Posts tagged Self Defense
Teaching Self Defense, Violence Education/ Survival for the Martial Arts Instructor

I wrote this article after attending the conference listed below. I am re-posting on my blog as even though it’s over 10 years old, the base message and goal of helping martial arts instructors offer the best self defense product to our clients, remains the same.


This spring I attended the Advanced Threat Assessment and Management conference hosted by Gavin DeBecker & Associates. Gavin DeBecker & Associates is an internationally recognized firm that specializes in the prediction and management of violence. The speakers covered managing victim fear, how to fire an employee, the Columbine High School and Virginia Tech massacres, the profile of a

spree killer and much more. I also had the privilege of hearing Lt. Col. Dave Grossman speak at the conference (Lt. Col. Dave Grossman is an internationally recognized scholar, author, and speaker) as an expert in the field of human aggression and the roots of violence and violent crime. His presentation in particular confirmed my belief that the elements of violence prediction, prevention and survival are both intrinsic and essential to our job as instructors in the martial arts.


As martial artists we hope we will be able to defend ourselves and our loved ones should the need arise.  For those of us who teach our martial arts to others, we have additional concerns. Regardless of the martial arts we teach and train, there is a much greater depth of knowledge in any art than is necessary for self-defense alone. While we hope to keep our students in the arts for their lifetime, we may have them only for a short time.  We can inspire them to educate themselves on how to avoid violence by identifying it’s potential early.  We can teach them the physical skills necessary to survive a violent encounter. Also, we can help some of them become determined not to be victimized. Each of our students is a member of a workplace/school/home and as such should be exposed to issues of Workplace/School and Domestic Violence.  We have the unique ability to do this.


What we need to do is arm ourselves with as much good information as we can get our hands on, especially if we are teaching law enforcement or the military.  The professionals in these areas will be in violent encounters and will go to work each day with the threat of violence as reality.  While we can focus the bulk of our teaching on our larger art, we have an obligation to teach functional self-defense

skills to those who want it and will need it. 


As instructors we should honestly assess our own self-defense skills and whether they will hold up in a violent encounter with an extremely hostile attacker. Do we have the best information on which of the

body's tools can do the most damage? Do we know which targets are the most vulnerable? Do we have the physical and mental ability to follow up? Are we in condition?


A good self test for the self defense self-assessment was suggested to me by my instructor, Rick Faye.  His advice: pick the biggest, scariest, baddest person you know and visualize them enraged and attacking you at the lowest energy part in your day. If you don’t think an effective set of skills will come out under those circumstances, you may need to adjust your own self defense training. Next, is the self defense curriculum evaluation.  Will the tools work on a bigger, stronger, focused opponent? Can the skills you are teaching be transferred to your audience in the amount of time allotted? Do you have a spectrum of options? The unwanted grab in a bar and the drunk, disruptive relative should have different answers than an abduction attempt. 


Techniques that require a lot of repetition, practice and development are not appropriate for a short term self defense course. For example, if the spinning reverse eye-lid lock is foundation for your personal self-defense, the information on what exactly happens in one's body under stress might cause you to reassess that particular technique. There is a ton of great written material on how to functionalize combat skills.  Only in the past decade has much of this research been disseminated to the general population.


We want our students to have the ability to make awareness and avoidance a habit; to assess and reassess a situation as it changes; and to act when appropriate. Here are a few areas your research should include:

Violence prediction: 

How to identify a predator’s behavioral cues, the markers for a school/workplace killer.                   

Awareness skills, including how to identify the body language of intimidation, manipulation and lying. 

Physical Security measures:  How to make your home, workplace, school and yourself a harder target.

Victim Education: Study the victim selection process, the domestic violence cycle, and situational andenvironmental awareness. The basics of what to assess and how to avoid potential trouble.

Violence Survival: Good ways to develop verbal assertiveness skills, stress inoculation drills, assertive body language, functional defensive skills and ingrain the survival mindset.


Each group we are contracted to teach has elements specific to that group.  What is appropriate for a police officer may not be appropriate for a bodyguard.  Curriculum presented to traveling sales people traveling to Dubuque, IA should differ from those traveling to Mexico City.  Here again is an opportunity to do some research. Include everything from what someone may be wearing to the specifics of the threats they may encounter. 


I’m often asked to teach how to “use an attacker’s force against them”, how to “disable” an attacker, and even the “one shot” ultimate self defense move.  While these things might be accomplished over many years of training and by naturally superior athletes, usually those asking the question don’t fall into ‘superior athlete’ category and they want to learn the skills right away. Unfortunately, the media has created the belief that there is a predator around every corner, that there is a nonviolent way to handle violence and that our intuition is unreliable.  Navigating these myths is where our many years of teaching and learning will come into play.  As instructors we must leave our students with enough confidence to act effectively and urge them to continually develop their self-protection skills.


The ATAM conference underscored how important it is for me as a martial arts instructor to teach those around me to pay attention to their intuition and surroundings, to think for themselves, to be

responsible for themselves, to speak up when something is wrong and to help others. While the long term development of the martial arts is more fun to teach and definitely less stressful, we have an obligation to put forth the best self defense information we can.


Thank you for reading.


Diana Rathborne

Situational Awareness: Hope is NOT a Plan.

Of the many gifts the martial arts journey has given me, the people I’ve gotten to know, learn from and train with is up at the top of my list. This past week, one of my friends and training partners from the Active Countermeasures Group (ACG) volunteered his time to talk to my Women’s Self Defense class at Minneapolis Community Technical College. His presentaion exposed these young women to the highest level instruction and cutting edge information on situational awareness. I've watched them throughout the semester learn and become both aware and proactive in their day to day self protection.

Hope is not a plan. Have a plan!
— Dale O. Applied Countermeasures Group (ACG)

Dale’s presentation taught me a great deal as well. One of my favorite quotes from the lecture was, "If you're hoping something won't happen, you're unprepared. Hope is not a plan."

Two weeks ago, Sgt A. Williams from the Minnesota State Patrol gave the women the same message, differently: "If your plan is to call 911, you don't have a plan." The required reading for the class, Defensive Living by Ed Lovette and Dave Spaulding also highlights the importance of awareness, avoidance and having a plan. It is my hope that having so many great sources say the same thing slightly differently will impress upon the students just how important it is to pay attention and get your mind right ahead of time.

I’ve added two of the elements I learned from the lecture to my every day awareness skill development practice:

1) To take a moment to scan all the way to the left and all the way to the right before entering or exiting anywhere. While I'm attentive and aware of what's going on around me, I do go from one thing to the next at a frenetic pace and do not take that preparatory moment before I barge from location A into location B. I have been looking to add a ‘mindfulness practice’ element to my life, and I think this is where it’s going to fit in: mindfulness in awareness! Lesson: Take a breath and a moment ... to scan for threats, especially when changing locations. (If I do this every time I go in or out of somewhere, maybe I can get one with the universe while I increase my situational awareness!)

2) “When you’re bored in class, figure out how you’d barricade the room you’re in..” led to the second practice I've added to my day. I've never thought about how to barricade myself into the room I"m in. I know my exits and I've definitely thought about what items I would use as a weapon, but I’d never done the mental gymnastics on what is barricade worthy furniture and how'd I'd put it together. Lesson: assess interior decor with an eye to barricade building.

So much great information and concepts in 75 minutes! That it will help those young ladies walk safer through their world.. exciting to watch! Thanks Dale!

If you or your business are contemplating some risk assesment, etc you can learn more about the Applied Countermeasures Group here:

If your plan is to call 911, you do not have a plan.
— Sgt. A. Williams Minnesota State Patrol