Self Defense Seminars Will Not Save Your Life

        When people are thinking about self defense many will hear about “self defense seminars” being advertised by various groups who claim to teach people how to defend themselves. Most often women more so than men are looking for a way to learn self defense because they realize the world is a bit dangerous and want to feel secure when going out. These kinds of courses and seminars are usually called reality based self defense (RBSD) and include various systems with very silly overly technical and politically correct names.

        Often times women, as well as some men, believe they want a no nonsense lesson or two in self defense that gets straight to the point of self defense. Many people cater to this desire and claim that someone could go to their seminar or take their short course and learn all of the tools one needs to feel confident and defend themselves. Most of these seminar and course holder’s claims are that no one needs to learn 100’s of moves and memorize them and waste their time because you can learn to defend yourself with a few very easy and short steps.

        I found in a YMCA magazine for the local YMCA’s in this area an advertisement for a self defense course held at a YMCA by some local person who created a system called “Urban Protection Solutions” or something close to that. Urban Protection Solutions claims:

We have developed a simple, very effective self-defense/survival program geared toward you. This is not some complicted course where you have to learns hundreds of moves. THis (sic) program is designed for you to be able to incapacitate an assailant and escape.

Yeah sure…What RBSD people do is try to find a corporate sounding, politically correct, or technical term to name their style. Basically saying “How to beat people up so they don’t beat you up” is not very cool. Or even “The kicking and punching method” is not cool either. So names like Taekwondo “Way of smashing with feet and hands” or Karate “way of empty hands” is not cool or professional sounding. So they name them silly names like Urban Protective Solutions. I know of another guy here who claims to have various black belts in a lot of martial arts, and I mean a lot, who calls his style “Creative Combat System.”

        Honestly, the confidence many seminar people give to their customers is false. There is no possible way someone could take 1 seminar, maybe 3 hours or so long, or even a short week long course and assume they can effectively defend themselves realistically in that amount of time. The average person just cannot do it. It is nearly impossible unless you are somehow athletically gifted with extreme natural coordination. The claim no one needs to learn 100’s of movements is incredibly ignorant and dishonest. In realistic martial arts training you may or may not need to know 100 separate moves. It depends on the martial arts system you are training under. If not so many moves you will still learn 100’s of combinations, angles and other ways to do a set of a few different movements. Boxing for instance has about 8 punches and about 10 blocks give or take depending on what your coach classifies as a separate punch or block. You will learn 100’s of ways to throw many combos, many subtle steps and footwork etc. over a long period of time with proper training. The fact is a person needs to take many hours, days, weeks, months, and years to actually defend themselves properly. Sure you can always run, but if you are attacked with no prior martial arts experience, and you only took a 3 hour seminar there is a very, very, very slim chance one would come out okay. And to think taking a “rape prevention course,” even a typical college P.E. credited course such as RADS (Rape Aggression Defense System) for an entire semester is going to save you from getting raped well, you are wrong. You are STILL going to get raped. You need to realize this.

        A real problem with so many seminars/courses are that their techniques are not really that effective and often times are silly or very dangerous to assume it is a smart way to move. While I was attending my university as an undergraduate they had RADS as a P.E. course for females only. Everything they did in that class was secret and men were not allowed to know what they learned because it could help would be rapists know their secrets so they could better rape women or something like that…stupid I know…well one day I was sitting on a patio table on campus and found that a female had forgotten to take her RADS booklet back to her dorm and it was left open. I decided to look at this “secret knowledge” and found that one of the movements to defend against rape was to literally turn around on your stomach as the guy is on top of you and do some maneuver to get him off of you. Being a martial artist during my time studying at this university I ran the official MMA club and was founder and president. Knowing some BJJ I realized that it would be so easy to choke a woman out and then rape her anyway in that position. RADS is basically the type of course where women yell “STOP!” a lot and kick and punch a guy with a gigantic padded suit on. It gives false security to women since realistically a lot of untrained females do not have power to really damage a man nor the technical skill to choke him out or lock his joints up etc.

