Victim Blaming

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I was sent the following link by a friend who asked me what I thought of the article.

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/07/self-defense-blame-victims/

When I saw the line in the link “Self defense blame victims” to be honest, I threw up a little bit. But I went ahead and read the article, dumber though it made me, and I am posting my thoughts and response here.

The article starts off with an inflammatory statement. There is an undertone of anger directed at…I can only assume males.

“Women and girls get tons of advice on how to “protect” ourselves, and whether we follow the advice or not, we’re blamed for our own assaults.”

The statement is ludicrous! In my life in the martial arts, self-defense as well as being a male human – I have never heard anyone blame a woman or girl if she was assaulted.

The follow up goes on to claim that people are starting to push back against these “victim-blaming” messages. She then goes on to say society is now putting the responsibility for the crime on the person who committed it.

Well, that seems to be what has been going on all along, blaming criminals for crimes.

So, right from the start I see a clinging to an old method of:

1.      Claim something about the other side of a debate that is not true.
2.      Attack the position that you just fabricated about them.
3.      Continue attacking.
4.      Offer your counter position to the position that the other side doesn’t really have.

There is that lengthy section reminding us that “self-defense is victim blaming”. It isn’t, but the author made the claim offered supposed evidence and moves on as if the case is closed.

About that evidence; when self-defense instructors teach people important ideas like: “Don’t leave your drink unsupervised” (I use “unattended”, when I teach this but that is probably even worse victim blaming…we ALL know that “unattended” makes it more your fault than if you had merely left the drink “unsupervised”), we are giving what should be a common sense bit of advice. There are bad people out there who will put bad things in your drink if you are not paying attention. Keeping an eye on your drink is a simple step you can take to make yourself a bit safer than you could be otherwise. The author included “Don’t park next to a van”. I’ve never used that line because I believe a woman should be allowed to park where she wants and not have her life limited by NOT being allowed to park near a van.

Oh wait…sarcasm isn’t appreciated in this subject. Sorry.

The truth is, I do suggest extra caution if you come out and find a van beside where you parked. Extra caution is called for. And maybe I have suggested not parking by a van. Is it really so wrong to offer steps and practices that can increase personal safety? Have I really spent all of these years reinforcing victim blaming and rape culture (as is claimed by the author)? Awareness of one’s surroundings is impossible (as is claimed by the author)? Really!?!?!

Nothing I teach in my personal safety (self defense) classes is about “restricting a woman’s access to the public sphere and controlling behavior”.

It is about preventing victimization.

Every person that I train becomes better armed to stay safe, and that equals one less victim and is one small step closer to a day when self-defense instructors need to close up shop because we are no longer needed. No more victims means no more need for us.

Oops.

That is a big secret. They make more money in treating you afterwards, when you are already a victim. There is more money in outrage after-the-fact than there is in prevention. There is more press, more attention, more donations, and…more victims. That helps keep them in business because it isn’t about stopping the crime, and this becomes especially clear when the steps to take in preventing the crime are held up and demonized and labeled as being something almost as bad as the crime itself. Their agenda isn’t about prevention; it is about feeding your emotions and getting your mindset in the victim mentality. It is about feeding that fire and that anger, and broadening the definition of victim until you are a victim because you are female and broadening the definition of rapist until you feel comfortable using the line “all men are potential rapists.”

The most glaring point that tells me that this claim of Victim Blaming is a lie is this: When I teach classes to parents on protecting their child from a pedophile, classes that include steps like altering schedules so that the child is never alone with an adult and avoiding certain situation and being aware and trusting your gut – I am told by those parents that I am a hero. They can now see the need to take extra precaution. They see this because of the serious damage cause by such a heinous crime. And they tell me that any steps necessary to prevent their child from becoming a victim will be taken. Contrast that to a class on self-defense for women, and here we go again…Victim Blaming.

Soon enough the article brings up the ignorant “teach men not to rape”.

