How much self defense training is enough?

Discussion in 'Self Defence' started by Matt_Bernius, Feb 17, 2006.

  1. Matt_Bernius

    Matt_Bernius a student and a teacher

    This is question I've been meditating on in my spare time.

    How much self defense training is enough?

    I am a Reality Based Self Defense advocate (in particular Tony Blauer's and Karl Tanswell's systems). I think that a good RBSD program teaches far more effective and relivant self defense than most traditional or modern martial arts. But, for the average citizen (read as not Law Enforcement or in a job in which there is a realistic risk of physical attack), how much self defense training is necessary and is there a point where it can become detrimental.

    Matt Thorton has posted an interesting essay on this subject (a request, before replying, please read the essay to provide some additional grouding) which encapsulates some of my concerns.

    Namely, that while RBSD training can help increase individual's confidence (and I've seen it), at some point does it risk turning the corner and placing someone in a state of hyper awareness where everyone is sized up as a potential attacker and one takes a hostile mindset when viewing the world.

    Is there a point where other forms of martial training become more (and I use this phrase carefully) spiritually fulfilling?

    If that's the case, what do you think is the best way of suplimenting RBSD into one's training mix? Perhaps taking an intensive course to learn the basics and then yearly brush up courses?

    Tellner and DCCombatives, I'm especially looking forward to your answers.

    - Matt
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2006
  2. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Ret. Supporter

    My first reaction to the question "how much self-defense is enough" is to think "how much insurance is enough?" You pay into it year after year hoping you'll never need it and simultaneously knowing it may not be enough.

    After reading the rest of the post, and Matt Thornton's essay, I basically agree (though I think Thornton's style is a bit too blunt; that's strictly a personal objection). I think there is a real tendency to develop "concrete jungle syndrome" where you become convinced that everything is a claws-and-fangs struggle for survival, to a point that does constitute a problem with how you perceive reality.

  3. Slindsay

    Slindsay All violence is necessary

    Good read, very good reas in fact.

    I agree that the guy is too blunt, he always is, why he can't see that going around telling people that they are simply wrong about things (More a habit of his aliveness articles than this but I think you still get hints of it) rather than accepting what they do has value but that they need to realise it's limits I don't know. He makes people too confrentational and defensive from the start.

    I read the quote from the Gracie a long time ago and realised then when I read it that he had a point, I think that it's a good message and really is worthy of consideration.
  4. Matt_Bernius

    Matt_Bernius a student and a teacher

    No disagreement there. His didactic style tends to be a bit over the top and dismissive of other approaches. Great job separating the content from the presentation.

    - Matt
  5. tellner

    tellner Valued Member

    There are times when traditional teaching methods are worth looking at. The question of how to turn out someone who can do what needs to be done without making him (or her) paranoid and a danger to others has been answered in pretty much ever culture. That's why the Apache, for example (thanks for the references, Mushtaq), have traditions that prepare a man for battle and other ones which help him put aside the bad things he has done there and rejoin society. For a modern view read Col. Grossman's work.

    The hypervigilant and paranoid state of mind is a normal one in this sort of training. If the instruction is good and the teacher competent it will be dealt with and pass as the experience is integrated into the student's mental landscape. If the instruction is off, the student can end up in some very unfortunate places. Like Guru Inosanto says "You have to be able to turn it on. And you have to be able to turn it off."
  6. Rebel Wado

    Rebel Wado Valued Member

    Good posts.

    I would add that with training, knowledge, and experience comes RESPONSIBILITY. This may be to the expectation that you will use it when necessary; it also is the reality that you must use it responsibly.

    If the weight of this responsibililty is too much, then it is time to cut back and train in other ways too. I say, only train in self-defense to the point that you can handle the responsibility that goes with the training.

