What is your role as a self-defense instructor?

In the twenty years that I have been teaching self-defense I have literally come into contact with thousands of students. From children, teenagers, young adults, middle aged adults and older adults, men and women. I have had students who have been blessed with natural athletic abilities and some who have had to work really hard to move forward.

When I first started my dojo back in 1992 I was only 24 years old and was used to the crash and bang style I had grown up doing. After operating for a few years I quickly realized that the blow throw blow attitude I had about training was not going to be conducive for all students. I still remember one female student who was in her late 40s, had 2 bad knees and other aches and pain on a daily basis. She was already a black belt in karate and had devoted the past 4 years to her learning. Remember when I said some people had to work hard to learn, she worked hard. There were a couple of areas in which she excelled and hardly matched, that was her enthusiasm, dedication and heart. When I promoted her to black belt a few of the other newly promoted black belts questioned her exam. You see she had not perform to the exact same standard as they had. It should be noted that those commenting were in their mid 20s, with natural ability and limited martial arts experience.

I explained to them that indeed they had performed an above average test but that each person must also be judged on their own performance. Did she match their test, no, but did she perform to her highest abilities, indeed she did.

I currently have a potential student who has come to class and expressed that he really enjoyed what he learned and say. I received an email from him advising he wants to come back but that he doesn’t want to drag the class down. He is a little older then most students but appears to have the desire to learn.

If you want to learn, I want to teach.

You see my role as a self-defense (jiu-jitsu) instructor is to teach people to protect themselves, this means whoever walks into my dojo and expresses the right reasons for wanting to take lessons. It is not to judge them as they walk into the school and predict that this person will never be a star black belt. My job is to teach them in order for them be the best they can be. Their job is to give me all they have, enthusiasm, attention, sweat, blood, tears….what ever it takes to learn. If we tell them not to bother because they will not achieve black belt then I think we are doing a dis-service.

That being said I do have to take into account the individual’s safety in relation to the type of training we do. If the potential student is physically not able to participate and I need to modify my lessons beyond the norm then I would have to discuss with the individual other options.

If they give me what I ask for then a black belt in not out of reach, it just might take a little longer. Will it be pretty maybe not but it doesn’t need to be pretty, it needs to be effective.

How do you see your role as a self-defense instructor?


Assess the situation before getting involved

Back in November 2011 I wrote this letter in relation to an unfortunate and potentially fatal incident that happened in downtown Chilliwack. A local resident trying to do good was pepper sprayed and stabbed after approaching a group of young adults in downtown Chilliwack. All he did was ask them not to throw garbage on the ground. This letter was not to point fingers or lay blame but to provide information that will hopefully help people think before they act and help protect themselves.

I took the opportunity to present this incident to the students in my self-defense class. Learning to protect yourself is not solely about punching, kicking or throwing people. It is also about using your brain to analyze potentially dangerous situations before they occur.

I applaud those individuals who try and do the right thing, but prior to intervening they must also understand the potential dangers of getting involved. Hopefully the following will help or encourage people to think before acting.

When deciding to intervene or not there are several factors to take into account. The first area of consideration is the situational factors that exist.

In this case it was 10:30 at night in an area which arguably is known for being a rough part of town. It is dark out and possibly no one else around. There were 4 individuals (3 males and 1 female) described as being in their early 20’s and dressed in such a manner that was described as gangster.

Secondly is your perception of the event. Do you have experience dealing with such a situation? What is your physical description compared to the individuals you are about to confront? Do you have any special training? Have you planned what to do if the individuals react contrary to your thoughts?

In this case the victim is described as 43 years old; he is confronting 3 young males and a female. One of the suspects is described as being 5″11″, so not a small person. The victim is by himself with a small dog. He is obviously a nice guy since he actually picked up the garbage for these individuals.

You should also take into consideration the group’s actions. In this case they were littering. When asked to pick up the garbage what was the group’s response? Where there threats made? Did they circle? People in a group react differently then when they are alone, groups feed off each other creating a pack mentality.

I agree that sometimes we should say something to address the situation but I also think that before saying anything we should analyze the personal risk involved. In this case if nothing was said I would suggest that this individual would not have been pepper sprayed or stabbed. This case is about littering.

I feel bad that he was injured and thankful he is alive but there is a lesson to be learned. There is a time to say something and a time to say nothing. The victim appears to be a nice trusting person which is in direct contrast to the 4 people he was dealing with. These 4 simply don’t care about others and were probably out looking for trouble. There are far too many examples of “nice guys” being hurt or killed because of good intentions. Before getting involved think the situation through and analyze the risk to your personal safety first. There is an expression “What hill are you willing to die on?”

Self-Protection is being able to analyze a situation and if required using your physical skills to defend yourself.

Are you the kind of person who gets involved when you see something or someone being wronged? If so do you think the situation through before getting involved?

Steven Hiscoe
Owner/Chief Instructor
Hiscoe Jiu-Jitsu
Chilliwack, BC