Stand by and watch syndrome

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As people who are on my Facebook group know, I’m fairly active on social media. It can be a great way to connect with people in your field of interest, get chatting and build connections. It can also be a great way to get your content out there such as the articles I write on this blog. However, more and more frequently I’m seeing videos and posts taken on mobile phones of people being attacked, beaten up and even sometimes stabbed and so the questions have to be asked of why is it being filmed and why aren’t people helping?

I think most of us would like to think that if we saw someone getting beaten up or mugged, our first instict wouldn’t be to pull out our mobile phones and film it, but either to inject ourselves or signal for help either in the form of finding police, shouting to attract more attention, or firing up the bat signal. However, psychology suggests that this is not always the case and human beings will not always help another human in trouble, it’s all dependent on the circumstances they are placed under. Basically studies have shown that even the most apparently norman human being can become capable of this if presented with the right triggers.

So let’s look at the `bystander effect`. Ask yourself, if you were walking through town late at night, heard a scream and some struggling and saw a teenage girl in distress, would you help? Now ask yourself the same question but instead of being on your own, you’re with a group of 10 friends. Would you be more or less willing to help?

In 1964 a woman was murdered and newspapers reported that 38 people had heard or seen the attack and done nothing. 38. Two psychologists, Darley and Latane wanted to know if the face these people were in a group played a role in their unwillingness to help. The psychologists invited people to take part in a discussion over intercom. During the conversation, one of the discussion participants would fake a seizure which could be heard through the speakers. When the partipant believed they were the only ones speaking to the individual who had the fake seizure, they rushed to get help. However, when the participant believed there were four others involved in the conversation, only 31% went to help, the rest assuming someone else would. This study has been recreated numerous times leading to the term `The Bystander Effect` whereby

Individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present

We take our cues from others not acting or tell ourselves someone else will do it. So how does this apply in terms of martial arts or self defence? Do we have a higher moral duty to interject if we see or hear something? Would we interject? Martial arts schools offer self defence training as a marketing tool – no-one wants to feel less safe and there is an instinct for us to survive and protect ourselves. We’ve spoken before about how often, dojo martial arts do not translate well into real world violence, but what about the discipline, etiquette, courage and general decency we are also taught in the martial arts? Would these traits help someone stand out from the crowd and have the confidence to speak up and act?

It certainly wouldnt hurt in my opinion.

It’s been said that knowledge is power and even being aware of the bystander effect can make people think twice and act when perhaps before they would have sat back and waited for someone else. As martial artists and self defence enthusiasts, we seek knowledge on keeping ourselves safe, but how many of us think about keeping others safe as well? Would we be the one to stand up and take action rather than sit back and let the bystander effect take place?

I hope so!

 

Ego and the Martial Arts

Steven Ho Martial Arts Kick 300x262 Ego and the Martial Arts

Ego and the Martial Arts

It can be argued that martial artists are egotistical and there’s plenty of examples where this is just the case. Think of other sports or hobbies such as football or basketball and we realise that these are team games. You succeed, the team succeeds, the team succeed, you succeed. This is not the case for martial arts however, and in many cases, martial arts are a completely solo journey where you focus on developing yourself and no-one else. Is this a bad thing? Potentially not, but it does beg the question as to whether professional, or high ranking martial artists aren’t just a little selfish and egotistical?

Let’s take a traditional art such as Aikido or Karate, the focus is on you. You develop yourself physically and mentally and compete in some instances to further your knowledge and skill. Martial arts are not a team sport, they do not rely on a team mindset or environment, they rely on you as an individual having the strength and determination to succeed and this in many ways can be a great thing – it can teach self sufficiency. Many draw their inspiration or energy from a team, feeding off the group dynamic and using that to achieve athletic performance or zone in on their task. Martial artists in many aspects don’t have this team environment. Sure you belong to a club, may have friends and family supporting you, but when you get up to fight, or compete, or grade, it’s you and only you in front of the judge or inside the cage. Only you can rely on you in martial arts. As said, this can be a great thing, but can it also lead to egotism? There are countless examples of egotistical instructors, teachers, sifus, grandmasters, shihans etc who think their style is the best style, or even worse, get their students believing what they teach is the one and only way and that no touch knockouts are a legitimate thing and something that can be achieved if enough time (and money) is invested.

