Thursday, June 11, 2009

Self-Defense Classes are Like a Box of Chocolate….

….You never know what you are going to get.

I must begin with a caveat. The self-defense classes I am referring to are one or two session classes taught to non-martial artists. The classes may be for an organization, church group or business. The class covers basic self-defense techniques for adults. I am not referring to seminars taught to martial artist or women’s self-defense classes.

As far as self-defense classes go, I have been a participant, an instructor, an observer or an assistant. The truth is that you never know how a self-defense class is going to go until it is over. This is true even if you are well prepared with goals for the class and a lesson outline. Take for example two self-defense classes with the same instructor and identical curriculum. One class could be a great success while the second class might be unpleasant.

What is the difference? The participants. I have compiled a list of individuals or personality types that have made appearances at self-defense classes.

Regular Participant: This is the largest group. This individual is willing and interested to learn self-defense. These people come to the session with an open mind. They are excellent participants, pleasant to be around and a joy to teach.

Reluctant Participant: This individual was forced to attend the session. They do not want to learn self-defense and have absolutely no interest. This is the first person I spot among the group because they are usually standing with their arms crossed with a bored expression.

Over Enthusiastic Participant: This individual is the first to participate and often volunteers. They are enthusiastic for the attention not for the pursuit of information.

“I Know a Better Way” Type I: This individual has previous martial arts experience. The often do not divulge their background. He/she is polite and listens but you will find them practicing the releases/locks their own way. They may even show other class participants their variation.

“I Know a Better Way” Type II: This individual does not have martial arts experience but still believes they have a better way. They may have seen it in a movie or learned it through a different athletic pursuit. You will hear them exclaiming, “Well, I would do it this way.” There is an opportunity here for the self-defense instructor. If Type II demonstrates and their technique is faulty, they can learn a valuable and possibly life saving lesson. Type II will either get angry or accept the correction. In my opinion, it is better to find out that a technique does not work during practice than on the street.

Quiet Observer: I think it is important to look for the quiet observer. This person is an intense listener, participates but does not ask questions. They look like they want to say something but refrain. At the close of the self-defense class, we provide our phone number and email address. In less than a week, this person usually calls with a specific question or concern.

The Disbeliever: This individual does not think self-defense works. They ask many questions and look for the exceptions. They love to offer “What if?” scenarios.

Ok…that is my list but I am sure there are other characters that make guest appearances at self-defense seminars. I would love to hear your thoughts!


Colin Wee said...

So true.

I've not done a lot of self defence classes. I've done a lot of women self defence classes though ... it would be great to hear what you've got to say about participants at the WSD sessions. :-)

Thought to share one of my posts Martial Arts and Self Defence that featured Jim Carrey as a self defence instructor. Check out the participants!!!!!


Anonymous said...

Hi Michelle. You gave us very interesting and useful list of personality types that have made appearances at self-defense classes. I can just add that sometimes self- defense classes are like a box of chocolate and sometimes they are like a cat in a bag.

Perpetual Beginner said...

I have another type to offer - the Terribly Timid participant. This kind of participant is usually older or small. They're willing enough, but completely convinced that they couldn't fight back in real life. Self-defense is for other people: younger, bigger people. Often they're reluctant to even hit a bag. If you can convince them to try a real hit anyway, they're often amazed at how hard they can hit and can be some of the most rewarding students.

Michele said...

Colin: Funny video. :) Love the participants!

Sensei: Thanks for commenting. I like the cat analogy!

PB: Great addition to the list. I have seen many timid participants become strong, confident members of the dojo. Thanks.

Diver Daisy said...

This was me!! All of them I think :) This was exactly how I started karate - a self defense course.
Teachers tend to be the absolute worst students (of which I am both).
I always have a million questions in any class I take and am not too shy about asking them because that's something I work hard at with my own students - getting them to understand that every question is a good one :) and could benefit more than just yourself.
I enjoyed reading a post from the other perspective :)

Michele said...

Diver Daisy: Thanks for stopping by! I didn't know it was possible to be all of them. :)

"Teachers tend to be the absolute worst students"

I am a beginner at Tai Chi and I worry that I am the instructors worst student. I have a lot of questions and requests. The good news is that I have not been kicked out yet. :)

Tom said...

Colin, that video is brilliant! I'm still giggling at that one. Thanks for posting. :-)