I have gone over this before, but sometimes things must be repeated. Saying “teach men not to rape” suggests that society currently teaches men to rape. This is a manipulation and designed to speak to emotion, not logic.

In spite of the hype, not all men are potential rapists. As a matter of precaution, a woman could take the view that all men are potential rapists, but such a view would be grossly exaggerated and probably more than a little unhealthy. There is a mental factor that a rapist has that is not normal. Not all men have it. I know it easy for a victim to lash out at all men, but it isn’t correct or necessary. And it certainly is not an attitude that should be promoted by someone claiming to be there to help victims.

The author next discusses putting the blame back on the attacker, once again ignoring the fact that the blame was already on the attacker. No amount of outrage and righteous indignation will change that.

Of course, the underlying theme of the article is a sales pitch to participate in the self-defense classes that the author claims teach empowerment and have toolkit of information that does not include advice or judgment.

Of course, I have yet to run into a self defense coach yet who judges his/her students as is suggested in the article, but that apparently doesn’t matter. The selling point needs to be made, valid or not.

The last thing from the article I want to address is the asinine, inflammatory comment made near the end, “Though very few men rape, all men benefit from the power and privilege it enforces.”

Wow.

I cannot wrap my brain around the intent behind such nonsense.

The facts are really simple. When I teach self defense and personal safety it is with the singular goal of helping people be safe. One cannot even claim the ulterior motive of making money because I have done many more classes free of charge than those that I did for money. And in those classes I taught for money, I often did at-cost. There is no sinister thought of oppressing women, or reinforcing a rape-culture. It disgusts me that the work I do is so viciously misrepresented by people who promote this kind of garbage.

I will step down off of the soapbox now.

Random Violence

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There is a lot of talk and concern lately over these random violent attacks. As a personal preference, I like to not “date” my articles unless I am writing about a specific event, but with the frequency of these attacks right now it seems that it will not take a great deal of imagination or personal research to find a pile of stories. Here, I am going to write about random violence and answer those questions I have been receiving about the topic.

By its very nature, random violence is, well…random. This makes prediction highly challenging for the most part.

Having said that…common sense needs to still be used.

When your company fires a person who is known to have been prone to violent outbursts, a period of higher awareness is probably called for. Even if the person was not known for violent outbursts, but walked out on his last day muttering threats, or has been posting rants on social media, again, raise the levels of awareness and security.As politically incorrect as it is to mention it; there is a disturbing circumstance where these jihad movements are becoming trendy. If you know someone who has suddenly begun reciting the jihad buzz lines, there is a warning sign.

With the exception of the incidents of violence for the sake of violence, a key point is usually found; an event that pushed a person past what they see as a point of no return. Careful consideration and awareness can make predicting these violent attacks a bit more possible.

There are other random acts of violence where the person has no connection whatsoever with the people or place he attacks. So, this leads us right back to the place where we started, what can we do about attacks when we have no time to prepare.

Here is my list, incomplete though it may be in the eyes of some, at least it is a good start:

