Thinking about taking up self-defence? Good. That’s a major first step. But think carefully before you enrol in a self-defence school. Choosing the proper one is extremely important — in fact, choosing the wrong school can be worse than not learning how to defend yourself at all. Read on to find out how to spot a bad self-defence school.
So how do you spot a bad defence school? The following tips will come in handy:
- DON’T choose a traditional martial arts or a sports school. These are great if you want to get fit or learn to do a takedown or throw a cool spinning kick or a hook. DON’T get me wrong — many of these skills can come in handy during a fight. But the reality is that neither boxing nor wrestling nor MMA will prepare you to fight against multiple attackers, defend against weapons, or use improvised weapons yourself. Worse, they will teach you rules which may limit your ability to defend yourself against an opponent wants to hurt you by any means necessary.
- DO choose a school that explicitly identifies itself as teaching self-defence. Better yet, choose a school (like EMA) that combines pure self-defence (like Krav Maga) with a traditional martial art (like Muay Thai). That way you get the best of both worlds.
- DON’T sign upon a whim. Some schools or websites will try to lure you with discounts. DON’T bite. Not even if they have glowing online reviews or are practically giving away a membership. This is the place where you’ll learn skills that could save your life. You owe it to yourself to be patient and do your research.
- DO talk with the instructor AND take a trial class. When I was first considering EMA Toronto, I called their contact number and ended up having a 15-minute chat with Dan Novak, the owner and head instructor. He patiently answered all my questions. He was knowledgeable and sincere. Better yet, he invited me to a free trial class, an offer which I promptly accepted.
- DON’T believe in a system that relies exclusively on passive, compliant partners. When you talk to the instructor or go to the free class (you did get a a free trial class, right?) make sure the techniques are practiced on partners who are at least somewhat non-compliant. What does this mean? Well, to a degree we must be passive and allow our fellow students to apply the technique to us, especially at the beginning of the class or when learning a completely new technique. But there must come a point when we commit to an attack and not simply let our partner apply a technique to us as if we were a doll. It’s a fine line, to be sure, but it’s an important one.
- DO make sure the school encourages realistic, aggressive attacks and defences.
- DON’T believe in a school that portrays self-defence as easy. Someone told me once about an instructor who claimed he felt sorry for
anyone who’d attack him with knife. Said instructor was an idiot — a dangerous one. No one who’s ever been attacked with a knife or even seen real knife attacks will tell you they’re easy to defend against. That’s because they’re not. In reality, the best defence against a knife attack, by far, is to escape.
- DO make sure the school reflects the ugly reality of street violence.
Do you have a tip to add? Let us know!