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Finding a Self Defence Class and What to Expect From It

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 2 Feb 2014 | comments*Discuss
Attacked streets homes protection

With newspapers and the television news full of stories about people being attacked on the streets, and even in their own homes, it is easy to feel frightened and in need of protection. Carrying something that could be used as a weapon may seem like an obvious solution. However, this is ill-advised for two reasons:

  • It is a criminal offence to carry a weapon or to carry any object with the intention of using it as a weapon.
  • An attacker may use the weapon against their victim. In addition the presence of a weapon may simply escalate a dangerous situation.
Self-defence classes teach techniques that people can use if they are attacked or threatened. They can also be an excellent way to increase fitness and confidence - both of which may be vital to avoiding or diffusing an attack.

Do I Need to Take a Self-Defence Class?

Some groups of people may be more at risk than others. This could be because of their jobs - for example medical staff, members of the clergy or teachers - or because they are physically weaker than a likely attacker - such as the elderly and some women. However, this does not mean that other people can afford to be complacent - indeed, an attacker may pick on a well-built man to show how "brave" he is.

What Should a Self-Defence Class Offer?

Self-defence classes should include, at least, the following elements:
  • Learning how to spot a dangerous situation or person before it is too late;
  • Escaping from or diffusing a dangerous situation; and,
  • Physical techniques that can be employed against an attacker if escape is impossible.
Classes may cater to people of different abilities and ages. Some may be aimed at women or young people.

Where to Find Classes

There are a number of groups and organisations that may be able to recommend a self-defence class, these include: the local police; women's campaign groups or personal safety charities; and Students' Unions. Some employers may organise classes for their employees. Other places to look include: internet listings sites or forums; Yellow pages-type directories; and notice boards in local health centres or gyms.

What to Consider when Choosing a Class

The techniques and styles used will vary from class to class. It may, therefore, be useful to think about what exactly is wanted from the class. Some points and questions to consider before making a decision:
  • Some classes may offer an intensive run-through of basic self-defence techniques and guidelines. This may consist of a short course, or even just one session. Other classes, often those based on a martial art, may provide an ongoing regime which aims to build strength and ability over time.
  • What is the main focus of the class? Is it aimed at increasing fitness, competition, spirituality or, specifically, self-defence?
  • Does the class focus on dealing with "real-life" situations or on learning techniques in a more abstract environment?
  • The size, location and format of the class. It should be possible to watch a class before making a commitment.
  • Some women may prefer a class taught by and / or for women; others may feel that a class taught by a man will be more "realistic".
Classes may claim to be accredited to an official-sounding organisation which may, in fact, have little authority. Word of mouth recommendations are useful tools in choosing a class.

Martial Arts

Many martial arts incorporate combat techniques that might usefully be used in self-defence. Popular martial arts such as Kung fu, Karate, Tae kwon do and Capoeira all involve hitting or kicking. Opinion varies on whether such martial arts taught in an abstract environment offer useful tools for repelling an attack in real life. Some techniques originally developed as combat or self-defence systems for modern military organisations are now taught in varying forms to members of the public. For example Krav Maga, originally developed for the Israeli security forces, has become popular with its emphasis on "neutralising" an attack.

A note of caution - some martial arts experts could find their use of force in self-defence questioned, and even deemed excessive, if their abilities give them a disproportionate advantage over an assailant.

Personal Safety Tips

In the meantime there are some basic personal safety tips that everyone should use:
  • When out, people should keep alert and be aware of their environment and the people around them. Hoods and personal music players can hamper this. People should avoid looking lost or vulnerable;
  • If a situation or place makes someone feel uncomfortable they should trust their instincts and get away from it as soon as possible.
  • When at home, people should ensure that they do not open the door to anyone whose identity they cannot verify.

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The best thing about learning martial arts like karate, is that it slowly builds up your stamina, fitness and confidence. So when it comes to a fight you can run away without shame. Because no matter how tough and skilled you are the ultimate best defence is not being in harm's way.
Brucie - 1-Sep-11 @ 4:44 PM
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