In my journey through self-defence I’ve had some serious WTF moments, but this one tops them all. I was talking to several allegedly reputable instructors on a forum about motivations people may have for taking up training. I mentioned actual risk of impending violence, either in terms of a specific threat (e.g. violent ex) or dangers inherent to a lifestyle. One guy stated very clearly that if he thought a student was facing violence, that would be a reason for him to refuse to teach them. Before I had a chance to parse that concept, a bunch of other guys (they were all guys) agreed.
They would not teach students who wanted to learn self-defence because they needed it, because that’s not what a person in actual danger should be doing. A person in actual danger should be doing “the right thing” to eliminate that danger.
I keep trying to fit that in my head, and I can’t. I understand that learning to reduce risks is better than training to face them, but nothing else about their position makes any sense to me.
Firstly, what if the prospective students are doing both? For instance, what if they’ve already gone through removing the violent partner, getting a restraining order, increasing their home security, etc., but they (realistically) still consider their partner an ongoing risk? Are you telling me that there are people operating under the misapprehension that a restraining order can keep baddies at bay, like a cross against vampires? Hell, are you telling me that any self-defence instructors believe that?
What if the prospective students cannot eliminate all risks because those risks are built into their lives, and they can’t just magically change them? I’m not talking about people living criminal lifestyles; I’m talking about people who can’t just stop living in bad neighbourhoods, using public transport, or working jobs that put them in danger, because that’s their life at this point. Because having a better life costs money, money that some people have to earn and save by taking the bloody subway to their dangerous job from their bad neighbourhood.
What if the prospective students can’t just remove potentially dangerous people from their lives because it’s illegal? For instance, if you have shared children or property with a partner you’ve grown not to trust, that doesn’t give you the right to take either from them. (Yes, you could give them up, but please before pushing this options think about the practicalities of it for a bit.) If you think you might have hired a problem employee, that doesn’t give you the right to fire them. People have to actually do something bad to you before “the system” can act to protect you. In the meanwhile, shouldn’t you be doing something to protect yourself?
I don’t get it. Do these instructors believe that people can achieve 100% safety by Doing The Right Thing? If that’s an actual possibility for them, I want to know their secret. I’ve definitely never lived a life in which I thought violence was an impossibility. At most I’ve managed to make it an unlikelyhood.
I wonder if the problem isn’t something else entirely. I wonder if, protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, they wouldn’t teach students who need self-defence because they simply don’t trust their own training. I wonder if, in their heart of hearts, they know they’re peddling rubbish.