January 11

7 Lies Bad Self Defence Instructors Tell Their Students


There are some really bad self-defence instructors out there. People that really think they are good at what they teach but it is pretty disgraceful that they can get away with teaching such rubbish.

In this article I will expose these instructors by showcasing the lies they tell, if you have heard  any of these it is time to leave the class and find a new instructor.

1. Self-Defence Is Easy

I hear and see this all the time. Instructors who think that  if you grab here and touch there and then the opponent will fall to the floor and they tell students that self defence is easy. 

Please get a grip​.....

Picture this, you are walking home  one night after work and you see a group of lads by the corner of the park. You  have to walk through the park to get to your house and one young lad stands in front of you and says "£10 to get through mate"

You, of course, say no and try and push past at which he hits you hard in the face. Your nose is bleeding and you get into your stance and then boom!! You get double legged and taken to the floor in a text book MMA take down

You never bothered learning the ground game because your self-defence instructor says "never go to the ground", this guy quickly sits on your chest and you get punched in the nose. 

Dazed and in pain you remember the drill you did once in class, grab here and  twist and he will fall off you .  With all your might you try but he doesn't move and you get punched again. He spits in your face and gets up. Your ass has been handed to you.

Fighting is really f##king hard!!Trust me  there is no such thing as an easy fight. Those that say there are easy fights simply haven't been up against enough people. If your training is easy it won't work. If your training always has you winning, it won't work. 

I am not talking about awareness training, or those ladies only workshops  that people run. I am talking about self-defence clubs and classes that are designed to  teach you how to protect yourself. The bottom line is this......

At 5 in the morning when your car alarm goes  off and you get up to find 3 lads breaking into your car and you tell them to stop and they say "pi## off old man, what are you going to do?" Will your 5 years of  self-defence training actually work? 

​2. Never Go To The Ground

I love this one. Its the get out saying of an instructor who can't grapple.

I hear it  all the time "never go to the ground because their mates can join in". 

So you are out and a guy has an issue with you. He hits you hard in the face and you punch him back, he lands 2 or 3 times and your really dazed. He hits hard and fast and is clearly a better puncher. 

What are you going to do? Stand there and get beaten?

But what if some really strong guy stands there and outweighs you, and is bigger than you? What then? are you going to trade punches with a person who has 20  kilos weight advantage over you? 

I have been to the ground lots of times because it made sense. Very often I would have lost if I had traded punches with someone. Yes there will always be a risk when going to the ground that you can get kicked or punched by the mates, but that risk still exists on your feet too! 

Going to the ground should be a tactical decision, if it  makes sense for the circumstances do it, if not don't. There is and should never be this blanket rule of "never go to the ground unless you have no choice"

You need to consider all the options of a situation, if you start adding these barriers to  your performance such as"don't do this, don't do that" you will be reducing your own ability even before the fight occurs. 

Here's what to do......

Train your groundwork in short bursts. Take down to a quick finish and get back up to a protective position but please do not fail to plan for the times that going to the ground makes sense!

​3.  You Do Not Need To Be Fit For Self Defence

This is my favourite lie. No one is saying that you need to have a six pack and defined biceps to be good at self defence. Trust me my gut seems to growing by the day, however  you still need to be as fit as you can be.

I have chronic exercise-induced asthma where my lungs reduce in performance by 20% in just 3 minutes, but I  still need to be as fit as I can be.

If you have a bad back, leg or anything else you need to  still be as fit as you can if you are taking self defence training with any degree of seriousness. 

In a self-defence situation, you might fight 1 or 8 people, go to the ground and feet and back again, have to run away fast. Jump over a fence to get away from an attacker or anything else. 

Do you think doing any of those things is easy? Nope they arent.

So if running away from an attacker is something you teach, well how many sprints do you make your students do each session?

In my opinion sprint training should form part of every training session for a self-defence club because running away is one of the most effective techniques there is. But you still have to train this!!

