It’s really frustrating that so many people are taken in (that is, fooled) by fast talking martial arts instructors.

I should know; I’ve met my fair share of these folks over the past 23 years. Their stories are more varied than you can imagine, but they all have one thing in common. Each story ends with the student realizing that he/she has been fooled into buying into someone else’s martial fantasy.

What usually hooks the unsuspecting student is the nature of martial training – it is asymmetrical. In short, the instructor has all the information and the would-be student has none. Instead of thinking logically about what is being presented, the would-be student simply trusts that the instructor is an expert.

When you trust someone (who knows you know nothing about the subject matter) based upon highly limited information, you make yourself vulnerable to their words that accompany their demonstrations (in many cases, the technique being demonstrated). These words – that distracts our focus on the techniques being offered – divide our attention and serve to confuse. This is a pervasive problem. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen instructors talking through a technique while simultaneously violating the principles being espoused – all in real time! But few ever notice! Why? The instructor is using effective martial jargon but has no idea how to effectively leverage the concepts into action. It’s really that simple.

However, with just a cursory knowledge of self-defense, violence and range, a thoughtful person can make some informed judgments about what he/she is being told and shown. For most people, this kind of search begins on the Internet. And when this is the case, it’s best to view the techniques with the sound off – just observe thoughtfully. Often, your intuition will fire up. What did you just see that you sensed actually increased the danger? Explore that sense by watching again and again.

Finally, turn the sound on the video back up. Listen the words that complete an idea – then pause the video and look at the movement being made. Then repeat until the video is finished. Do the words being used serve to explain or further confuse? If you are confused, the person demonstrating the technique either doesn’t understand the concept being highlighted or defense being demonstrated (or both). In these cases, it’s best to move on and explore other options for your self-defense training.

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