    If you are ignorant of the responsibilities, either you aren't really training for the reality of self-defense, or conversely maybe I'm just full of it. Either way, I've answered the question posed in this thread. :D
  7. DCombatives

    DCombatives Valued Member

    This is an interesting line of thinking. Let me respond this way: I used to do fly away security missions, where me and a partner, sometimes a 4 man team, would fly with the aircraft to wherever it was going and when the aircrew left for the hotel, my team and I would 'babysit' the multimillion dollar plane. I've been to really nice places, and I've been to some not so nice places. What I can tell you, is that while you're out there, you're on your own. There's no one to call, there's no back-up, and there's no one who's going to help you except your partner. There's a 2 week certification course to do the security job where you get defensive tactics, cultural awareness, verbal communications skills, and anti-terrorism measures crammed down your throat. It was good training, and it served me well. So well, that when the time came, I went to the school house to be an instructor; I've taught the certification course for 3 1/2 years now. There are parts of the job where it becomes a habit to "size" people up, to constently check your rearview mirror for surveilance, to evaluate homes and hotels for security and safety. For example, I instinctivly always leave myself and out when driving as opposed to getting boxed in. I always park near street lights even if it's farther away from the front of the store. I'm always looking for store security cameras in the mall, and eye-balling security guards for everything from what weapon they're carrying to how they stand. I talk to people, even my children in a slightly bladed stance. I use my hands to make small gestures when I speak; small gestures because many cultures find large hand gestures threatening, but talking with your hands keeps them above your waist and available to defend if needed.

    But I do these things out of habit, not paranoia. I don't live in fear; half the time I forget to set the alarm on my house before I go to work. I'm certified to instruct in 5 different defensive tactics/self-defense systems, yet I train in Tang Soo Do in my off time because I can do it with my 4 year old. It's kind of fun to do a more traditional art.

    I suppose what I'm trying to say is the "too much" self-defense training is when the habits become and obsession. When you go to a bar, the casual glance around to see what weapons are availble just in case is one thing; to sit there and fantasize about how you could crack the third guy from the left at the bar with the table's ash tray is something different. Cops often color code their thresholds of awareness. Many times it's blue, green, yellow, orange, red, or some similar variation where the "cooler" the color, the lower the threshold and the "hotter" the color, the higher the threshold. Somewhere in the blue/green zone is probably a healthy awarness of your surroundings and options. Living in the yellow/orange zone is just asking for burnout, mental breakdown, and an expensive trip to the therapist.
  8. Matt_Bernius

    Matt_Bernius a student and a teacher

    Great responses all the way around. I know that a number of you have been "living the life" and it's great getting that perspective.

    So lets take this to a *slightly* different place: If you were marketing an ongoing self defense program at your school, what would you do to keep older students "fresh." By that I mean helping them avoid living in the "yellow zone?" Does the needs of a self defense student change as they progress?
    Having watched my coach's program, it seemed rare for students to stay much more than a year or two. It just seemed like the training, for the average citizen, reached a plateau.

    I think many of us agree that the best self defense is the simplest. One of the things I've taken away from my exposure to PDR and SPEAR is that when its "go time" KISS is the best way to go. But is KISS an unsustainable model for people who want to explore further?

    I'm not sure where I'm going with this (and interested in the debate). From a TMA perspective, I see a clear progression path towards more and more esoteric material. But that seems counter to RBSD in many ways. I guess my question is "do you think a continuous RBSD program is overkill? Or an eventual dead end?"

    - Matt
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2006
  9. DCombatives

    DCombatives Valued Member

    Keeping things simple and built around a stimulus/response model is great, but that doesn't mean there isn't room to evolve. The serious RBSD student should be constantly looking for different approaches and experimenting with new concepts. This is not to say you should add multiple responses. Multiple responses erode reaction time. But if you find a better way to do something, you should replace your old one. When you do, you need to then train the response to where it's automatic.

