Is ‘self-defense’ hurting us as a culture?

Posted on Posted in News, On Combatives

Anyone who knows me knows I have a love-hate relationship with the martial art and self-defense industry. 14 years of training under great teachers, becoming a teacher and founding Pramek, and now beginning the process of releasing our system to the public…I’ve seen the worst, and I’ve seen the best, and I’ve seen somewhere in between.

I’d like to point you to this first, before I write another word:

I spend time reading through reports, and one of the things we have seen in 2010 is crime was on the downward trend overall. In the past 20 years we have seen an overall downward trend in crimes in the United States. This really puts a damper on the ‘crime is on the rise, learn to defend yourself and buy a gun’ crowd. The truth is – it’s not on the rise, it’s on the downward spiral and we are a safer country – and no one really knows why.

More self-awareness education? More guns? More cops? More social welfare? Increased incarceration rates keeping the violent off the street? Urban flight?

I was on the Virginia Highlands Crime and Safety panel in Atlanta for a period and my consulting business offered pro-bono business threat assessments and I personally rewired bars with new camera systems and upgraded old ones, as well as educating bar staff on closing procedures. The police were involved, security companies were involved, private education firms were involved. The citizens armed themselves with firearms and education, got to know their neighborhood officers and got their personal numbers, and business owners were more aware and even when crime had a spike in 2008-2009 in Atlanta, crime reduced due to a community wide action. Not one martial art organization was engaged to teach self-defense, because as we know from executive protection and private security, if it gets to physical confrontation – you did something wrong and most likely will lose.

It takes a village.

And education on self-awareness and self-defense is key to any program to reduce crime.

But, my question is – have we allowed fear to develop into a monster eating our culture alive. When I was a child, we played til after dark, walked to school, we swung from trees, camped out in the woods, and as a group we’d give stranger’s directions. We stuck together as kids, we learned together, and our parents trusted us to do the right thing. Was there a fear – yes, but my parents didn’t allow it to control us, they relied on us to be smart.

Unfortunately, everywhere we look it is not a real threat of violence, but a perceived threat of violence by the media selling violence for ratings, marketing firms, and experts that has forced us into our homes, our kids off the street, and pushed us into communities that are afraid of the night. By not being aware and being in our streets, we have lost our intelligence of what is going on and who is doing it.

People don’t want to be robbed or murdered, obviously. And I think in some ways any visitor to the internet or a martial art school allows the self-defense marketing and experts to scare us into becoming cowards who would rather hide in our houses than engage our community. We are so convinced by experts that we will become the victim of crime, when crime is on a 20 year downward trend, that we have given up our safety for security, and lost the first part of self-defense – awareness.

And we see this in the downward spiral of martial art school enrollment and increase in enrollment in self-defense programs….which leads to the bleeding of students because once one goes through the self-defense course, where do they go after? Is there a conversion rate to a belt program for women? Rarely. Hello eliptical machine.

All based on a premise that can not be back up by statistical facts.

Only manipulation of emotional intelligence.

We know, as martial artists – some people want to learn martial art and a path, some people want to learn to defend themselves from personal crime, and some people want to do sport. It’s the truth we all know – but it is the confusing of the paths in order to make money or get recognition that tends to blur those lines, and the martial art path that makes us better becomes knife disarms and triangle chokes, and not self-discipline and philosophy we so desperately need in today’s world.

When people are arguing, it is generally the person who is losing the argument is the first to become loud, boisterous, posture, and drive a sense of insecurity by physical action into the other party. So, we see it – people have to shout loud, and drive fear to sell product…even if it’s based on non-reality. This is the advertisements…and even I have been guilty of it.

But, think about the damage it does to the overall martial art world?

As of late we have seen no Karate Kid type movies, or American Ninja…and we have a plethora of MMA related movies (Street Fighter predates these and doesn’t count lol – it was still based on traditional methods and arts). My hypothesis is as martial art schools became self-defense schools, and the traditions and the paths of enlightenment relented in the face of self-defense and Oprah…fear was sold, like the media does it, and people did what is natural. They watched UFC, and they were kicking ass – and people went there. The traditional martial art world swept, chopped, swung purses at, and kicked it’s own reflection in the rush to make money. And now women don’t take self-defense, they take cardio kickboxing and men do BJJ. No matter how successful it looks, I would wager the average well-known MMA organization makes more money than the reality based self-defense schools, and they make more than the karate schools when you do it by age group (children’s classes, the life blood of traditional martial art schools today do not count due to age groups and kids don’t choose it like adults do for their discretionary budgets).

Women are starved for good self-defense nationwide because the industry is telling them they will be raped tomorrow…and the MMA predominance is not capable of handling women’s self-defense.

This is not a good thing.

We traded the child adventures of Goonies for the fear of a pervert with a lost puppy in a black van – so kids, go get fat and play Xbox. At least your child won’t get kidnapped, right?

For Pramek, it’s about education, and I’ll be honest, a market share that financially allows us to continue doing videos and seminars and teaching the science behind martial art. Pramek developers do consulting, work with an equipment manufacturing companies, and contract private security or public service. Our stream of income is not on Pramek alone – we integrate everything into one, and Pramek affects the rest positively. This allows women to learn how to make use of their natural biomechanics and abilities in self-defense instead of gun disarms, and assists martial artists in understanding levers and gear and wedges…while driving down prices and allowing me to be as honest as I am in this blog.

In closing, my question for the next decade is considering the trends – we will begin to get back to offering a path of training and personal betterment…will we see another Mr. Miyagi or Bruce Lee who’s wisdom guides a generation…will the blackbelt mean something like it did in the 70’s or 80’s…will we allow people to challenge themselves in dojos and in classrooms…will we create healthier students to combat the epidemic of obesity?

Or will we tell everyone crime is on the rise and drive them toward a life of fear, instead of a life of empowerment.

Because in the end – obesity and heart disease kill more people than robbers…and teaching someone to live without fear and be healthy will take them much farther than a punch to the nose or a pistol disarm.

But that’s just me….

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