February 20, 2014, Toronto, Canada - In this SAFE International Self Defense Blog I wanted to discuss the fine line of giving constructive criticism at a self defense seminar. I was thinking about something I say at almost every self defense seminar I conduct. Inevitably, someone will share a story where they did an amazing job making choices that have helped them to avoid a potentially dangerous scenario, or with the choices they made if it did become physical to get away. I will usually tell the group that if someone does 9 out of 10 things “considered wrong” by most self defense teachers, but they survive, then they have done an amazing job. See, some people will do virtually everything “considered right” by most self defense instructors and they still get attacked, while others do everything “considered wrong” and never get attacked. The goal for me teaching self defense is to give people options that might reduce the chances of being attacked. There is no one strategy that will work for everyone.
1) Point them all out? Yes, you may be very right with all your comments, but do you run the risk of that person now creating doubt and just feeling they were lucky? Does this have a negative effect on them rather than using the opportunity to support them and give them the sense of pride on how they handled it? Or do you leave it alone for the most part and try to work those strategies into the remainder of the course so that person does not feel they are really the focus of them?
To me it depends on the individual. Again, there is no way of knowing for sure in general terms. Is the person proud of their choices, but still looking on how they may have even improved their chances of avoidance sooner or more effectively? If so, this is an opportunity for all to benefit by making it a group discussion and having people share how they THINK they might have reacted. Or, perhaps it is done privately, but then you rob the group of the education. There is no definite answer.
2) Do you completely support their decisions? Now this strategy may seem like the best so their confidence and self-esteem on how they handled things is built up and intact, but do you run the risk of others in the group thinking they are the best strategies to use if they find themselves in a similar situation? Again, what might work for one person may not work for another because the variables of the attacker, victim, and environment are never the same.
Yes, I believe that support is critical, but again giving the reality of how the scenario they described normally plays out from your experience, other’s stories, or statistics. But, making sure that you emphasize their decisions were what they were at the time and they worked for their scenario.
I recall doing a seminar in which a woman, quite emotionally, kept asking me that if she was taken to a secondary location and attacked, but she did not fight back, am I saying she handled it wrong? Now part of me was thinking that the statistics overwhelming show if you are taken to a secondary location and you do not fight back asap, the results are most often very bad. Now it was obvious to me she had been the one who had been in this situation, although she was trying to hide it. I indicated over and over that whatever decisions she made, or the person she was referring to, at the time have allowed her or them to be here sharing it with the group, then they handled it great based on the variables at that time. She later told me her story privately which gave me an excellent opportunity to reconfirm how she trusted her intuition on how to deal with the situation. Would it have worked out the same for someone else? Maybe, maybe not, but I was talking to her as an individual, but also trying to educate the group earlier.
YES, IT IS A FINE LINE WHEN TEACHING SELF DEFENSE!