“My daughter is going off to college, can you teach her some self defense moves?”

I try not to get upset with people, but this one bugs me. A lot. I’ve been asked this and similar questions in person, over the phone, and via email more times than I can count. The worst part about it is that most never even follow through!

It might be because of my usual answer: “No.”

And I’ll tell you why. Self defense isn’t about “moves,” and even if it was, “a few moves” is going to do nothing but give her a false sense of confidence – which can get her in more trouble than if she didn’t know anything. You know those TV shows and movies where the guy teaches the girl this one cool move, and she practices a bit, and there’s a training montage, and then later in the show she gets to use the technique and does it flawlessly? Yeah. It’s bullshit. That training montage? It took a year. And that one scene where the bad guy somehow sets her up for this one specific technique out of thousands? Forget it. The bad guy did something else, and she had no idea how to respond and got killed.

Q: “Ok, whatever – so why won’t you train my daughter?”

A: Because I need at least 3 months from her just to start? Because in order to get her to a level of competence that would justify any level of confidence would take more training than you or she is going to think worth the time and money. Because my job, quite literally, is to help people save their own lives, and I am not going to sell someone an inadequate service just to make a buck on their ignorance. You can’t “learn self defense” in one session, or even 12 sessions. It takes time, commitment, discipline and hard work. This is why we have weekly classes.

Self Defense Skills

Consider this: You go to the tennis coach at your daughter’s school and say, “my daughter wants to play college tennis – can you show her a few moves?” Does that seem right to you? Go to the football coach at your son’s school and say, “hey bro, I need my son to get into the NFL, so can you teach him a few moves?” What?! No.

This is exactly what parents are doing when they say the same thing to me. Why do you think the concepts, principles, skills, techniques, physical and mental discipline involved in armed or unarmed combat (a.k.a. “self defense”) are any less involved and complex than high-level sports?

Spoiler alert: they’re not. If Self Defense was a high-school, college, and pro level sport, most coaches and “players” today would be abysmally deficient in skill and ability. Look at wrestling, because it’s pretty close. Would you let your daughter “learn a few” wrestling moves and put her in the ring?

Q: Yeah but there’s MMA, and they aren’t deficient!

A: Yeah, interesting point. While MMA obviously isn’t self-defense, it’s probably the closest we can get as a sport. And how do high-level MMA fighters train? Do they “learn a few moves?” See? The suggestion is ridiculous.

So look, Dad. Mom. I get it. I sympathize. And I don’t really blame you. We haven’t done a good job as a society of dealing with violence and the threat of it. We’ve allowed Hollywood to tell us what it looks like, and Capitalism teach us what self defense is. But now, here, you’ve got a better perspective. Use it.

Here’s the question I would love to get: “My daughter will possibly be leaving home for college in a few years. I’d like to get her some self-defense training in the meantime. What do we need to do?”

Now we’re talking.