There’s also plenty of fantastic high ranking instructors and teachers out there who give all their time to their students and are open and honest about their style, their limitations and other styles. Martial arts are what you make of it but the journey, especially at the start, is a very personal one in many instances. Is a certain level of egotism or narcissism okay in the martial arts – I think so! After all, it’s your training and your progression whether that be competitive martial arts, traditional martial arts or self defence training, either way its your development that comes first.

What does self defence mean to you?

IMG 0102 1024x683 What does self defence mean to you?

What does self defence mean to you?!

Self defence is a minefield. The Martial View website could easily be dedicated just to self defence as there is just so much to discuss, talk about and ponder! People have different ideas of self defence, some are based on their own personal experience, and some are based on what they’ve been told/taught. I think all self defence viewpoints are valid but there is often a misconception that martial arts = self defence, and in my opinion this simply isn’t the case. The frankly redundant argument about which style is best in a real life situation is prevalent in the martial arts world, with some arguing, for example, Karate is the best form of self defence, others Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, some Jeet Kune Do. For me martial arts are exactly that, martial arts, not self defence. They can overlap sometimes and knowing some form of combat art definitely isn’t going to hurt in a real life altercation, but isn’t the be all and end all of self defence. So I ask, what is self defence to you?

I’ve luckily had few experiences where I’ve had to use physical violence to end a confrontation, but it has happened, yet I still prefer to avoid a potential situation wherever possible and this to me is true self defence. If you’ve been in situations which could clearly have ended in a punch up, but managed to either spot the danger before it arose, or managed to talk your way out of it, to me, this is the best example of self defence. It shouldn’t be flashy or clever, it should be direct, straightforward and easy to grasp. I’ve heard arguments that the best form of self defence to learn is MMA and although I see where people are coming from in this argument I disagree. To be proficient in MMA, as with any contact sport, takes years. Self defence should be effective in a matter of hours. Sure you can learn to strike, kick, takedown etc, but do you have to learn MMA to do that? A few hours learning simple avoidance/awareness, de-escalation techniques and some simple physical skills that rely on gross motor skills such as palm strikes, elbows and slaps are way more effective in my opinion and aren’t particularly technical or difficult to grasp. Self defence should be as efficient and effective as possible.

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Flashy wrist locks, shoulder throws and arm bars simply won’t work in a real confrontation unless you are either very lucky or very skilled as adrenaline and an un-cooperative opponent will make even the simpliest of wrist locks very difficult to adminster in a situation where you are really likely to get hurt. Do they work on a drunk guy who’s a bit annoying and simply needs to be told to get lost. Yes, I’ve used them before and they’ve worked a treat. Will they work against someone barreling in really meaning to cause you some harm? Probably not. In this case, nasty as it sounds you have to meet violence with violence and do everything you can to get out the situation and so elbow strikes, palm strikes, biting, shredding and kicking are far more realistic.

IMG 0120 300x200 What does self defence mean to you?

I love learning about self defence and want to learn all I can on it from as many people as I can, as so many people have different ideas of what it entails. To me personally it should be as simple and easy to retain as possible. You should know your legal rights in relation to self defence, and understand the physiological and psychological changes that will takes place during confrontation. Finally avoidance and awareness is of paramount importance and the foundation for self defence, above the physical techniques and strategies. So what are your thoughts?

NFPS Ltd – BTEC Level 3 Self Defence Award

nfps NFPS Ltd   BTEC Level 3 Self Defence Award

NFPS Ltd – BTEC Level 3 Self Defence Award

So a few people have asked me to write a short article on my thoughts on the BTEC level 3 Self Defence Award I recently did via Mark Dawes’ company NFPS Ltd. As I am one day hoping to set up a self defence business I thought it was imperative to get this award and had heard good things about both the company and the course as a whole from a number of sources.

The course was held on the first weekend of March at the National Sport Centre in Lilleshall. The setting was amazing and the facilities there are fantastic. Prior to the course we had been sent a booklet to complete prior to attending the course, covering things like the law in relation to self defence, health and safety, the Human Rights Act and the psychology surrounding self defence. In all honestly, some of it was more interesting than other bits but in fairness, I don’t think anyone is able to make risk assessments and health and safety interesting! The pre-course material was laid out well in an easy to understand way, and various documents were sent via email outlining what was expected of you before attending the course, and what had to be completed. The written materials were aided by a number of YouTube videos on the various topics, with Mark talking us through the main points, and giving real world examples. I found the YouTube videos much more helpful than the written material but again, this is just a personal preference.