    And maybe I'm just lazy and don't train enough, but there's so much involved with being a complete fighter even in the RBSD world that I think a person could train for years before their game was as polished as it should be. There are so many drills that can be used to sharpen striking techniques, as well as different striking targets to work with. Then there's a whole range of grappling drills that can be used to better prepare. You can put the drills together. There's scenario training with the active role player. Defending weapons, using weapons... it just goes on and on.
  10. Slindsay

    Slindsay All violence is necessary

  11. breakerjohn

    breakerjohn New Member

    Only my opinion but if you are attacked on the street, self defence training can be useful but I have always believed that if you are a good full contact fighter, trained in Kick boxing, judo/sambo/bjj/ or any heavy duty competitive fighting system, you stand more chance than someone who has trained only in a self defence system. Many self defence systems really on compliancy, that is you never get to have a full contact scrap where your opponent is fighting back, you always train with a compliant partner. These systems will always let you down in a real attack/fight because your attacker will not be compliant!
    If you are attacked, you are in a fight and fighting ability is more important than a knowledge of self defence.
    I have worked as a doorman for a very long time so my opinion is based on my own experiences.
    We are all different and I can only speak for myself.
  12. RobP

    RobP Valued Member

    Surely it's a question of balance? Or of not being too "compartmentalised" in your attitude or training. The deeper your back-up physical, psycholgical and spiritual training the less inclined to be over-focussed on one aspect IMHO.

    "Many self defence systems really on compliancy, that is you never get to have a full contact scrap where your opponent is fighting back, you always train with a compliant partner"

    All types of training involve compliancy.
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Great topic.

    Personally I like the RBSD stuff a lot but I do have a few issues that I think about as well.

    As a martial artist, my "training goals" do not stand in isolation. Instead they reflect my values and needs as a part of the community as well. Learning the "most effective" and quickest acting martial arts techniques is good if I am on the lookout for danger, if I am one of "those" who need to seek the situations (e.g. law, corrections, air marshals, militray, etc.). The nature of their game is different, they need to be able to react as quickly and efficiently as possible to save their lives.

    For me, I am just a normal human, a teacher in a small town... I need to live and play within the "black and white" areas of levels of force and legal justification. Hard core self defence is great, but I also need to sharpen my awareness, avoidance, and reactions to non-lethal confrontations. My self defence has to be tailored to fit my own situations and life.

    I was just looking at an ad in Black Belt for a several day set of courses with Jim Wagner, I think there was a set of 5 courses, 8 hours long each (9 if you wanted instructor certification) that upon completion would get you instructor certification in his program. I don't know much about the program, but I bet that in 40 hours of training, the focus is going to be mainly on the upper levels of force. I think to be able to deal in the "real world", you need a lot more time on the lower levels as well to make it work. I think it will take a lot more training in those skills to make it workable, and especially to be able to teach it.

    Now I'm not putting the program down, I really know nothing about it. My point is that it is probably streamlined to fit a fairly narrow set of responses to a fairly wide array of situations. I have taken a Police Defensive Tactics course (2 day course) which streamlined the program down to deal with the levels of forces and the bare basics to deal with it. Great course with lots of very applicable concepts and skills. To make it work though, you need lots and lots of hours practicing the techniques and reactions at all levels of force. I wonder how other RBSD programs take this into account.

    I also wonder if having a small system designed to be easy to learn, use and deploy takes some of the incentive to keep studying away.
  14. Matt_Bernius

    Matt_Bernius a student and a teacher

    First of all, I think this is a wonderful conversation and exactly what I had hoped would come out of this topic.

    The issue of training focus/balance has come up and I think that is where I was going from the beginning. So let me reset a few takes and then move this forward:

    Let's accept, for the moment, the notion that a good RBSD programs is the quickest and most effective way to learn personal self defense. Is there a point, for the average Joe, that having your training almost completely focused on self defense becomes a detrement? Is there a point when the focus of the art "opens up" into include more than just self defense? And Is this where we see how military arts branched off into todays Civilian Martial Arts.

    By this I mean that by and large most of today's martial arts were either (in theory) created for Civilian Self Defense or Sports purposes. Concentrating on the previous category, its clear that many TMA Civilian Self Defense arts contain content that does not directly track to tactical self defense. Now I am happy to admit that much of it can, in the long run, track back to self defense. But as far as being as immediately accessible as my experience to
    RBSD training, after a point, I just don't see a lot of it in TMAs.

    Not sure where this is going, so I'll stop here and I look forward to folk's responses.