4. Awareness Will help You Avoid Most Incidents

This annoys me Instructors that preach awareness  but haven't got a clue how to teach it​.

Awareness on it's own is useless. Awareness combined with ACTION​ is key!

Half of the instructors out there either rely on the outdated coopers colour codes to make their life easier, or they just say, "you have got to be aware".

So how do you teach this? Well it isn't easy and that is why most instructors never bother. You see awareness is great and I have taught it  to a lot of people, but you need to teach people about awarness and what to do once they become aware. This is where scenarios are essential!

You need to create detailed scenarios and add them to your class. Put them at the end  as part of your cool down but make sure you  do them. Perhaps it is the bar situation where you role play a guy having issues with a person, make sure that you show the students where they could have walked out of the pub to avoid an issue, or perhaps spoke to door staff and made them aware, then if they didn't do it right the first time make them go through the scenario again. It is about creating links in the minds of the student so they act on their awareness.

Just telling people that if they are aware then they will be ok is the worst of lies. You need to teach awareness and not just talk about it!

5. Sport Martial Arts Don't Work on The Street!

​Yeah I hear this a lot. Boxing, Judo, BJJ and such like are sports and won't help you on the street.

Who makes this up?? Seriously!

A good self-defence practitioner should be able to walk into any sports martial arts club and hold their own. I am not saying they need to tap out the black belts or boss the Pro boxing champion around. They just need to be able to survive and look like they know a bit and can stick up for  themselves.

This requires effort! You should be able to fight standing, on the ground and vertical grapple.This is why being good at self defence takes serious training! 

I would never worry about a boxer being able to  handle themselves but  I would worry about some people I see teaching self-defence, let alone training it. 

6. You Don't Need  Much Knowledge of the Law

Another classic this one.

Instructors telling students that they do not need to know the law is a​ key sign that they do not know their stuff. 

After 17 years in the police I would still hire a solicitor because they have 'expert' knowledge!  

Now  I am not saying that self-defence instructors need to be solicitors but they do need to have a better level of knowledge than the average person. 

I have been reading a lot from Mark Dawes  lately. He is an expert in self-defence and puts on some  amazing courses. Do yourself a favour and check out his blog! 

My point is this, self-defence is a legal mine field so make sure you know what you are talking about. Go and seek out high levels of legal training to  go alongside your physical stuff.

An example of this is pre emptive strikes​

​The idea is very simple. The law does not  make you to wait to be attacked, you can hit them first.

However some instructors have taken this to believe that you can use this legal framework as an excuse to hit people. Wrong!!!

You need to be able to articulate and defend your use of a pre-emptive strike because you have actually assaulted someone. That might mean you have to defend your actions in court too!

This goes alongside the legal aspect. If your instructor is teaching pre-emptive strikes but failing to teach you the legal  aspects that go along with this type of training  then they are teaching you to hit people and not defend yourself.

Picture this; You are in a club and a guy is staring at you, he looks angry and he walks over to you with his fists clenched and says "Have you got a problem mate". You are worried he is going to  hit you. Do you hit first? Push him back and say "get away", turn your back and walk away? or perhaps you let him continue talking?

There is no easy answer because each one brings a consequence but that is self-defence for you.  Could you justify using a pre emptive strike? If you are not sure either way I think you definately could use with more training.

7. Knife Defence: Just Do This,Then  This ......Blah Blah Blah

Here is my serious complaint. Instructors who talk about knife defence as if they had experience in it when the closest they have come to a knife situation is watching Game of Thrones

I get it. People stab other people. It happens a lot  but please please stop showing knife defence tactics  like you are a Navy Seal!

2 things happen when a knife  is pulled on you:

First: You crap your pants

Second: You heart jumps out of your chest.

Anyone says any different, they are telling lies or have ego issues!

