4 Reasons Personal Trainers Should Add Self Defense Training to Their Services

4 Reasons Personal Trainers Should Add Self Defense Training to Their Services

Table of Contents

By Tim Rockford

Why should personal trainers consider adding self defense training to the list of client services offered? There are both personal and professional reasons!

Let’s put one myth to rest immediately. Acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary for teaching basic level self defense training methods, tactics and techniques, to the general public does not require years of formal martial arts training or being a Black Belt.

But, possessing a strong foundation of basic skills and fundamental knowledge is an important key to having the ability to teach practical, realistic and effective self defense training strategies and techniques.

you don't need to be a black belt to teach self defense trainingWhy consider becoming a self defense training instructor?

So, why suggest that personal trainers should (or could) become effective self defense training instructors? A few reasons why a personal trainer could easily transition into becoming a knowledgeable and proficient self defense training instructor are because today’s professional trainers:

  • are extremely knowledgeable of how the human body works (biomechanics/kinesiology) in motion.
  • possess the keen ability to observe and correct improper movement form.
  • are highly experienced in designing training programs that adapt to an individual.
  • understand there is more to training people than just the physical aspects of fitness.

More about each reason a personal trainer can be a proficient self defense training instructor

Personal trainers have a solid understanding of biomechanics. While physical self defense should always be the very last choice of action, it is still a major component of self defense training.

Once a person makes the decision to physically defend him or herself in an aggressive situation, it is very important that the execution of each self defense specific movement (evasion, re-direction, strikes, loosening techniques, escape techniques, control techniques, etc.) is performed in the most proficient way.

The most efficient way is the shortest possible reaction time and greatest possible power, speed, focus, repetitively, with no delay between techniques or movements for that individual.

Teaching this requires a sound knowledge in the area of biomechanics/kinesiology and the ability to observe and evaluate performance. Personal trainers must have that knowledge for performing various exercises. Now, all they need to do is learn (and practice) the proper form for executing self defense training specific movements.

Using biomechanics knowledge as a self defense training instructor

For example, a self defense instructor must be able to teach the 110 lb. female client how to maximize her ability to generate power, reduce reaction time, strike with the greatest possible accuracy to the “right” target, under conditions of extremely high duress and adrenaline rush. Here is an example of how this might be accomplished:

  • An elbow strike is much more powerful if the client learns to execute the strike utilizing the whole body instead of just the arm.
  • The client needs to be taught to pivot on the feet and rotate the hips and shoulders while executing an elbow strike.
  • He or she needs to be taught to maintain a certain alignment in the wrist, elbow and shoulder in relation to the plane of the elbow strike movement pattern, in order to keep the shoulder joint in the position that provides for the greatest possible muscle contraction force around that joint. 
  • The greatest possible muscle contraction force around a joint makes the stike stronger and/or more powerful

self defense training elbow strike

A good self defense training instructor must be able to observe and correct improper biomechanics in self defense movement execution in order to ensure that an individual is training to reach his or her maximum potential for the skills required.

Personal trainers are experienced in observing and correcting clients in exercise performance. So, once a trainer knows and understands the necessary and proper biomechanics for executing physical self defense training skills, it should be an easy transition to be able to observe and correct improper form.

Using knowledge of program individualization as a self defense training instructor

Self defense training, like fitness training, must be individualized. Each person has unique abilities, capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, physical attributes, experiences, etc. Each of these factors plays a role in how a person can and should be trained to defend him or herself.

Some examples of potential differences are:

  • If a person has a weak upper body, should that person focus on learning to use hand strikes as an initial counter-attack?
  • Would a person who is 5 feet tall be able to easily use an eye gouge strike against an assailant who is 6 feet tall (or more)?
  • How would you train a heavier, sedentary client versus a fit, athletic client?

Personal trainers are experienced in designing individual training regimens, based on observations and information about clients. Self defense training requires the same skills because it is not a “one plan fits all” deal, either – just like fitness.

Understanding there is more to training people than just the physical aspects of fitness

Today’s trainers also understand that there is more to training a person than just the physical aspects. The same is true with self defense training. In fact, the initial and what I consider the most important part of this training is not physical, at all!

Awareness training is the most important part of self defense training because the best self defense is never putting yourself in a position where your personal security is threatened or compromised.

While it may be impossible to eliminate this possibility, it is imperative that a person do everything possible to minimize the risk. Awareness training includes 4 types: mental, emotional, environmental and physical. These must be included in any reputable self defense training program. And, anyone can learn and teach this information!

Now, please understand that I am not suggesting personal trainers can achieve the same level of knowledge and skill that martial artists who study and train for thousands of hours over many years achieve. Obviously, like any other physical activity, the level of skill and knowledge gained by an individual is commensurate with the time and effort dedicated to the learning and practicing process.

However, my philosophy is that anyone who knows more about a subject than the next person can become that person’s teacher for that specific subject area.

Also, I do believe that “something is better than nothing.” Sitting in on a 45-minute lecture about personal safety issues is better than never hearing any of that information. Taking a 3-hour course can be better than just sitting in the 45-minute lecture. Training for 6 hours can be better than a 3-hour class.

You get my drift. The more training – the better.

Each person must decide what he or she is willing to commit to. The awesome thing is that a motivating trainer with a realistic, practical, and fun (Yes, I said “fun!”) program may be able to convince a client to continue with more involved self defense training.

Some of the more obvious personal and professional reasons for a personal trainer to become formally trained as a self defense training instructor

Expanded Skills & Greater Revenue Generation

Like getting education in new and innovative physical fitness training methodologies and programs, being formally trained in self defense can potentially:

  • Open new markets – school teachers, industry or occupation-specific training clients, etc. who initially might only want self defense training, but end up being regular fitness clients for the trainer because he or she educated the client about the important relationship between good physical fitness and personal safety.
  • Increase trainer demand – the trainer has a broader base of services to offer, possibly separating him or her from the competition (other trainers).
  • Positively affect the bottom line – new services equate into more training hours and greater income generation.

