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The three “must ask” questions you should ask your self-defense Instructor

When learning self-defense the instructor teaching the class really does matter!

When I was coming up through the martial arts ranks in the eighties and nineties there was term we used for guys that only fought in their system and only their students, “Paper Tigers”. Because they did not have the confidence to test there skills against other martial arts instructors.Now, It’s far worse, you see instructors that have never sparred or even been in a confrontation, teaching people how to defend against knives and guns. You can now be a “so-called” self-defense instructor after just taking a weekend course.

Would you go to a cooking class that was taught by someone that has never cooked before? What if they said “I know all the ingredient so it doesn’t matter that I’ve never cooked.” It’s no different than the self-defense instructor that says he doesn’t need any fighting experience because he knows all the techniques. The only difference is, bad cooking won’t get you killed!

These are the three questions I recommend you ask any potential Self-defense instructor and the reason behind the question:

  1. Are you actively training and sparring in the martial arts?

Why ask – are they actively training and reacting to non-prearranged attacks?

2. Have you ever competed in combat sports?

Why ask – have they fought anyone that was actually trying to defeat them?

3.  Are you an active or former police officer or have been in the military?

Why ask – do they have any actual street experience or military training?

I recently had 4 self-defense Instructors from a local program that asked me to work with them and help them improve their skills. They were starting to feel that the weekend Instructor course they took might not be enough to teach people about possible life threatening encounters.

The first thing I did was partner them up with each other, put gloves on the attacker and headgear on the defender. I then said “OK first drill, you are at a talking distance of one step away from the attacker, he is going to throw a real punch at you with their right hand to the left side of you face, GO!”

You have to understand they had a step to react to the most common attack on a male, the classic sucker punch. I even told them what side of the face they were going to get hit.They had absolutely no idea how to defend against that punch, no idea about balance, movement or shielding. The most common response was to lean back or lean to the side. Realize, these guys teach gun and knife defense but had no understanding of action, reaction and movement.

There is only one way to develop these skills and that is extensive training that includes sparring with good partners. Now I will be the first to say, sparring in a controlled environment is not a street fight. I will also tell you that you have no way of learning how to really defend yourself, let alone teach others to defend themselves, without some extensive training that includes sparring on a regular basis. Why, you might ask, don’t I just need to learn the Self-defense techniques? And the answer is No!

The first time someone spars, the majority of people describe it in the same way many people with no training describe a street fight or an attack, it was a blur, don’t know what happened, everything moved so fast. When I talk about sparring I mean putting on safety gear that should include headgear and mouthpiece, shin and instep protection, groin protection (for males) and if you are a beginner a rib guard. You should then be matched with someone that is around your size and skill level.

You start with sparring drills and then work toward free sparring (not prearranged attacks). The student over time starts to lose the fear of the strikes and starts to feel like everything is slowing down.Take that same student that has done extensive training with sparring and now teach them street level self-defense. The difference is night and day! They move in balance and understand the importance of critical distance. They are far more able to see what is really happening and this should be the minimum requirement for someone teaching self-defense.

This is why all of our COBRA Self-Defense instructors are active Martial Artists. They spar as well as practice their fighting and street self-defense skill over and over again. They understand the fundamental basics of self-defense; balance, movement and distancing and can teach it!We currently have a retired police Lieutenant, who’s an instructor and our street level self-defense expert. We also have a Marine Corporal that is actively competing in kickboxing and an Instructor in the COBRA Self-Defense classes.

So if you plan on taking a self-defense course, ask these three questions to the person actually teaching the class, and not the figurehead that created it. If the answer is “no” to all three of these question, than I highly recommend you look someplace else. Should you expect anything less from a person that is teaching you techniques that are supposed to be able to save your life?

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