Saturday, February 9, 2008

Learn to Fight -- But Not From Bad Videos

According to the Dallas Morning News, there's an armed serial rapist attacking women in the greater Dallas area. In what I'm sure is an effort to help women deal with this threat, the newspaper posted a video giving advice from a police officer and a couple of self defense experts. (Note: the video plays with Flash or the Windows Media player -- it doesn't work with Quicktime.)

Unfortunately, the advice on the video is all but useless to an untrained person. In the first technique, a woman is trapped under a man who is trying to undo his pants. The video shows how she twists her hips to get loose, and then kicks the man.

While this is a good ground technique -- often taught in the Impact and Model Mugging classes -- it's not something you can pick up watching a video. For one thing, you need to learn how to stay calm throughout an attack so that you can identify those moments when an attacker -- even an armed attacker -- is vulnerable. Responding at the wrong time can be dangerous, but if you're calm and relaxed, you will see a good opening.

Secondly, it's not the first technique taught in self defense classes. You work up to material like this. Further, it's useful to practice it in a safe class setting before trying this kind of move. You need to let your body learn that it can do this kind of move before trying it for real.

But what really worried me is that the video contained a couple of scenes showing defense against a gun. Again, these are legitimate techniques, but they're not techniques for beginners. The first one involves moving inside against an armed attacker; the second showed a similar defense when the gun is held at your back.

I might try either of these moves, if I sensed an opening or felt like the attacker was going to kill me regardless -- if you're calm, you'll be aware of these things. But I've spent 20 years in Aikido learning how to enter against an attack. In my experience, most beginners don't do this right immediately.

Not only do I think this video showed techniques that are too advanced, I also think it picked ones that are too intimidating. I would guess -- and I'd love to have readers look at the video and share their own reactions -- that most people would look at these techniques as shown and immediately say "I could never do that."

That's not true -- most people can do these things. But they need to learn them gradually, not be confronted with the scariest techniques right off the bat.

I grant it's better that the police are acknowledging that women can defend themselves. It wasn't very long ago that the standard police response to rape attacks was for women just to go along and not try to do anything.

But I don't think this video is going to help anyone who hasn't had any training. I suggest women look for a good self defense class instead. I'll be providing more links to upcoming classes soon and I'd be glad to post links to training available in the Dallas area specifically, if teachers will send me information.


Sid The Sexist said...

I agree in the sense that the gun disarmament advise is total B.S.!
However, the ground defense is quite good and any women should be able to pick it up from just watching the video!

Nancy Jane Moore said...

The ground defense is good, but I don't think untrained people could pick it up from just watching the video. Trained people can get a few good hints from it, though.

Untrained people are likely to look at that video and think "I could never do that," which will keep them from seeking out the kind of training that will eventually make it possible. That's what I really don't like about the video.