The Common Threads of Self-Defence

Do you remember a little ad on the back of comic books? The legendary Charles Atlas had put together a promo about a skinny weakling having a big bully kick sand in his face in front of his girl.

Off the skinny lad went and subscribed to the Charles Atlas training program, then came back and beat up the bully and was the hero of the beach. I was about six years old and though I did not have a girl to impress (nor was I at the beach), I thought this was pretty cool stuff.

Regrettably, it is not that easy to become proficient at protecting yourself or others.

Bullying continues in our society, but so does misleading advertising that leads people into thinking that with a few classes they will be able to defend themselves. Over the years there have been many so-called experts offering self-defence courses that leave people without real tools in dealing with conflict. That, in itself, is a crime.

There have been good courses offered in the Yukon, in the past.

Years ago, the RCMP had a self-defence course for women. It was called Lady Beware. It was always well attended and taught with a degree of realism that is essential in any program offered to the public around self-defence. I assisted a few times with the main teacher, Chuck Bertrand, and found much of what they taught to be just plain good advice.

This course is no longer offered by the RCMP.

During that period, Louise Hardy, Jeanne Burke and I developed a course called Creating Chance that we taught in the schools and privately.

Again, it was based on prevention, awareness, opportunity and defensive moves designed to help a person. It was not solely based on any one martial art or movement.

We took from Karate, Judo, Aikido, wrestling, boxing, weapons training, anything that proved effective. We studied other courses around the world and practised some of the techniques to see how hard they were to learn as well as teach. Those that did not make the grade for defending one’s self were discarded.

We tailored the classes to reflect the students’ ages and physical abilities. Not all self- defence moves could apply to everyone, so we separated moves based on who we were teaching. For instance, many movements that a fully grown person could do effectively are completely unrealistic for a child.

As well, we found that many who attended the courses had been victims of assault and were extremely sensitive to what we said and taught. This influenced our approach to teaching and what we presented to them.

The challenge for us was to be able to help them move beyond the fear and emotional upheaval they were feeling, especially as we were re-introducing actions that they may still be dealing with. Though we took some of the very effective moves from Karate and other martial arts, we also recognized they had to be adapted to be applied in this particular setting.

What has to be kept in mind is the difference between teaching someone tournament techniques (stylized techniques that look beautiful, techniques that really only apply to one type of situation) and boil it down to what a street or home assault could look like and what works. Given the right teacher, you can find this teaching and be comfortable in knowing this is not just another course to take your money and leave you worse off than before.

Todd Hardy has studied and taught a variety of martial arts for over 38 years and has trained with many people from around the world. Would you like to comment on what you read here? Contact him at [email protected]

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