So I arrived at Lilleshall raring to go for the course and have to say it was a lot more physical than I thought it would be. Not in the fact that we were pressure testing or having difficult workouts, but in the fact that I thought a lot more of the course would be classroom based. Nearly no time at all was spent sat down, but more time dedicated to learning, and then teaching basic self defence techniques from a variety of attacks such as wrist grabs, headlocks or strikes, focusing on easy to remember gross motor skills which we knew at this point to be the most effective.

The course ran over the two days and culminated in teaching two self defence techniques to the group of your choosing from a set list of attacks. Everyone was slightly nervous about this at the start of the course, but in reality it was relaxed and nothing to worry about. The instructors put us at ease from the start, injecting humour and personality into the teaching and socialising, and at the end of the course you did feel as if you were part of the NFPS family and had their support if you ever had any questions or issues when you go out and start teaching self defence.

The course certainly isn’t the cheapest out there, but in my opinion is one of the best, giving you a recognised qualification at the end of it, and the skills and knowledge to go and teach and effective and fun self defence course. The course and the instructors were professional from start to finish. As already mentioned the setting of the National Sports Centre was amazing with incredible facilities, and really good food more importantly, and before I had even arrived home from the course, I received an email congratulating me on passing and saying the certificate was on its way out now. Everything from start to finish was well planned, professional and informative, and the general atmosphere was great. Upon completion of the course I am now confident I could offer a variety of different self defence courses, and that if I ever have a problem or question, I can email NFPS Ltd or call one of the instructors and get an answer almost immediately.

I would thoroughly recommend this course and hope to go on more in the future as NFPS Ltd offer a wide range of other courses from restraint and removal to handcuffing or breakaway instruction.

00c5530 NFPS Ltd   BTEC Level 3 Self Defence Award

NFPS LTD – Chat with Mark Dawes

nfps NFPS LTD   Chat with Mark Dawes

Chat with Mark Dawes

So in preparation for my review of the BTEC Level 3 Self Defence course I attended which will be published next week, we spoke to Mark Dawes of NFPS Ltd about how his company began, what it aims to accomplish and why there’s a need for it! Enjoy!

How it All Began!

I started teaching self-defence back in 1988 on the back of running a martial arts school.  This was at the request of the local police and local crime prevention panel, who wanted self-defence courses for local people and local businesses.

The concept was to provide a two-hour session after work one evening a week for six weeks, culminating in twelve hours training in self-defence.  This was the amount of time people could realistically commit to, when having to balance their work, family life and other everyday commitments.

Now this was a different concept to teaching a martial art, where someone would attend a class twice or three times a week for three to five years to get a black belt.

So the first question planted a seed in my mind. Do people need to train for three to five years to be competent to defend yourself?

The next ’light-bulb’ moment for me came when I was asked by a woman on one of these self-defence evenings, if I could teach her something that she could teach to her son. He wanted to learn self-defence but who was too scared to attend a class because he was being bullied and had very low self-esteem and self-confidence, and I thought, yes, why not?

If self-defence is a ‘common law right’ of every person, why do we have to elevate someone to the dizzy heights of  ‘instructor’ to be ‘allowed’ to teach? Why can’t a mum simply show her son what to do? Now of course in today’s health and safety conscious world we need to apply good health and safety practices to what we teach, but that shouldn’t take three to five years! It could be done in a day or two.

It also made me realise something else (my mind was now similar to an illuminated fairground as one light-bulb moment sparked off another). A lot of people who probably need to or want to learn to know how to defend themselves, do not attend courses because:

  1.  They are probably not very confident and have low self-esteem, and
  2.  They are probably at the low end of the fitness spectrum, and are not very technically (in a physical skills sense) proficient.

This means that the people who really need the help are possibly not the people who actually attend courses.  So wouldn’t it be great if we could teach those that do attend to go back and teach these very people?

The next ‘wake-up’ call came when I was asked what reasonable force meant. My co-tutor (a police officer who was running these two hour sessions) and I had been telling the people we were training that as long as the force they used was ‘reasonable’ they would be okay. Then, at the end of one of the sessions a woman on the course asked us to explain what ’reasonable force’ meant.Then apart from giving a few weak examples (basically ones that we made up on the spur of the moment, to avoid any embarrassment) neither my police colleague nor I could legitimately define what ‘reasonable force’ actually meant.

