Why should personal trainers consider adding self defense training to the list of client services offered? There are many personal and professional reasons. Let’s put one myth to rest immediately. Acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary for teaching basic level self defense methods, tactics and techniques to the general public does not require years of formal martial arts training or earning a Black Belt. But possessing a strong foundation of basic skills and fundamental knowledge is an important key to having the ability to teach practical, realistic and effective self defense strategies and techniques.
There are people out there right now “teaching” self defense who have no knowledge base and little or no formal training in the required skills. I have found many health or physical education school teachers with absolutely no experience in self defense who have been given the assignment (by their administrators) of implementing new self defense curriculum into their classes. Some of the teachers I have worked with have told me nightmare stories of developing their curriculum and teaching their classes after reading a book, watching a video or talking to a friend who has taken karate. This is a highly undesirable situation because providing incorrect information and recommendations for personal safety or training in ineffective physical skills can place a person at greater risk than before they “knew" self defense!
|Elbow to Face - The victim turns and executes an elbow strike to the assailant's face after an attack from behind.
||Evasion Back Foot - In this movement, the victim evades an assailant's lunging attack by stepping laterally.
So, why suggest that personal trainers should (or could) become effective self defense instructors? One of the main reasons a personal trainer could easily transition into becoming a knowledgeable and proficient self defense trainer is his or her knowledge of how the human body works (biomechanics/kinesiology) in motion. Besides the mental, emotional and environmental awareness aspects of self defense training (which are extremely important!), physical training is a major component of any personal safety training program. The goal of a self defense instructor is to teach each student how to execute each self defense specific movement (evasion, re-direction, strikes, loosening techniques, escape techniques, control techniques, etc) in the most proficient way (shortest possible reaction time and greatest possible power, speed, focus, repetitively, with no delay between techniques or movements) for that individual. Self defense must be tailored to the individual, just like fitness training! This is an area in which a personal trainer even has an advantage over a martial arts instructor with no biomechanical knowledge or experience. A self defense instructor, for instance, must be able to teach the 110 pound female client how to generate her individual potential for maximum power and quickest reaction time, with the greatest possible accuracy to the “right” target, under conditions of extremely high duress and adrenaline rush. Here is an example of how this might be accomplished:
An elbow strike (above) is much more powerful if the client learns to execute the strike utilizing the whole body instead of just the arm. The client needs to be taught to pivot on the feet and rotate the hips and shoulders while executing an elbow strike. He or she needs to be taught to maintain a certain alignment in the wrist, elbow and shoulder in relation to the plane of the elbow strike movement pattern, in order to keep the shoulder joint in the position that provides for the greatest possible muscle contraction force around that joint (making the strike stronger and/or more powerful). This is where many martial artists fall short in providing the best possible instruction and information for their students.
Now, I am not suggesting personal trainers can achieve the same level of knowledge and skill achieved by martial artists who study and train for years. Obviously, like any other physical activity, the level of skill and knowledge gained is normally commensurate with the effort and time dedicated to the learning and practicing process. However, my philosophy is that anyone who knows more about a subject than the next person can become that person’s teacher for that specific subject area. And remember, most people are not willing to commit thousands of hours to learning and practicing personal safety strategies and techniques (otherwise, martial arts schools would be overflowing!). Clients are busy, and therefore, they are looking for shortcuts. While I personally do not agree with this thought process, I do believe that “something is better than nothing.” Sitting in on a 45 minute lecture about personal safety issues is better than never hearing any of that information. Taking a three hour course can be better than just sitting in the 45 minute lecture. Training for six hours can be better than a three hour class. You get my drift. The more training, the better. But each person has to decide the amount of time he or she is willing to put into it. The awesome thing is that if you are a good trainer with a realistic, practical and fun (yes, I said “fun!”) program, you will often be able to convince clients to continue on with more involved self defense training.
|Front Eye Press - To release from a choke or shoulder grab, the victim applies pressure with her thumbs to the assailant's eyes.
||Front Nose Press - The victim uses a "palm heel" push to the assailant's nose while pulling on his arm with her other hand.
||Side Eye Gouge - To escape from a side headlock, the victim uses her fingers to attack the assailant's eyes.
