Reasonable, Gross and the Great Lie..

Many people believe, that if they study martial arts then they will be able to protect themselves and their loved ones.

That is simply not true, self-defence is something completely different.

This is further complicated by the common belief amongst instructors that if you teach martial arts you are automatically qualified to teach self-defence.

These are two of the greatest misconceptions of our time and should be added to the other great lie, the check’s in the post.

In the past, most martial arts were combat arts but today, the majority are taught as sport by instructors who are professional coaches and athletes.

There are 3 key aspects to self-defence:

– Technique
– Law
– Conflict Management

It could be argued that martial arts is predominately about students learning combat and fighting technique, therefore they will gain knowledge of self-defence.

On deeper inspection most of the techniques are not fit for purpose.

The majority of techniques taught, rely on many hours of repetition, as they require the development of fine motor skills and balance.

Self-defence should be quickly learned and easily replicated.

Anyone, regardless of size, physical fitness, gender or age should be able to use the techniques in real life situations.

We should consider the effect of fear and combat stress on our physiology and have an understanding of how this will affect an average person.

With this in mind, self-defence techniques should be designed around the use of gross motor skills and based on the scientific principles of Hicks and Guthrie.

Most martial arts instructors have know idea about combat stress as they are sportsmen and women.

They have little or no experience of real conflict as their combat has rules.

They train for bouts lasting 3 mins, with safety considerations in place and medical teams ready to act.

Self-defence has no such niceties.

Physical encounters last between 12-30 secs, just check out YouTube.

An average person has the physical resources for at most 3-6 seconds of response.

That is why I mentioned real life scenarios.

Instructors should discuss modern risks.

These should be based on real events and situations outlined by local and national crime statistics.

Do you know the 10 most commonly used physical attacks?

No, then how can you design techniques to defend against them?

Being able to defend yourself with a long pole against a sword wielding horseman might have have been useful in the middle ages, but it isn’t likely to help on a saturday night out or be of use to a child being bullied at school.

So keep it real..

Moving on, lets look at the law.

In today’s world, if you defend yourself you will need an understanding of the law.

By this, I mean the real laws and not urban myths.

The urban myth I like most, is the one where I have to warn someone three times that i am a trained martial artist before I can defend myself.

That’s nearly as bad as only being able to fight in bare feet or the “no touch” policy advocated by schools.

If you teach self-defence you should have a thorough understanding of the law.

You should be able to define the aspects of reasonable force and list the laws which govern the use of force.

You should also, as part of what is reasonable, cover de-escalation and conflict management.

This is a topic seldom covered in martial arts.

Disengagement is a great life skill, having the ability to remove yourself from situations of danger, before the need for technique, reduces the chance of injury.

Remember as an instructor, you are deemed to be offering professional advice.

You could be held liable for the actions of your students and will need to defend what you taught in court.

Criminal cases aside, you are betting your house on your knowledge, civil suits are expensive.

For free advice on any aspect of self-defence drop an email to


2 thoughts on “Reasonable, Gross and the Great Lie..

  1. DeWayne says:

    There is no standardized self defense laws. They not only vary widely state to state, they also vary in different counties, cities, and such. No one is legally responsible for crimes committed by a student abusing martial arts. That’s just not correct. I do agree that martial arts and self defense aren’t necessarily the same thing.

    • Hi DeWayne,
      Thank you for taking time and comment on my post.

      As always, I appreciate comments but at no point did I say there were standardised laws on self-defence.

      You are correct the laws are different depending on where you live but that doesn’t change the need for instructor diligence.

      And as part of that diligence, I said instructors should have a thorough knowledge of laws governing the use of force.

      Which will include common and criminal laws for their local area.

      As for liabilities, if you are a professional offering a service, you are responsible for what you teach, it’s called vicarious liability.

      I hope that clarifies things.

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