        During my university days I also took all of the martial arts courses for P.E. credits: Taekwondo, Total Self Defense (was actually a very very well run self defense course focusing on combatives), Karate (which was actually Tang Soo Do) and TFT (Target Focus Training). All of the classes were run very well and taught basic skills for fighting effectively, all except for TFT. TFT is the kind of system where the instructor will just give you statistics about crime and violence and talk “extra serious!!!!” and even cuss sometimes to emphasize how extra serious the techniques are. I took a full semester of TFT and I was told never to block or even try it or I could be killed. There is no ready position to hold hands up for defenses either, you have to keep your hands down casually. You only learn a couple of strikes which are a punch, palm strike, and ways to hit the throat. Most of the strikes are arching motions and not straight. There are hardly any kicks, more like steps or walking forward and pushing with the foot. You are told that if you are faced with an attack you should only attack back and hit the special “vital points” they tell you and also step around and dodge things. They assume any strike you do is enough to incapacitate a person and even “crush their throat with your hand hitting it, crunch or break their ankle simply by stepping on it and other nonsense. They also assume if you are hit in the groin every attacker will always bend over (not true). Every technique you learn is in slow motion and you are never trained to hit fast or full force, they just assume you will. They even teach you that if someone has a knife or a gun you should just hit the guy and go forward. You are not allowed to train it fast either, and if you even so much as motion that you are about to grab the gun you will get yelled at. I was told that martial arts techniques I know would not work and not to try them. They even have a silly stepping form with the feet called “leg dynamics” and it is only stepping and reminds me of very poorly copied Kung Fu walking.

Here is an example of the bullcrap training that TFT emphasizes. Its is like the Bujinkan of RSBD with slow motion nonsense:

        So many seminars and short courses claim to be from “reality based self defense” experts who claim their self defense system is based on realism and truth while the martial arts, what they clump together as all styles and systems of tradition, waste your time and focus on unrealistic and false techniques that will not save your life. There have even been online arguments on various martial arts forums about how the “Karate punch” is inferior to their “reality based self defense punches.” The truth is, a punch is a punch! You need to learn to actually fight and use techniques at full speed and they need to be pressure tested with resisting opponents. Traditional martial arts allow for this and any good traditional martial art teacher will also train you properly. Just because many mcdojos and mcdojangs exist does not make a style of martial arts worthless.

        The fact is people need to take up a martial art style or go to a martial arts school, plan to train for the long haul and make such exercises a part of their life. True self defense skills will be learned over time and kept by continuous practice. Not a 3 hour seminar, not a 1 week long course, not a summer camp, and not by taking a college semester of RSBD nonsense. RBSD in most cases are bullshido and the mcdojo of the DVD and seminar world.

        RBSD is not the only offender of such seminars. Filipino Martial Arts is notorious for this. The worst part is most FMA systems are very legitimate and good. For some reason most FMA masters do not open gyms or academies around the world and many just travel doing seminars. Kali or Eskrima has become an “add on art” instead of a full system. Often times the same fake training, learning nonsense drills, accompanies the FMA seminar. People go just to get ranks or certificates saying they did something to get a rank. FCS Kali is one of the most notorious for doing this. The FMA issue could be a whole different article so I will stop mentioning it now.

        There are possibly some RBSD styles that are good, Krav Maga comes close but everything they do is basically from Karate and could be learned in a Karate class with masterful skills emphasized instead of quick learning and sloppy brawling drills which happens in most Krav Maga classes. I personally think that most RBSD makes rdiculous and unfounded claims as well as do not save anyone’s life if all they do is train in their system. True self defense has to be learned with 100’s of moves memorized, hard and long training, various pressure testing and perfection of movements. Regular martial arts classes are going to give that to someone. Just because mcdojoism has left an ugly scare on some styles of martial arts does not mean that the art is a waste of time and silly. Find a decent traditional martial art school and train. Make martial arts a lifestyle as part of whatever you do in your life. RBSD just makes “learn quick deadly techniques fast” claims which are not true and most likely going to give a person false security and end up causing them real problems when a real self defense situation occurs. RBSD like the mcdojo simply exists to make money and they use extreme marketing techniques like any mcdojo in town. Even Crossfit made a RBSD program called “Crossfit Defense” with people associated with the TFT people. Beware.

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White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

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Comments
  1. Grey Wolf says:

    Agreed 100%. Usually RBSD is subpar martial arts and they make the same kind of ridiculous claims traditional martial artists do. The main guys almost always have skill in pre-existing traditional martial arts…or a lack of skill. They become experts the same way we did: book study and video study. Nothing special. Military and Law Enforcement experience does not necessarily equate to expertise.

    Th difference between us and them as martial arts teachers and is that we don’t care about making a quick buck AND we regularly spar on top of our theory and video studies. If you don’t know how your body works under a fully resisting opponent under the stress of possible injury, how can you honestly communicate this to your students?

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