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 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 strategies and techniques.
So, why suggest that personal trainers should (or could) become effective self defense instructors? A few reasons why a personal trainer could easily transition into becoming a knowledgeable and proficient self defense instructor 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
Now, let’s look at each of these reasons in a bit more detail.
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 (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-specific movements.
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 (making the strike stronger and/or more powerful).
A good self defense 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 skills, it should be an easy transition to be able to observe and correct improper form.
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.
Today’s trainers also understand that there is more to training as 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.
Following are some of the more obvious personal and professional reasons for a personal trainer to become formally trained as a self defense 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.
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, 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, learning self defense and learning to teach self defense offers the personal trainer an opportunity to diversify their services, generate more income and enhance his or her own mental, emotional and physical well-being!