    - Matt
  15. Slindsay

    Slindsay All violence is necessary

    I think that yes a complete focus on self defence can be a problem for people in a psychological way and a physical way. I think it pushes you into a paranoid mindset to start with that may result in you using too much force in response to a relatively mild attack (Verbal insult, shoveing, maybe simple accidents). Having said that I guess de-escalation is also an important part of RBSD so maybe this criticism is not so valid.

    A second problem I think would be the lack of testing in RBSD, people naturally train towards a goal so if there is no goal in RBSD except to get better at defending yourself (And how do you measure that?) Then people may get twitchy and be keen to test themselves leading to the first point again. On top of that I think you would start having the simple problem over time of a lack of testing of instructors, claims would be difficult to prove or disprove so how would you go about showing someone was a fraud and indeed with the redman suit use described in another thread (The defender always winning in the end), how do you avoid eventually evolving into almost Aikdio like levels of compliance?

    Finally the physical side, if trainning for self defence how do you keep the motivation for physical fitness as part of the class with no goal to work towards?

    Not exactly sure what you are saying here but are you worrying that RBSD could evolve into another TMA in 15 or 20 years time?

    I think that testing and measuring things are important, I don't see how you can maintain quality without the ability to know what that quality is. For this reason i think that sport Martial Arts will continue to improve whereas traditiona martial arts are going to devolve and become less and less use in real SD situations because there will be no advantage to being bettr at what you do.
  16. bcullen

    bcullen They are all perfect.

    I've not noted a lack of testing in the arena. Isn't the whole idea implied within the name, RBSD? I've seen many improvements including simulated terrain, role playing and other additions to make RBSD live up to the name.

    The defender usually gets away* from the redman suit and usually after inflicting an amount of abuse that is unrealistic, an unarmored attacker would most likely have let go within then first ten seconds. Combined with other types of practice it's another teaching tool.

    * In a self-defense situation you don't seek to win, you seek survival.

    That's a problem. Without adding TMA/MMA elements how do you motivate them towards the goal?

    I don't think it's something that can exist on it's own, I think the evolutionary cycle has to continue. Martial arts were born out of a need and in their beginnings were pure RBSD, with time they had to adapt to a military role and the practices spawned necessary etiquettes and methodologies (a disregard for courtesy and a room full of armed men is an accident waiting to happen). With new weapons the military use declined and civilian use added new components.

    TMA\MMA\RBSD are distilled parts of the original uses; the additions come about out of a need, none of these can fulfill all the requirements without borrowing from the other.

    Well in this case it's measured in avoiding the altercation or by escaping at your first opportunity.
  17. Slindsay

    Slindsay All violence is necessary

    Firstly, on semantics, I would say that getting away is winning in the context of a self defence situation. If you get away unharmed you win.

    This couples with the final point, see below.

    Competition, the idea of winning. In Brittain at least we have quite a few people from RBSD gyms that are actually MMA champs, trained by people like Geoff Thompson, when I joined my MMA gym we where completing the tail end of the brittish combat asociation's course but we normally train in MMA.

    MAkes a lot of sense.

    But how can you measure that? I personally don't see how you can and as such that causes problems if you trained purely for RBSD because you would not be able to accurately measure how well you do whereas sparring is an activity where you know the levels of resistance involved and can see how you improve with easily measurable variables (Like how much it hurts after sparring :D ) and because it's competitive people will get competitive about it, that is to say they will seek to imrove.

    My ideal club would be MMA combined with RBSD, the RBSD would be more of a flavouring on the top though, the core skills you need are all taught in MMA but the diffusion, weapon awareness and awareness of ilolegal techniques would need to come from elsewhere.
  18. tellner

    tellner Valued Member

    If you leave out the modern budo designed for sport, nationalist identity, exercise or similar - Judo, TKD, TSD, Aikido, ZNKR Kendo, Wu Shu and the rest - you'll find that old style systems knew what today's RBSD people have found out. The human body hasn't changed much. Neither has the human mind. The training methods to teach a person how to fight another person and not fold under stress are pretty much the same as they have always been. The hard part is, as always, finding a good teacher who understands how to bring it across in a way that works for you the student.