Reasons to be Formally Trained as a Self-Defense Instructor
Following are some of the more obvious personal and professional reasons for a personal trainer to become formally trained as a self defense instructor.
Expanded Skills and Greater Revenue Generation
Like getting education in new and innovative physical fitness training methodologies and programs, being formally trained in self defense can potentially:
- Open new markets (school teachers, industry or occupation-specific training clients, etc.) who initially might only want self defense training but end up being regular fitness clients for the trainer (because he or she educated the client about the important relationship between good physical fitness and personal safety).
- Increase trainer demand. The trainer has a broader base of services to offer, possibly separating him or her from the competition (other trainers).
- Positively affect the bottom line. New services equate into more training hours and greater income generation.
Improved Level of Personal Safety
The nature of an in-home trainer’s job places him or her at a higher risk than a trainer working in a club or private facility. Also, for anyone who interacts with other people in society or does any amount of traveling, there is a certain level of risk (depending on many factors) to personal safety. So, by getting trained in self defense, fitness professionals enhance their own level of personal safety, both on and off the job.
Enhanced Mental, Emotional, Environmental and Physical Awareness
Developing a heightened state of what is happening around you as well as your emotional state and the emotional state of those around you will provide more than a positive affect on an individual’s personal safety. The self confidence gained through such training can benefit all aspects of professional and personal lives. The increased levels of awareness can also provide a greater sense of appreciation for the little things in life that may not have been noticed before!
Improved Physical Conditioning and Capabilities
Many physical benefits can be realized through self defense training (depending on how the training is implemented and executed), some of which include enhancement of the sense of balance, improved physical coordination, increased anaerobic capacity and muscle endurance, reduced negative stress and the ability to recognize and handle the “adrenaline rush.”
An individual believes in him or herself, in all aspects of life, as improvements in self confidence, self esteem, self respect, respect for others, communication skills, conflict resolution skills and emotional control are achieved through a properly structured, implemented and instructed self defense training. Learning self defense and learning to teach self defense offers personal trainers an opportunity to diversify their services, generate more income and enhance their own mental, emotional and physical well being!
Instructor Training - What To Look For
A comprehensive instructor training program should provide the following:
- The belief that physical self defense is always the last resort for action. Recognition and avoidance is the best mode of self defense.
- Information, strategies and skills that enhance all four types of awareness (mental, emotional, environmental and physical) and can be easily taught to the general public.
- Information about the legal liabilities involved with self defense training.
- Knowledge about how to structure personal safety/self defense training programs that could range from short informational “lectures” (30 minutes or more) to more comprehensive training programs (several hours in duration), based on specific client needs and desires.
- Instruction on the biomechanics of movement patterns and physical technique execution so the instructor trainee is capable of analyzing client performance. Improper form in technique execution reduces the potential effectiveness of a strike, block, loosening technique, evasion movement, etc.
- The ability to customize self defense training to each individual client, based on his or her unique strengths, weaknesses and capabilities.
- Realistic, practical and effective strategies and physical techniques that can be adapted to any potential situation or specific client circumstance.
- Realistic self defense training experiences for the instructor trainee. It is tough for an instructor to teach with confidence unless he or she has experienced a program from the client’s perspective.
- On-going education opportunities that allow trainees to continually upgrade and improve their skill sets and knowledge base in the area of self defense training.
- Important: Since this article is addressing fitness professionals, it would be an added benefit if the instructor training program also offered CEC/CEUs that can be applied to renewing fitness industry certifications. When researching programs, ask if they are approved for continuing education credits.
There are numerous instructor training programs available (try searching the Internet under “self defense instructor training”). Be cautious and evaluate them carefully using the above criteria. Most programs require or assume the trainee has some level of martial arts, law enforcement or military background or experience. Some popular resources include Empower Training Systems, R.A.D. Systems, FAST Defense, Family Safety Institute and Krav Maga.