, discussed and trained.
  • Survival mindset – fighting spirit and a mindset of survival, without which none of the other stuff matters.

The next step is to understand how people learn. We need to understand how people learn physical skills and the processes they will go through. I’ll leave this discussion for another time. But there’s still a key ingredient that’s missing.
All of it – literally ALL of it – doesn’t matter in the slightest if the student doesn’t want to come to class.
I’ve attended workshops by very competent Krav Maga and self defence practitioners where the instructor acted as the proverbial ‘drill sergeant’ from the word go. They used extremely foul and aggressive language from the get-go. Their reasoning was that real attackers will use this kind of language and so students have to get used to it. I’ve seen exactly the same thing happen with instructors who use very hard contact from day one.
The vast majority of these kinds of instructors, from what I’ve seen, end up with a small group of dedicated, yet often unhinged, students. The majority of people don’t stick around.
If the goal is to help as many people as possible, then this method is counterproductive. In all likelihood those who will stick around are those who are already tough, already strong, etc. These are the ones less likely to be selected as a victim.
The flip side to that, and more importantly, is that this puts off the people who need the training the most. For example, people who have experienced trauma, the elderly, kids and teens and other more vulnerable sections of society are much less likely to stick around.

So, what does one have to do to make sure that they stick around?
Simple! It must be FUN.

Yes, you read it correctly. Fun. If you want to make people safe, you have to make your classes fun.
Let’s unpack that a little bit.
The dictionary definition is something that is amusing, entertaining or enjoyable.
That’s fairly accurate in terms of what a self defence class should be, with enjoyable being the key ingredient there.

If students enjoy the class, they’ll come again. If they enjoy the next class and the one after that, they’ll continue coming. 
If they keep coming, they’ll get better. If they get better, they’ll be better equipped to deal with a situation if and when it occurs.

Yes, there are time limits and we want to give people skill as quickly as possible. And yes, there obviously has to be a serious tone to the classes. But expecting people to pay money to do something they don’t enjoy is unrealistic. Would you go a restaurant where you hate the food and the service is crap just because the food is healthy? Of course not. You’ll go get your burger where you know the food is tasty and the service is good. Same logic applies here.

Let’s summarise and review:

  • If our end goal is to make sure that people are safer as a result of our training, they have to actually be there to train.
  • For them to want to be there to train, the training has to be fun – engaging, enjoyable, encouraging, empowering and interesting.
  • The populations that need the training the most are also the ones that are less likely to stick around for training that isn’t enjoyable.
  • Fun doesn’t mean easy.
  • There needs to be a balance between fun, challenging and serious.
  • I hope you have fun in your next class!

    Stay safe, stay tuned. Osu/Oss


Acceleration and Gauges: Thoughts on Less Commonly Discussed Aspects of Adrenaline Management in Self Defence

Perceptions and Reality, Pt 2: Language Matters

'I Hate Violence': Thoughts on Tools, Idealism and Misconceptions

Trick Question: Where Does Real-World Violence Happen?

Spreadsheets, Processes, Goal Setting and Developing Training Plans

'Roses Really Smell Like': Reasons, Excuses and Recognising Your Own BS

Defending You from You: Self Defence, Defence of Self, and Defence From Self

Not Just a River in Egypt: The Most Dangerous Thing You Say to Yourself is...

The Flip Side: Traditional Martial Arts and Combat Sports ARE Effective for Self Defence...?

Welcome to the After-party: Dealing With the Consequences of Self Defence

Don't Try This at Home: A Common Self Defence Mistake You've Probably Made

Why Are You Here? Thoughts on Challenging Times and the Self Defence Mindset

The Many Faces of the Dojo, Pt. 5 (or 'Titular Tantrums')

The Many Faces of the Dojo, Pt. 4 (or 'The Coach Conundrum')

Situational Awareness Games: Tips and Tricks to Improve your Personal Safety

The Situational Awareness Trap: Do You Know What to Look For?

Under Pressure: Thoughts on Resistance, Contact and Pressure Testing

The Difference Between Life and Death: 2 Stories of Situational Awareness

Eurydice Dixon's Tragic Death: Thoughts on Victim Blaming, Personal Responsibility and Safety

An Elevator Ride That Changed My Life: A Tale About Heart

Bring the Ring to the Street: Self Defence Lessons from Combat Sports

Your High-School Teacher Was Wrong: Thoughts on Multiple Attackers

Van Damme and Krav Maga: What the 80's Got Right!

Let's Settle it! The Best Self Defence System is...

Fast Cars and D*ck Jokes: Getting Ready for Your Krav Maga Grading

Annoying or Dangerous? A Handy Guide to Self Defence Decisions

Permission Granted: On the Willingness to Act in Self Defence

Not Just Like Riding a Bike - Thoughts on Longevity in Self Defence

The Art of Picking Locks - Thoughts on Teaching Martial Arts

The 3 P's of Speed, Part II - Cycles, Resets and Defaults

Etudes for Boxing (or 'Learning How to Make a Great Speech') - Drills for Timing, Range and Self Expression

Yiddish Self Protection, Grandmothers and Some Important Life Lessons

Technical Difficulties, Curricular Conundrums and Adaptive Learning

Fight or Fright, Pt. 2

Fight or Fright, pt. 1

Being a Good Training Partner, Pt. 2 - Roles, Mirrors and Comfort

Being a Good Training Partner, Pt. 1 - Roadmaps and Tools

3 Hilariously Sad Stories of Effort and Reward

'Woof Woof' - Tales of Intent, Confidence, Ego and Dog Poop

Economic Theory and Your Training, Pt. 2 - Lessons From Behavioural Finance

Economic Theory and Your Training, Pt. 1 - There May Be Something Here...

Venn Diagrams and Martial Arts: Tradition, Sport and Self Defence

Lessons From A Tattoo - Attachment, Contentment and Progress in Martial Arts

A Broken Compass: Mayweather Vs McGregor, Morality Vs Curiosity and Combat Sports Vs Martial Arts

The Many Faces of the Dojo, Pt. 3 (or 'Enough Stereotypes Already!')

The Many Faces of the Dojo, Pt. 2 (or 'More Stereotype Fails')

The Many Faces of the Dojo, Pt. 1 (or 'Martial Artist Stereotypes')

Not All Arts Were Created Equal

It's You Vs You, Part 1: Martial Arts Mediocrity, Excellence and Success

How Your Messy Desktop Can Literally Get You Killed!

The Dojo Syndrome Pt. 4 (Or 'Oh No, More Self Defence Fails!)

Why You Should Beat Your Instructors Up

Play Music to Learn How to Fight (or Vice Versa)!

Principles of Pugilistic Propulsion

Alone or Together?

Speed with 3 P's

Is Your Krav Maga Soft?

Sparring in Krav Maga... Should You?

Why You Will Fail to Keep Your New Year's Resolution... And What to do About it!

Get S.M.A.R.T

Getting Punched in the Face, Puzzle Solving and Critical Thinking

Is Self-Defence a Lifestyle Choice?

The Dojo Syndrome pt. 3 (or 'even more reasons why self defence training is done badly')

The Real Dojo Bully