Fitness Training V Self Defence Training
Being in shape is back in fashion, and its back in a big way!
With the emergence of Cross Fit we have seen a multitude of fitness platforms come out such as Cave Training, Dinosaur Training and a range of other names that are used to describe what is known as "High Intensity Interval Training.
In truth these systems work and deliver results. These are not quick fix methods but right now people are getting into shape with a combination of eating a sensible diet and combining it with tough exercise. It works but in reality this is nothing new, in fact I was doing these methods as a boxer about 20 years ago.
So I now chuckle when I hear house wives talk about burpees in the coffee shop as if they invented them. However please dont mistake this article as criticism for these individuals. I truly respect them and are happy that they have found exercise and that they will now be happier, fitter and healthier people, I actually think the fitness movement is fantastic. I am also learning new things and am being inspired as my knowledge of diet and fitness techniques improves. However it has created a problem for martial artists and self defence clubs across the globe. Our students or potential students are no longer coming to martial arts for weight loss and fitness because in truth they can get a far more focused version elsewhere.
Why Train Self Defence?
The chances of being attacked are in reality pretty slim. It doesnt matter how many posters are out there or infographics exist that suggest life is dangerous and at any time we may be car jacked or robbed, the truth is that considering the size of the population we can easily avoid conflict of any kind our entire life. And I actually think people know this.
Deep down we live in a society where people feel safe, people walk around the streets without fear and this means that the traditional reasons that people turn to self defence training are now being diminished. Dont get me wrong there are dangers out there, society has its fair share of nasty people and every day a person is in tears in some part of the modernised world as their loved ones didnt come home. However its a long way from the image that people try and use to market self defence training and courses. Trust me, look around the corners and you wont find a person in a black ski mask hiding in the shadows!
So why train self defence? Well it depends on the class. I would argue that some self defence clubs should be avoided as they are run by individuals who are more likely to get you incarcerated for 5 years in jail by training you to have a gross over reaction in a physical situation.
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However some clubs and organisations offer training that is bang on. It combines fun with fitness and sensible and reasonable techniques. If you find a club like this then you are onto a winner and it is clubs like this that really keep the self defence industry going however they are few and far between.
Before I get onto the ins and outs of why you should train self defence here is a little back story of mine.
How I got Fat
For those that know me I have had an up and down career in the martial arts. Having discovered boxing at around 11 years of age I trained hard until I was 24. By that time I was training 6 days a week, doing Boxing, Judo, Vale Tudo, Submission Wrestling and even going to the gym and running. I was super fit and able to train when ever I wanted.
However as my working life changed and my domestic situation altered I spent the best part of the next few years doing nothing and I put on 2 stone of weight and if it wasnt for re discovering Judo I probably woulnt be doing much at all. But it has been an up and down journey. I have been fat and I mean really fat in the last 10 years on more than one occasion. I have been as low as 81 kilos and as high as 96 kilos in weight and I have gone up and down on more than one occasion. However that journey has given me knowledge that has allowed me to finally put into place changes in my life that are going to be consistent (having been diagnosed with exercise induced asthma recently has caused me to get my ass into gear).
Right now I am on the come back trail and determined to get into the best shape of my life and also to take my martial arts skills to a new level. I know where I want to be and that is my mission. However I am choosing a combination of Physical martial arts/ self defence training and fitness training to get to where I want to be and I am not going with the Cross Fit Type Club Movement.
Why Choose Self Defence over Fitness
The core of this article is all about why a person should train self defence over fitness training. What should compel people to get back into self defence training?
For myself its all about self expression. Below you can see an example of what I mean, this short demo of using the Walldome training device isnt so much about technique, its all about expression. I chose to express my self physically. In essence this is no different that people that do free running or 5 a side football. The difference here is that my opponent is myself . Self Mastery is a feeling that few truly understand. It is the same feeling that people have at these exercise classes. They are using their bodies and this feeling is what keeps them coming back for more!
I know I can train without equipment, I have reached the point in my training where I can flow things together and train in the shadow. By the shadow I mean shadow boxing ( where you fight opponents in your mind which comes from boxing).
This for me is what I enjoy. I love hitting the punch bag or pads, any stress I have seems to disappear when I do this.
I think this basic element is what self defence instructors need to focus on more and if you do more people will want to learn self defence. By focusing on actually hitting things and cultivating and improving skill you can truly grow an individual. Not by talking about the'fence concept' or the dangers of violence week in and out.
Combining Physical Expression With Self Defence
I find self defence training boring, truly boring. However I love training. The vast majority of self defence classes are terrible. We have the guys who talk about 'burying opponents' to the people who need to bring a plastic knife and gun to every training class. We even have classes that seem to have more talking than action.
Yes, awareness and understanding psychology and pre fight indicators is important. But it can be covered at the end in the cool down or warm up. People dont understand that what keeps people coming back to classes each week is movement! Creating that mix of physical expression and challenging the mind is difficult but static self defence classes are boring. Add movement, explosion, tension and some learning.
Its is a mix that few get right and that is the reason many in self defence are failing.
Why Self Defence Clubs are Failing
When I read the on line forums I see people who are stuck in the same mentality of the house wives who have just discovered burpees. I can only read about the flinch reflex and awareness so much. It was Andy Norman at a recent Defence Lab workshop who discussed the need to keep one foot in reality but also the other foot into fun. That is so important if you are going to keep people coming back to training each week.
Sadly though I see the same old 1980's door staff mentality of fence training, followed by verbal skills and a bit of pre emption. This was never designed to be a weekly class formula. Our aim should be to get people through the doors of our clubs without ramming violence down their throats. Its about physical expression through movement and technique.
The Verdict- Self Defence or Fitness Training
I personally believe that self defence training should be fun however for many it is far too serious. Most people just want to be involved in an activity, hit some pads and learn to hit them harder and faster each week and have their mind challenged with learning a new skill.
In a world where crime is lowering and the risk of being attacked is reduced a good self defence class will focus on developing an individual and have fun rather than ram home the dangers of violence.
Self defence classes have aspects that fitness training can never have and we can add fitness drills into our classes that mean our sessions are just as challenging as a fitness class but also develop the skills of the individual.
In finality the simple truth is that fitness training and self defence training can co exist and people should be able to do both. However to keep people interested in self defence we need to make lessons fun and functional. That is the real key!
So ask yourself this, at your club are you stuck preaching about the dangers of violence or is your class a positive and fun place to be?
At the beginning of this article I have a meme that you are free to use and share. Although I chose that meme as it uses the term martial arts I think its important to go back and look at martial arts training. Because some self defence training resembles a scene out of the film 'Hostel' . A good marker would be to see if a child could watch your sessions without leaving emotionally scarred for life! Its sad that in RBSD the reality that some think they are training for, is actually in truth far from real and belongs in an action film!
Things on the streets are never as bad as they seem in our minds.
So if you are interested in learning how to express yourself physically and in a combative manner then find a self defence or martial arts class, however pick carefully as not all are the same and it should be a positive place full of energy and not doom and gloom. However if you just want to keep fit and have no interest in learning any form of combative expression then perhaps pure fitness training is a better fit with a look into the study of awareness of how to avoid danger.
However I truly suggest you give both a try to see what fits you best. And remember its all about you so whatever you choose make sure it fits your life style and ethics.
Keep safe and train hard and above all have fun!