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.

Self-Defense Classes Reflection

Better late than never. Back in November and early December, I hosted a series of self-defense classes. Fortunately for me, this was a trial run, as only a few students attended (for three of the classes, I only had one student present).

Although some would see it as unfortunate that I didn’t have a great turn-out, I looked at it as an opportunity for growth. This was my first experience teaching self-defense outside of my karate school without my instructors to guide me. And I’m happy to say that I did just fine—once I got over my nerves.

My student, a nutrition and dietetics major was such a trooper. More than anything, she proved my hypothesis from my capstone’s plan, that it takes multiple classes and outside work to truly grasp even that basics of self-defense.

One thing I noticed was that it took must more effort to teach a basic block than I’d expected. I always forget that beginners don’t have the coordination to step with one foot while blocking with the opposite hand. It just throws you off. Not only is the stance awkward but so are the motions.

I found myself thinking back to my time as a white belt as well as my time going up the ranks of Tang Soo Do. As I grew older, I learned that mirrors were my best friend, because they never lie to you. So, with that in mind, I led my student to the mirrors in the front of the Aerobics Room and we spent quite a large amount of time focused on our techniques in those mirrors. It helped her become more fluid with her transitions from blocking one side to the other and it helped me see what she saw when she didn’t realize she’d goofed up.

I also noted that it was difficult to teach a class with no pads for kicking or striking. While I learned most of my techniques by pacing up and down the floor, strking the air with my arms and legs, I acknowledge that actually striking a target helps with accuracy.

My student learned some basic self-defense moves to get away from wrist grabs and even chokes, but at the end of our sessions, I made it very clear that she needed to continue practicing if she hoped to use these techniques in real life some day.

In this series of self-defense blog entries, I’m hoping to discuss not only some basic things to keep in mind when it comes to self-defense, because it’s not all about technique. A lot has to do with simply being smart and avoiding dangerous situations altogether.