For some reason instructors are dead set on treating knife defence as if they are buttering toast, this is serious stuff!! If you teach Knife  defence do  yourself a favour and go and get one of those no lie blades or shock knives. That way you can see just how easily you would have been hurt! 

Now you might not like this post, I  expect lots of  people to moan,  but the bottom line is that there are so many self-defence instructors out there that have never seen an angry man, yet they teach/ preach self defence like they have worked the doors for 20 years. 

Until next time. ​

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  1. Anfrew, thanks a lot for a great article. ISince I want my students to read this, I translated it into Dutch to post on our website (with a link to the original of course). I hope you don’t mind. If so please let me know and I’ll remove it right away. The translated article can be founf here: https://www.katsudokenpo.nl/3296-2/

    1. Hi Marcel, thanks for the kind words and yes I have no issues with anyone translating the articles as long as I get a link back to the original and credit. Really pleased you have taken the time to do this, many thanks.

  2. Yes, knowledge is power. Benny the Jet said, he trained 9 hours a day and 6 days a week preparing for his fights. Never have I trained with a more hardened skilful fighter ( 1981)

  3. Good article…then it ends with a “no time learn at home krav maga” advertising…I think this is the HUGE lie on these days.

    1. Hi Rodrigo, heres the thing, I out that ad in because it helps support the site. Do I think Krav can be learned at home , certainly not but I do think that online programs are great to enhance knowledge. People can train at home and get good, really good but it no replacement for classes

  4. Enjoyed reading Andrew, I actually feel better about what we do. Just a small bunch of us who train together, we have a long way to go but we address most of the above. I always get nervous when I read a title like this!

    1. Wow, thanks for the great feedback Paul. Yes the titles do make people nervous but people teaching honestly and with the right intention are usually doing a great job

  5. Excellent article. I have been promoting an ‘in the real world’ pedagogy with my students, both in the psychology/philosophy and the response techniques areas of instruction.
    I have, through very real experience, long realised the difference between how one responds/reacts physically and mentally in a ‘no duff’ incident, as opposed to in the cocoon of the training area. So, in mind of this, for example, I conduct a good deal of my training in out door locations, (parks, woodland tracks, alley ways etc) as well confined spaces (to simulate lifts/star Wells etc)
    once again, excellent article, and a message to be spread and adhered to by true professional instructors.

  6. Agree. So much that i will share. I am a self defense teacher and still got so much to learn.
    Reading your article was a way to verify that my concepts and ideas are correct. I still add another one to your list if I may. Those who say always avoid.If you can’t avoid, cooperate. Its the best choice, don’t get yourself killed by a few bucks. Ok, i get it. And say it too. But we have to complement with: sometimes you can’t avoid. If you are at the door of your home and your kids and wife are inside you will not cooperate, you will not let someone in. Very good article. I confess that I was unaware, or giving little importance to lie n. six. I will give it more attention from now on. Always learning.Best regards from Portugal

  7. Excellent article and I hope I am not often guilty of making any of these mistakes. I certainly try not to be.
    I would add that context is very important too. The three basic contexts are:
    1. Not your problem, your only priority is to get yourself out of the situation as unharmed as possible.
    2. Defending space, property and/or another person
    3. It is your responsibility to control another person’s behaviour because you have some role of authority.
    I teach my students to make a realistic assessment of their actual role in any given situation and we train to act accordingly.
    For example if in role two then the emphasis must be on keeping an assailant behind a chosen threshold. This requires certain actions and not others. If the defender of a doorway then decides to step out into the street and ‘teach the assailant a lesson’ the situation can go wrong very quickly.
    I am sure you are fully aware of this but 7 topics was quite enough for this post.

    1. Hi Robert, thanks for the comment. OK so here it goes. Coopers Colour codes takes in zero current scientific knowledge of how the mind really works.
      It is not based on science but for a number of factors it became the mantra of the military and then the police. Everyone takes it as gospel and many attribute surviving situations by using it. However it kind of fails to consider modern science. I have a full article here you might like to read

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