Back in the old days, if you were on the search for a good master to teach you proper fighting skills, you would have probably ended up in some mystical monastery, high up at a difficult to reach and deserted mountain. They would shave your head and bald-headed you would daily carry gallons of water up the mountain for years until one day you would become really tough and ready to face the dangers of the outside world.
Nowadays it has luckily become much easier, you can find martial arts schools in almost every town and even some global self-defence franchises with their aggressive marketing strategy seem to be appearing lately, even in the smallest communities.
If you have read my post about what is and what isn’t proper self-defence training, you should now know what to look for. Now that you decided that you want to learn those important life-saving skills, you might be wondering where you can actually find this kind of training? First of all, looking for a perfect solution is always tricky. I will try to give you some guidance here, but to be fair, neither do I know every instructor out there personally, nor can or should I judge the quality of their work. It is down to you to make that research on your own. Obviously, there are some differences between what is usually offered by various training providers, what good self-defence training should include, what is and what isn’t important for someone to being a good instructor, so you know what you should look for. All that being said, it also depends a lot on your own preferences. Although I have expressed in my posts some criticism on how certain providers do not really deliver the best and most effective self-defence training, that is related to a very one-sided perspective. I was coming from the angle of someone who is strictly focused on self-defence and how to learn the most efficient way how to protect yourself and your loved ones. But maybe you want to be a martial artist and have already some kind of interest or affection towards a certain martial art. If that is the case, go for it, no doubt about that, as long as you enjoy what you do.
Where to look for good self-defence training?
Should you however fall into my targeted audience, being someone who just wants to learn something about personal safety and some basic self-defence, then you would probably approach the market equipped with all the advice I have given so far. If you live in any major city, you should usually be able to find plenty of training opportunities. I would say, try to look for specific self-defence training first (just google self-defence and your location), you should be able to find people who advertise self-defence courses and training classes and simply give it a try. Those are usually short, without any obligations and long term contracts and shouldn’t also be too pricey. Try to find out about the training methods and subjects being covered to see if this suits you, ask if it includes stress drills, is there any theoretical knowledge being offered, prevention and de-escalation tactics? Very often there are also specific women’s self-defence classes offered as well, as women in general, tend to be vulnerable to violence and there is a demand for that. I just recently started to offer a course for women as well, as I understand that the fear of working with unknown men on techniques like being choked on the floor might freak some women out. So far, I was always preferring mixed classes as it is most likely that you will get attacked by a man and therefore having the experience in training is important. Now I usually invite the boyfriend or husband to come along for free to be the training partners of their friend or better half and that kind of works and makes it also a bit safer in Covid times.
If you cannot find an ideal training opportunity
But what if there is no such training opportunity near you that ticks all your demands? Well, that one is easy, simply go for the next best thing. Personally, I spent my whole life searching for the ideal martial art or self-defence system and I haven’t found it yet. I do my best to teach what I believe is the most practical, but I also keep changing my own curriculum every now and then, whenever I realise that I found a better solution for a certain problem. In other words, there is no perfect system out there and depending on how serious you want to take your self-defence training, you might find yourself on a never-ending quest for the truth, as many of us before you. So if the ideal type of self-defence training is not available where you are, look for Krav Maga, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or other martial arts schools that advertise to teach self-defence or look for combat sports like MMA. I said in earlier posts that both martial arts and combat sports are not ideal for self-defence training, but in the absence of ideal training opportunities, they are the next best option. You can later on add to this experience, by going to seminars and courses that offer the type of training you are looking for. Make sure that you are allowed to participate in at least one free training class to check out the atmosphere and see if you fit in there. This can be the biggest obstacle for many who are unfit and insecure or have a problem with violence. It might also not be ideal for people who have had traumatic experiences with violence, as getting some gloves put on and being thrown in the action can be a scary and frustrating experience. However, I can assure you that almost everywhere you go, people will be friendly and treat each other with respect, even if they might look intimidating to you at first. Any kind of martial arts, combat sports and self-defence training always aims at everyone staying safe while training and avoiding any kind of injury. Should you come across anything that is different (think of Cobra Kai here) walk away!
No martial arts classes where you are?
And what if you cannot find anything that really suits you? If you live in a small town or more rural, it might be possible that neither the local version of the Miyagi Dojo nor any of the big global self-defence franchises have made it there. In that case, doing the next best thing is doing any kind of physical activity, as it helps with your overall fitness. You don’t really need to be an athlete to be able to defend yourself, but it helps if you can run one or two blocks to escape. So, if no martial arts training is offered where you live, try to find an activity that challenges you physically, even if it’s Zumba, in a conflict situation you will need every little advantage possible and being fit and strong can absolutely be an advantage or being a fast runner (I do mean that seriously). Try to find self-defence courses that seem to be a good fit for you even if you have to drive a few hours to actually get there. Usually, training providers that offer courses vs regular training classes, are repeating them every now and then and in most cases have a schedule at least a few months in advance. It should therefore be possible for you to plan in advance as well and travel there to attend such a course. This might not be ideal, but you certainly wouldn’t be the first who does so and it all comes down to the level of your motivation and determination.
Is online training any good?
I don’t believe that online learning by itself is enough as a good instructor can really help you to understand things better, but it is a start. Try to find at least one training partner you can regularly work with, being a family member, friend, partner or someone in your social circle. Don’t fall for highly advertised online training that will apparently turn you into a Ninja just by watching this particular course from the comfort of your couch. Use common sense, it’s marketing, they would promise anything for your money. Always check the personal background of the advertiser, some might actually be legit, but use common sense so you don’t get tricked. If a person is as famous as he/she claims that should be backed with available posts from magazines, newspapers, or even TV. Also, blog posts, youtube videos, podcasts and social media accounts with content that seems appropriate and a number of followers that matches the claims, show at least this person has already serious followership. That being said, there are of course also those individuals who might have all that and still put nonsense out there, but as being said I am probably very biased in regards to that. Especially after having read my posts here, you will probably start seeing adverts for this kind of stuff as the artificial intelligence used by social media platforms and Google think this is exactly what you need, “self-defence” in any form.
Invite an instructor to hold a course at your place
Another solution that might work for self-defence courses, is trying to organise such a course in your area by finding a few like-minded people who would be interested and proposing it to the instructor to pay you a visit instead. Not everyone might be willing to do so, or might ask for more money than you were hoping to spend, but some will certainly be willing to do so, myself included, and for a fair price that you will split with the group anyway. There is also always the possibility to book personal training either 1:1 or for a small group, although that might be a bit on the pricey side, it is a possibility and I had many customers in the past that for various reasons preferred personal training over participating in a group event.
I hope this was informative and useful, if you want to find out more about personal safety and self-defence training check out some of my other posts on the subject in the Personal Safety category.