Self-Defense classes | The Role of the Teacher

As a self-defense instructor, your responsibilites stem much further than simply explaining the techniques required for increased safety and awareness. Each student is at a different level of skill when they enter the training area.

For example, when I first taught the classes in November of 2011, my primary student was coordinated enough to follow along but struggled when combining blocking with moving foward. She had plenty of aggression, which is a must, but lacked the coordination to do it all smoothly. Eventually, she tackled this burdon, but in order to do so, we spent the better part of two lessons going over the basics, and she spent a lot of time outside of our sessions practicing.

However, then there are students like Giannina Gonzalez, a sophomore athlete who took a few martial arts lessons when she was a child. Although Gonzalez had only been five years old when she attended martial arts classes, and yet, she had the remarkable ability to recall what she’d learned 15 years ago.

Gonzalez picked up on the basics at an alarmingly fast rate, and by the close of our two and a half hour session, she was comfortable with not only the basic strikes and defensive moves I instructed but also showed adequate skill for escaping wrist grabs and choke holds. However, as always, I explained that it would be her responsibility to continue practicing these moves to keep her awareness and technique sharp in the event of an emergency.

Challenges of getting started: Teaching Self-Defense

Black Belt Promotion

Each time we are promoted to a new Dan rank, we take a solemn oath to respect the art, to not wield it in a negative fashion and to educate others of its importance.

Teaching self-defense is hard. And I don’t just mean the actual teaching of the seminars. My challenges stem further back, beginning with applying for the event at Seton Hill. It wasn’t like I was jumping through hoops or anything, but I did have to deal with some “cultural” issues.

Before I applied to teach the seminars, I approached those in charge to discuss what I would need going in to make sure the events would be approved in a timely fashion. My biggest fear would be that the event would get approved and then I’d have to produce more documentation ahead of time. Unfortunately for me, I was shot down almost immediately. When asked if I was a certified instructor, I made the mistake of answering: “I am a second degree black belt in the Korean art of Tang Soo Do. While in high school I served as a student instructor.”

My  mistake was that I did not clarify that in the culture of martial arts,  being a black belt is equivalent to being a certified instructor. Although you are only considered a “dedicated beginner” when you receive your first degree, you understand enough about the art to train others. In fact, you are encouraged to share and educate others.

To solve this conundrum, my head instructor, at Harshall Karate Academy, had to sign a certificate listing that I was certified to teach Tang Soo Do and martial arts. He remarked that this was actually beneficial, because in the past, we’d never had a need for such a certificate. Now, we can use the certificate for all of our black belts, which, in turn, adds value to the degree.

As it turned out, the certificate was enough and I was able to register my events for the self-defense seminars. The first one, conducted yesterday, was successful but only reached a small amount of students. Read about it in my next blog 🙂

What’s in a dream…

I’ve had two semi-recurring nightmares for the length of my college career. You know how you usually know you’re dreaming when you’re in a dream? Well for some reason, when I have either of these dreams, that whole notion goes out the window and I’m stuck until I’m fortunate enough to wake up.

In the first recurring dream, my teeth start falling out. And there’s this intense pain from them ripping themselves from my gums. In my dreams, it varies from my teeth grinding on each other until they inevitibly fall out to some cases where they just suddenly fall out and blood gushes everywhere.

I’ve done the research. I know why I have this dream—it’s stress. More specifically, it was golf. I literally had stressful dreams about my teeth falling out because I was so unhappy on the golf team. I’m happy to say that I haven’t had this dream since I quit the team back in the beginning of September. Yay for overcomming a nightmare!

Unfortunately, my second dream seems to be here to stay. It began shortly after I stopped going to karate regularly. Being a black belt is more than just an honor. It technically just means you’re a dedicated beginner, but at the same time, you can definitely kick some ass if you’re ever assaulted. So why is it that when I dream that I’m in a fight, it’s like I’m punching air? There’s no power behind my attacks. It’s like my arms have turned to jelly and I have no hopes for defeating my opponent.

I think, perhaps, it has something to do with the fact that I don’t feel quite as insecure when I’m not up to par with my martial arts. I took over a year—almost two—off from karate because of college and golf and just life in general. I don’t think I have a single stronger regret than giving up karate for two years. It clears my mind and helps me focus like nothing else. Over the summer, I went back to karate regularly and the nightmares stopped as well. But, now that I’m back in school, the nightmares have returned and I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to train again.

I’m hoping that by teaching self-defense classes at Seton Hill, I’ll be able to increase my confidence and this will translate into my subconscious. Who knows…I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.