  1. Don’t try to convince yourself that “it’s probably nothing”. This is a mistake that can cost lives. If something seems out of the ordinary, either investigate to confirm it is nothing or notify security and let them investigate to find out whether or not it truly is nothing. A stranger, former employee of the place where you work, anyone who should not or even simply perhaps should not be there should have someone check and be sure there is a reason for them to be there.
  2. Stay aware. There is a reason this is the advice given in nearly any self-defense/self-protection class worth the money; it is terribly important. This is more than just being aware that someone is here who should not be here, but how are they acting, are they nervous, are they pale or are they red faced? There are so many factors to consider, but they all boil down to trusting your gut. Sometimes there is just a feeling that something isn’t right. This is not a paranormal power, but rather, your survival instincts. We do not listen to them as much as we should.
  3. If the event is happening, take action (whatever that means to you). Once things start happening, the worst thing you can do is nothing. People tell stories of freezing through the entire event, and others do not survive to tell that same story. This is a typical freeze response. Take action as soon as you can. For most people, this action should be leaving the scene or hiding somewhere safe. Precise advice cannot be given because of the rapidly changing nature of these types of attacks and the many variables involved. The basic advice I give most students is pretty straight forward. If you are dead, you cannot help anyone. So escape or hide is probably the best thing to do first. If you are a take charge kind of person, or if you are a person who is a manager or director where you work, then the subordinates are probably going to instinctively look to you for direction. Direct them to exit or hide (if there is a gunman between you and the exit, hiding becomes the better option). If you cannot escape or if your hiding place has been found, you may need to fight. Buy yourself some time by putting whatever is available to barricade the door. Arm yourself with makeshift weapons. You can use fire extinguishers, chairs, break off a table leg, paperweights, pens, telephone receivers, coffee mugs, coffee pots, loaded staplers, flashlights, books, binders, laptop/desktop or tablet computers – anything that can be picked up can used as a weapon. For this list I just looked around  where I am sitting and left out all of the martial arts weapons. 
  4. Notify the authorities. As soon as you are able to do so, notify the authorities. Never assume that someone else already has. Adding to the importance, if you are inside where the incident is taking place, then you will be able to give information that someone else may not have; the number of people where you are, or even in the building, where you are hiding, maybe even a description of the gunman. Every bit of information helps.
  5. When law enforcement arrives, do what they say. The law enforcement personnel are highly trained. They will also give commands that you will need to follow. Their language may or may not seem friendly. But they know what they are doing. Do not point, do not yell and do not move anywhere that they have not told you to go. They might tell you to stay where you are. Do what they say. They have a plan and will follow it, and they will be on an adrenaline rush like you would not believe. In such a state, it is not good for you to surprise them. They are trained to take control of a situation and it is in your best interest to follow their commands.

Just like any other self-defense situation, these incidents boil down to awareness and the willingness to have a plan. Sometimes it is not easy to think about what to do if this violence happens to you, but it is better to have a plan and not ever use it.

10 Things you can do to make sure your best students quit.

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There are many articles out there along this line, ranging from how businesses end up losing their best employees, to how teachers fail their students. In this offering I am going to list what I feel are the ten best ways to be sure your students will quit. They are listed in no particular order because this is really a bit of free flow writing.

1. Waste their time. We have all worked somewhere that our bosses at some time made us feel that they had a complete disregard for our time. Meetings that seemed pointless, staff development that ended up looking like nothing more than busy-work, and so on. Because this is a common experience, what on earth is any martial arts instructor thinking when he or she fails to place a value on the time the student is giving us – not only giving us but actually paying us to fill! Start your classes on time, give the students what they signed up for and never enter a class without a lesson plan for that class! From start to finish, the class should be what the student signed up for, and nothing else. If you are using the old filler of karate dodge ball to make it to the end of class, your planning was poorly done.

2. Teach without heart. This one drives me nuts because if you are teaching martial arts, and getting paid to teach martial arts, you are living a dream that nearly every martial artist can relate to. That passion, that from-the-heart feeling should come through in every class you teach, or you are in the wrong profession.

3. Continue trying to sell them on your style after they have already signed up. This still irritates me to no end. Once a person has signed up for your classes, any further marketing of your class to that student is wasted and a sign of insecurity that the student will pick up on at some point. Learn to recognize when the sale is made and the teaching must begin.

4. Trash talk other styles and/or other local instructors. In the same category of letting insecurities show, why waste time trying to throw other instructors under the bus. With the exception of those outright frauds and attempted cult leaders, live and let live. Constant trash talking is as clear a sign of insecurity as is the constant need to have students say how great you are.

5. Nickle and Dime them to death. Business is business and a business must make money if the doors are to stay open. I get it. But when you have different uniforms at each rank that the student must purchase, and you require specific items at each rank (targets, focus mitts, sparring gear, etc.) you are pushing a limit and some students will walk when they identify that this is going on.

