The biggest problem with the “Learn Self Defense!” videos is the idea that you can learn self defense from a video. That’s pretty much the end of it, honestly. If you want to learn self defense, you need to train in a safe environment with a professional you trust. You also need to train with other students, as that helps you learn to account for different body types, weights, and the other minutia that cannot be gained by watching a film.
Films like that are for martial artists who are in training at a school and already have a grasp of the fundamentals. The student who has been training for some time will be able to see what’s happening in these videos, in ways that someone who has never trained can’t. Videos like this can be educational, but they aren’t for raw beginners. The beginner doesn’t have the knowledge to really understand what they’re seeing and absorb the techniques, much less apply them should they encounter trouble.
When you’re looking at demonstration or how to videos on Youtube, it’s important to remember that they are, for the most part, a marketing ploy meant to attract new students to the school. They’re meant to peak your interest, so you’ll go in and check it out. They are not meant to be your only source of education, especially if you have no idea what you’re doing to begin with.
That doesn’t even begin to account for the bad advice, the risky techniques, and the vast majority of martial artists for whom practical self defense is not their primary focus and not what they specialize in. This includes martial arts like Krav Maga. Martial artists are all different, they come with a wide variety of interests and focuses. It’s important, always, to try and locate who the professionals in the field are and those considered an actual authority by the community they claim to represent.
One of the best places to go if you want to find good self defense courses is to ask at your local police precinct. Many of them run their own self defense courses and there will be those who practice martial arts outside of specific police training on the force. That’s a decent place to start when trying to navigate the overflow of martial arts schools in the area.
You want someone who will provide you with not just the technical skills and techniques, but also the knowledge of what to look for so you can avoid trouble before it begins. It helps to know what predators look for in their victims, how to be aware of your surroundings, and what to do when faced with trouble. These self defense videos, by and large, won’t teach you survival tactics like moving toward other humans when you’re under attack or feel like you’re about to be. If someone is screaming at you on the subway, don’t wait for someone else to get up and intervene. Move toward them. The vast majority of predators want victims who are alone and isolated. They don’t want to engage with numbers. You aren’t guaranteed bystanders jumping to your defense, but they’re more likely to if the guy yelling at you is suddenly yelling at them too.
You cannot learn self-defense from a video. You can sometimes get helpful tips and aids, but it’s not a foundation. Like any house, a solid foundation provides a base to build off of. If the foundation is solid, the house is solid even as you add more rooms on later.
I see it a lot on social media where someone well meaning who suffered a traumatic incident goes, “reblog to save a life, if I had known this…” and I feel for them on that. They’re trying to help others and that’s an admirable goal.
The problem is knowing isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to save you.
You need to practice. You need to train. You need a teacher who can correct all the bad habits you will inevitably create, who can adjust you when you’re going wrong. A woman can throw off a man double her own weight if she trains for it, but she can’t do it just because she knows it’s possible and saw a video where someone else did it. She has to learn how to do it herself.
My advice to social media is to get off the internet, go find an accredited school or even just a course run through your local precinct, and get to work.