    Military combatives and police defensive tactics are certainly worthwhile, but you have to keep in mind that civilian self defense is a somewhat different thing. The legal concerns are vastly different than for a soldier. So are training time, the expendability of the student and so on. Police tactics are geared towards arresting a suspect. They rush in where it would be appropriate for the rest of us to ensure our safety and leave. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

    I have to disagree in some sense with the survival rather than winning mindset. I would certainly agree with most of it. I'm not there to dominate someone and symbolically mount him so that everyone knows I get breeding rights before he does :) But I've found that telling students "You're goal isn't to win, it's to survive," too often gets them in a state of mind where they feel that the best they can do is survive. If that's the most you can hope for it's all downhill from there. It's seems like splitting hairs, but the last few years of teaching this stuff have really brought home the point. "Aim for the stars. You might not reach them, but you won't shoot yourself in the foot," as Lois Bujold says.
  19. Rebel Wado

    Rebel Wado Valued Member

    Copied from something I wrote on a different forum:

    Every martial art has a self-defense side to it. It is up to the focus of the training to how much of the self-defense aspect is actually trained. A SMALL piece of the self-defense training would usually fall into the framework of Reality Based Self Defense.

    RBSD is like taking specific college courses with some hands on vocational studies to go with it. Martial arts, such as TMA, are more like a full undergraduate college degree, with the possibility of many different majors built off of core and elective classes.

    RBSD training, IME, consists of the following:

    1. 25% of the time spent on intellectual study... learning about the law, learning about case studies, education on what is myth and what is fact.

    2. 50% of the time spent on learning procedures and training in them. This is basically learning the template used and taught for self-protection... sort of a best practices knowledgebase. Such as what to do if your car breaks down and you are stuck on the side of the road, what to do if you feel you are being followed, what to do if someone asks you for the time of day at the bus stop, etc.

    3. 15% of the time spent on role playing scenarios. Basically putting the procedures you learned to the test in "live fire" situations. Gaining experience in a controlled and simulated environment that is close to the real thing. Some of this training overlaps with what some call pressure testing.

    4. 10% of the time reviewing the role-playing scenerios and what can be improved upon for next time and what things were done well.

    Notice I did not mention the actually learning of martial techniques such as palm strikes or the training in conditioning of the body and mind. I did not mention these because they fall under the broader category of self-defense. RBSD is a subset under the umbrella of SD.

    A self-defense training program MIGHT consist of 50% technique (martial arts training in techniques considered useful in self-defense most often worked with a partner), 25% conditioning/fitness/repetition (stuff you can do without a partner), 15% story telling (giving a context for which SD has been applied in the past successfully), and 10% RBSD (as I defined above).

    A TMA as a whole, depending on the instructor might be less than 20% of the time spent on Self-Defense, and that means only about 2% of the total time is spent on RBSD in my theory.
  20. tellner

    tellner Valued Member

    A slight correction here. The "Yellow Zone" is where you want them to stay. It's the state where you're aware of your surroundings but relaxed and not hypervigilant.

    KISS is a good first cut at things. But if you stick with anything long enough you learn, in the words of Mr. Ayoob, "It ain't simple, and you ain't stupid." A good one year self defense course will take you a long way. It won't let you beat up Randy Coture. What a lot of people never realize, and this is where narrow and deep has an advantage over wide and shallow, is that "simple" doesn't mean "easy". There are depths of understanding in some very simple things that only come out with time under the right teacher. They can get you places that the introductory program just won't.

    In the "TMA" approach I don't necessarily see it as progress towards the esoteric. It's more that once you have internalized anything you can really start to stretch it. Eventually you reach the point where you have to stretch yourself to keep progressing. Pure physicality and mastery of technique is only part of it.

    If your practice doesn't do that you will eventually reach a point of diminishing returns where the increased benefit you get from doing the same thing the same way a few thousand more times doesn't equal what you would get by pushing it into new territory or adding judiciously to the curriculum.

Share This Page