6. Withhold deeper knowledge. Post a clear set of rank requirements so the students know what and when they are learning. The age-old practice of hiding some secret knowledge really needs to die.

7. Fail to let them know when they get it right.  In a physical skill like martial arts, it is no sign of a keen eye to be able to catch people doing it wrong. It is a much higher skill to catch them doing it right. But it takes a further step; you have to see them doing it right, and then you have to tell them they did it right.

8. Don’t pay assistant instructors. Exactly how anyone ever becomes and unpaid instructor without a certain level of brainwashing is beyond me, but this is another practice that needs to go. If someone is doing your teaching for you, be an upright and honest person and pay them.

9. Insult their intelligence. A Black Belt does not mean you know everything. It does not mean you are an exemplary person. In my life I have known some amazing martial artists who were deeply flawed human beings. It is okay, when asked a question to which you do not know the answer to respond with a simple and honest, “I don’t know.”

10. Withhold Black Belt based on unexplained standards.  A black belt is a rank. Somehow people have become confused and think it means something more than it means. I fully respect the many hours of training and deliberate action that it takes to learn the material. What I do not respect is the baffling use of the word standard in terms of a physical skill. By nature;  every single human being is going to perform a technique in a slightly different way. There is no one correct way. Sorry if that offends anyone, but it is the truth, and it will sink in someday.

There is my list. Even if you are not doing everything listed here, and perhaps are only doing one of the items listed – you will lose some of your best because of it.

Free Online Self Defense Course

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Our long promised FREE online self-defense course is now live!

The decision was made that the road to take was covering the information left out of the typical self defense course.

We decided to use the Udemy platform to deliver the course. To take the course, go to http://www.udemy.com/self-defense-101 and sign up. The sign up process is free and consists of entering your email address and creating a password. Once you do this you will get lifetime access to the course. This is important because of a unique feature I am adding called “Office Hours”. In this section I will be taking questions from students of the course, and adding video segments to answer the questions. There is also a discussion forum available for the course as well, and I will be an active participant in the discussions.

If you like the course, please do two things for us; rate the course, and share it with friends.

A word on the videos; the editing is a bit choppy at times. I am less skilled at this than one might assume, if you assume I am good at everything (I’m not…). I absolutely love the awkward freeze frames Udemy added to the videos. Some silliness never hurts when dealing with a serious subject.

Please go sign up, and please share and rate if you like it!

The Free Course is almost here!

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I have long promised a free online self-defense course, and the wait is almost over. The biggest issue was in finding the right platform, and once that was solved, the work began. After a lot of back and forth on the issues of what should be covered and what could be left out, I have managed to get it done. When it is ready, my readers here will be the first to know. I know many of you have chosen to follow our Facebook page as well, and that is appreciated, but the fact is FB limits how many people see what I post there through our “Like” page, because they offer to let more people see it for a fee. I have far more subscribers than FB “Likes” and am happier for that. So once we are set, those who follow this tiny blog will be the first to know! I thank all of you for your support all of this time, and this free course is the first of many that I will be offering as a thank you for the kind words and encouragement through the years. The wait is almost over…

Teaching Martial Arts: A Positive Classroom

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We all have to be mindful of our interactions with our students. As I have said in the past, it is easy to catch people, kids especially, doing things wrong. There is no special skill or training needed to do this. The real challenge lies in catching them doing things right, and finding ways to give them feedback on this, and use what they are doing right as a framework for giving critical feedback to help them perform even better. Training in the martial arts needs to be taught as a process of growth, not natural skill. Some people will be more talented than others, or achieve skills more quickly than others, but that is just life.

So, how can we do this?

For a start, we must understand that properly responding to our students is a combination of what we say (critical feedback), how we say it (tone of voice), and our presentation (body language). These three things must be parts of a whole and must convey a single message. If you tell a student they are doing something right, but you roll your eyes when you say it or your body language shows disgust or frustration, or gives a signal that you do not mean it, the student will become confused, as will the rest of the class.

What we do as martial arts instructors is in large part about building relationships, we have to stay mindful of what we are communicating to our students at all times. We must be mindful of both our verbal and non-verbal communication.

We have to correct what is being done incorrectly. As the instructor, if we are letting sloppy techniques slide on the thought of oh, I’ll clean that up later we are doing a disservice to the student making the error, and we are reinforcing an incorrect standard for the rest of the students in the class. It is not always fun to tell a good student they are doing it wrong, but depending on how we frame it, it may be more unpleasant for us than for them, at least we should hope it is.

I have mentioned the Compliment Sandwich before; the simple method of: compliment – correct – praise. It is an easy tool to use, but can seem gimmicky or forced to students, especially older students so it is best used with the tiny kids. There is the higher method of creating a positive class setting.

In a positive class, feedback is delivered in dynamic, uplifting way.

Think of the following situation:

Jimmy has motivation issues in karate. He is, oddly enough, actually trying to perform a round kick correctly today, but his lack of practice is really showing. Seeing this his instructor said,

A.)  You idiot. You will never get any better at this unless you try. Right now you suck.

B.)   Great round kick Jimmy!

C.)   Let’s just try a different kick Jimmy.

D.)  Hey Jimmy, you are making some progress but let’s keep at it. Everything in martial arts takes effort and consistent practice, and practice is why we are here. Let’s do a few more!

Obviously, if you are trying to create a positive classroom you are going to choose D. The problem with A is quite clear; the instructor is being a jerk. There is simply no excuse for a teacher in any discipline to speak to a student that way. The problem with response B is that the instructor is reinforcing a false standard. Some people have no issue with response C, but I have to take issue with it as well. The mindset that tells us well, some people just don’t get a round kick is a cop out. It also allows the student to think that their learning ability is fixed, incapable of growth.

Anyone can learn anything if they put in the time and effort, but they do need a teacher who believes that they can learn. When the teacher says, “I can’t teach that person.” I have to ask; then who can? A teacher in any subject you care to name is only going to be effective with the students that they personally believe can learn what they are teaching. It is essential that the teacher believe all of the students can learn.

In addition to what is said is the issue of how it is said. In the context of an article it is difficult to convey tone of voice, but your tone of voice carries a message that can change the meaning of the words. Be mindful of the tone of voice.

Finally there is body language. Martial arts instructors need to learn to smile a genuine smile and share it more often. Most of us work with kids and kids get enough stress from adults without us adding to it. Smiles, high fives, fist bumps, a pat on the back of the shoulder; all of these can let a person know that you are there to help and are willing to work with them.

While I am on the subject, I want to touch on what is probably the worst bit of advice given to new teachers. Anyone who has ever worked in a public school has been told at some point to not smile until Christmas. The whole don’t smile until Christmas bit is terrible! It creates a distance (and it is a phony distance) between us and our students. This advice causes many new teachers to ignore the hard work and progress of students in that critical early stage when the initial bonds are being formed.

Creating and maintaining a positive setting in your martial arts school is a lot of work, but well worth it. The rewards in student achievement, word of mouth advertising, and your own peace of mind make it worth the effort. Be nice to people.

20,000 Views!

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On  September 29th of 2013 we crossed the 15,000 views mark and I was astonished. Today we crossed 20,000, and I feel humbled. For a tiny weblog written by a guy like me, to me this is amazing in such a short period of time.

I thank all of you for reading what I write, and I especially thank those who find enough value in it to share it on social media. It really means a lot to me.

What is coming up? Well, we have more interviews with phenomenal, interesting people. I am working on a free online self-defense/self-protection course that will be made available through this site, and articles that I hope people continue to find useful.