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This ‘wake-up call’ was a realisation that people didn’t just want techniques; they really wanted to know what they were legally allowed to do. In short, they wanted to know that if they used what we were showing them, they would be acting legally. In essence what we were doing by majoring on teaching techniques, was akin to teaching someone to drive but not teaching them the Highway Code. This was confirmed much later when I carried out a large survey at a north London hospital, when we asked nurses on personal safety courses what they wanted to know. They all said they wanted to know how far they could actually go in defending themselves, and others and to do that they had to know what ‘reasonable force’ actually meant.

The realisation that was dawning on me was that techniques alone aren’t enough. This was because the evidence shows that people will not use something that is too complicated simply because they will not be able to recall what to do when under pressure. Also, if people do not understand the law in relation to ‘reasonable force’ then how will they be able to know what they are legally allowed to do and that can create hesitation and fear. They also wanted to be taught simple and effective techniques that were easy to learn, easy to remember and which would work if required.

At that moment, I had what I can only describe as one of those ‘epiphany’ moments.

I suddenly realised that the reason that we were all teaching a progressive course, that taught more and more complex techniques as people progressed through it, was because we (the instructors) wanted to look good / make a good impression in front of our ‘audience’ by being able to do what they couldn’t. Another motivator for some other trainers too (which one guy told me about) was that if someone actually used something in self-defence and hurt someone, he would have a ‘get-out’ clause by being able to say that they didn’t use the technique the way we had taught them. In short, the training was about the trainer/s, not the students and it didn’t make trainers accountable or responsible for what they were teaching.

So the challenge was set.

If I really wanted to help people I had to give them the information they needed to answer their questions, which, in summary were:

  1.  Can you teach me something that I can use that is quick and easy to learn as well as being effective?
  2.  Can you teach me what to do within a legally correct framework, so I know exactly what I am legally allowed and not allowed to do and how far I am allowed to go?
  3.  Can you teach me something that is so easy to remember and is so effective but which would be easy for me to teach to someone else, without having to train for three-five years to do so?

From then on the ‘Bash & Dash’ course was conceived and the first one was a huge success.

Over the years the course has developed based around a simple mantra that I keep at the forefront of my mind which helps keep me on point. That mantra is:

“If a forty-eight year old woman came up to me and asked me to teach her something so that she could either: a) defend herself and her family, or b) enable her to teach someone else in her family, because she or someone in her family was scared that they were going to be attacked later on that same day, could I do it?”

If the answer is no, I am not teaching self-defence, I am teaching something else.

Today in 2015, twenty-seven years on, our BTEC Level 3 Advanced Self-Defence Instructor Award Course follows those same steadfast principles, which hold as true today as they did all those years ago.

The reason we eventually developed it into a BTEC Course was because of another ‘light-bulb’ moment.

There are many courses taught by many different people. Some are good, some are bad and some are indifferent, so it is difficult for someone to know what to look for when they are looking for training. However, all of these courses have one thing in common which is that the instructors, in the main, actually want to help people and are motivated by a desire to keep people safe.

However, all of these courses have one other thing in common too. None of them teach to a recognised national vocational standard that involves a structured process of learning and assessment with audit trails and internal and external verification processes, and this is what makes our BTEC Level 3 Advanced Self-Defence Instructor Award Course different.

What our course does is provide an instructor with an approach to teaching, based on a structured process of learning and assessment that is legally correct and health and safety compliant.

This provides any prospective student with the safeguard of knowing that their instructor has gone though a formally recognised process and has attained a qualification written to an Awarding Body standard.

It also provides the instructor with the freedom to teach what they like as long as it meets the three principles listed above.

In summary our BTEC Level 3 Advanced Self-Defence Instructor Award Course is not about us and it’s not about the instructor. It is about the people the instructors will teach.

What I learned twenty-seven years ago, which still holds true today, is that people need more than just physical techniques. They need information and they need answers to questions, that are stopping them reaching their full potential. Provide that and you liberate them and set them free to live a safe life.

00c5530 NFPS LTD   Chat with Mark Dawes

Mark Dawes.

25 March 2015.