Improved Level of Personal Safety

The nature of an in-home trainer’s job places him or her at a higher risk than a trainer working in a club or private facility. Also, for anyone who interacts with other people in society or does any amount of traveling, there is a certain level risk (depending on many factors) to personal safety.

So, by getting trained in self defense, a fitness professional enhances his or her own level of personal safety both on and off the job.

being aware of surroundings is important to self defense training

Enhanced Mental, Emotional, Environmental and Physical Awareness

Developing a heightened state of awareness of what is happening around you, your emotional state, the emotional state of those around you and of your surroundings will provide more than a positive affect an individual’s personal safety.

The self-confidence gained through such training can benefit all aspects of professional and personal lives.

The increased levels of awareness can also provide a greater sense of appreciation for the little things in life that may not have been noticed before!

Improved Physical Conditioning & Capabilities

Many physical benefits can be realized through self defense training.

Some of which include enhancement of the sense of balance, improved physical coordination, increased anaerobic capacity and muscle endurance, reduced negative stress and the ability to recognize and handle the “adrenaline rush.”

Higher Levels of Efficacy

An individual believes in him or herself, in all aspects of life.

This comes as improvements in self-confidence, self-esteem, self-respect, respect for others, communication skills, conflict resolution skills and emotional control are achieved through a properly structured, implemented and instructed self defense training.

In summary

In summary, learning self defense and learning to teach self defense offers the personal trainer an opportunity to:

  • diversify their services.
  • generate more income.
  • enhance his or her own mental, emotional and physical well-being.

Resources for self defense training

Empower Self Defense: Phases 1 & 2

Empower Self Defense Phases 1 & 2 can be used for multiple purposes:

  1. It can be a personal safety self- study guide for the general public. 
  2. It can be used as a text for a self-defense training course.
  3. It can be used as a measurement gauge for other self-defense training programs.

This comprehensive self defense training course can be tailored to the specific and individual needs of each client. And this is what self defense training should be – custom designed because each person has different mental, emotional, environmental and physical characteristics. 

Every situation encountered is influenced and affected by many variables such as the potentially different mental, emotional, environmental and physical characteristics of the assailant(s).

Phase 1 of the course provides detailed information about the four types of awareness and identifies some specific scenarios and considerations that can be improved through heightened levels of awareness. 

This section provides detailed instruction on evasion movement performance, redirection techniques against strikes and grabs and striking techniques. 

Phase 2 of the course repeats some of the information about the four types of awareness, but more specifically focuses on how they apply to being grabbed or held by an attacker. 

This section also includes detailed instruction for self defense against various types of grabs and holds, including loosening techniques, escape techniques, and application of evasion, redirection and striking, and exit techniques. 

Combining Phases 1 and 2 then provides a more comprehensive look at combining the physical skills taught in Phases 1 and 2 into more complex, yet still simple, realistic and practical self defense counter attacks.

The goal of Empower Self Defense Phases 1 & 2 is to provide a solid base of knowledge for the development of safe and effective classes. 

Information and instructional tools required to properly teach movements and techniques are provided for the prospective instructor. 

The ultimate goal is to provide instructors with the knowledge and skills required to lead safe workouts in which each movement is utilized to the fullest extent to positively stress the body and achieve the desired exercise program objectives: a motivating, safe and effective exercise routine.

Empower Martial Fitness Kickboxing

The Empower Martial Fitness Kickboxing course provides the information and instructional tools required to assist a fitness instructor in the development of safe and effective kickboxing fitness classes.

The versatility and flexibility of this program allows the experienced fitness professional to develop an exercise regimen tailored to the demands and expectations of almost any target audience.

Kickboxing fitness is a workout program that utilizes training techniques, movements and combinations of movements from boxing, karate, kickboxing, and self defense training. 

Tim Rochford Information:

MS in Exercise Science (California University of Pennsylvania)

BS in Sports Management – Fitness & Wellness (California University of Pennsylvania)

Received NASM’s Pursuit of Excellence Scholarship for 2015’s Master of Exercise Science degree program.

Currently the Fitness Director at the Buehler YMCA located in Palatine, IL.

Martial Arts (7th degree Black Belt in Kajukenbo Karate under NorCalKSDI – Grandmasters Andrew Torok and Emil Bautista), Self Defense, Kickboxing, Kickboxing Fitness & Fitness Instructor and Instructor Trainer.

Current certifications include A.C.E. Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist, A.C.E. Personal Trainer, NASM CPT, The Cooper Institute Master Physical Fitness Specialist, American Academy of Health & Fitness (AAHF) SrFIT certification and a Senior Fitness certification through Alliance Rehab.

ACE, NASM and ISSA continuing education provider.

Design and teach self defense programs for corporations, organizations and any group who need such training. Also, have an intensive “train-the-trainer”​ self defense program.

Designed, patented and now marketing the P2 Force – a completely unique, versatile and functional piece of resistance training equipment that provides the capabilities for performing:
1. Multi-angle (direction) elastic resistance training,
2. Multi-planar elastic resistance training, and
3. Progressive overload body weight training.

Creator of the new FitStrike MMA/Kickboxing Fitness instructor training/certification program and workout program!

Living my passion now since “retiring” from a corporate career as a Quality Engineer and Quality Systems consultant for manufacturing and service industries.

Specialties: Instructor Training programs – I train the trainer for kickboxing fitness and self defense. 


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin