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Wednesday, 19 February 2014


I mentioned in my last article about watching some self defence training clips recently. This by no means applies to all the SD training out there, there are some people doing good work. However there does seem to be a trend towards the “quick fix” self defence course which, I believe, can actually be dangerous.

One of the favourite buzz-words for this type of course is “empowerment”. It’s a powerful word, if you’ll pardon the pun. Who wouldn’t want to take a person who is suffering some sort of threat, violence, abuse or lack of power and give them the tools in order to assert themselves in a bad situation.

The problem is in the method of doing so. People attending are shown some “sure-fire” techniques which they work against a helpful partner or on a Bob dummy. In addition they may be encouraged to “power shout” and put all their aggression into the technique.  Everyone gets a bit adrenalised, get’s the chance to vent some tension and no doubt goes home feeling “empowered”.

This is in marked contrast to more realistic forms of training, where people, for the first few sessions at least, feel markedly worse after! This is an important aspect of training - you have to make people understand and recognise  their vulnerabilities before addressing them. Otherwise it’s just papering over the cracks. A person who has undergone training to control their emotional response in a dangerous situation is far better equipped than a person who is taught to “just slap the ears” or “just kick the groin”. They may get lucky, but if things do not work like they did in the class there is a real chance they will freeze or fall apart.

This points to the second problem with the “quick fix” method - technique above principle. Some measure of technique is very useful to start - but only if it is taught as a possible response, not as a carved in stone “he does this you do that”.  Further study of principle leads to important things such as awareness, understanding of body language, communication techniques and other skills not covered in the “quick fix” approach.

 Working in a behavioural way through a principle led approach will lead to a person being much more adaptable under pressure and ultimately lead to empowerment as a state of being rather than an empty buzz word

The biggest problem of course is that marketing the “quick fix” is liable to be more comercially succesful - in almost every sphere of life, from dieting to self defence to keep fit. The brutal truth is that without a lack of real understanding, reliance on a coupe of “tricks” holds potential for disaster


  1. I do use the word empowerment as well! Great stuff here Rob.

  2. Thanks! Nothing wrong with using the word in the right context lol