Self Defense Classes in Austin TX – How To Select A Program
There are many things to consider when choosing self defense classes in Austin TX (or anywhere, for that matter). For the most part, you’re probably choosing a self defense class based on the three things most people consider; price, location, and style. This is understandable, since it’s the way most people would go about shopping for a martial art school.
However, we’re talking self-defense here, not martial arts training for sportive, artistic, or recreational purposes. Not that you can’t enjoy your self defense classes just as much as any other martial arts class; it’s just that your criteria for choosing a program should change drastically when it comes to defending yourself and your loved ones.
After 25 years in the martial arts and 20 years teaching self defense, I’ve found that most people base their choice on limited or inaccurate criteria. So, while price, location, and style are still considerations when selecting a self defense class, let’s examine a few other important considerations that are often overlooked by new self defense students.
Choosing Self Defense Training Based On Specificity of Purpose
It may surprise you to know that not every system of martial arts is meant to be used for self-defense. In fact, many martial arts are practiced primarily for purposes of competing in martial sporting events, for self-improvement, or for the preservation of a historically or culturally significant art form.
Still others only deal with a small part of the full self defense spectrum. Most arts only focus on a single area, such as striking, or locking, or throwing, or weaponry, or competition… the list is endless. Many of these narrowly focused styles are not geared specifically for self-defense applications, and are at best only marginally useful for self preservation in a violent confrontation.
Not to say that all specialized martial arts styles are worthless for protecting yourself. On the contrary, many such martial arts styles contain applications and techniques that are well-suited for specific self-defense scenarios. However, the narrow focus leaves you with a limited range of tactics and responses should you be involved in a violent confrontation. And, if you want to be well prepared to protect yourself should the need arise, you need to have learned and practiced a wide variety of skills to cover multiple scenarios and situations.
Even the beginners in our classes are exposed to a wide variety of “tools” to use in self-defense. Our Level I Self Defense curriculum teaches boxing, kickboxing, unorthodox strikes, blocks, shields, locks, trips, sweeps, throws, as well as basic escapes should you end up wrestling on the ground.
However, all these skills are taught in a matrix and progression that makes them easy to learn and apply; in addition, they are taught in a context that is specific to self defense. In this way, we attempt to prepare even our beginning students for the wide variety of situations they may face should they be attacked.
Effectiveness vs. Popularity
If you know little about the martial arts, you are probably doing research by asking friends and acquaintances which is the best martial art, and by doing research online (which is probably how you found this article). While this is better than not doing any research at all, chances are good you may be misled in your search by well-intentioned people trying to help you out.
Why? Many people are misinformed about the differences and similarities between what is commonly known as martial arts (more sportive or artistic in purpose and practice) and self-defense training that is solely focused on self-preservation. Also, most everyone who is involved in the martial arts has their own “pet” style or system… and for the reasons mentioned previously, we know that not all martial arts offer a complete or effective approach to self defense.
In addition, there is quite a bit of propaganda and “hard-sell” marketing in the martial arts world. All you have to do is look through the pages of any major martial arts magazine to see half a dozen martial arts styles that claim to be used by the SEALs, the DEA, the SOC (Special Operations Command), the FBI, the CIA, and a whole list of other “alphabet soup” paramilitary organizations.
Typically, these claims are based on the fact that some instructor had a few students in one of these organizations who trained in their classes… not an uncommon occurrence in the combat arts. But, it hardly gives credence to the notion that any such paramilitary organization practices the style or martial art in question exclusively.
Also, you will find martial arts systems that claim to be the “official” system of the military forces of certain countries. However, this can be misleading, as the actual skills and training that military forces use often undergo drastic changes when translated to the civilian environment. So, although such claims make for great marketing ploys, they really offer little if any useful information on which the average consumer should base their selection of a school or system of self defense.
While I have taught and trained with people of all backgrounds, including those who work in law enforcement and active military, you won’t find claims of paramilitary affiliations on this site. Why? Because I’m much more concerned with training everyday citizens how to survive a violent encounter than I am in trying to create a mystique around our curriculum.
There’s a reason why instructors who formerly taught those “other” systems are now teaching our curriculum – our curriculum is comprehensive, well-organized, and easy to teach and learn.
Legal defensibility is another key issue to consider when choosing a self defense class. Should you ever need to use what you learn to defend yourself, you may very well find yourself in the uncomfortable position of having to defend your actions in a court of law. Granted, if it was truly a self defense situation and you did not use excessive force, you may escape criminal prosecution. However, there still is a very good chance that you’ll be sued by the very person who attacked you.
If you do have to defend your actions in a court of law, think for a moment about how the prosecution or the plaintiff’s attorney will go about arguing their case. If you’ve been training in a system of martial arts that claims to teach “deadly killing techniques”, or that focuses on military-style combatives, or that focuses on using deadly force to the exclusion of all other options in the force continuum… you could be in serious legal trouble.
Many “tough guy” martial arts systems are fond of stating truisms such as “it’s not overkill, it’s over-skill” and “better to be tried by 12 than carried by six.” And, this is exactly the type of thing a good prosecutor or plaintiff’s attorney will exploit to make their case in court.
In addition, choosing a school that does not offer any training in conflict avoidance, de-escalation of violence, and verbal defusing techniques may put you in a position where you have no other choice but to defend yourself. When you have no other tools in your toolbox but a very large hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.
This is why we start teaching our students how to avoid and defuse violent situations on the very first day they walk into class. Not offering this sort of training is, in my mind, a gross negligence of duty on the part of any instructor claiming to teach self-defense. Consider carefully whether the program you select actually provides you with other options besides responding with violence.
Safety – An Important Consideration In Self Defense Training
I cannot count how many times I have enrolled students who quit at other schools because they were injured by a student or instructor at another school. In fact, I have enrolled more than a few students over the years who were injured at certain self defense schools in Austin that teach a popular paramilitary style. In each case, the student was injured in training because they were paired off with a larger or more experienced student who had poor self-control.
Certainly, there is something to be said for injecting realism in training. I teach reality-based self-defense, and I agree that you cannot learn to protect yourself without feeling what it is like to have actual punches and kicks coming at you. On the other hand, it is the poor instructor who puts a new and inexperienced student in harm’s way for the sake of adding “realism” into their training.
Fear is a very poor teacher, and I find that most students who get injured do not continue their training. That’s why we make sure that students are prepared for the level of intensity they experience in class.
New students start at a very low intensity of training until they learn to deal with more pressure and resistance in defending attacks. In this way, students gain confidence in their skills over time, and our classes are something they look forward to each and every class.
There is no doubt that price, convenience, and style are considerations when choosing self defense classes in Austin TX. However, it’s even more important to consider how well the class you choose will prepare you for a real self defense situation, and whether the style you choose will create legal problems for you down the road.
Coach Massie provides reality-based self defense training and private self defense lessons in Austin, TX. For information on group classes or private training call (512) 670-9333 or use the contact form on this site to request a new student interview with an instructor.