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Self-Defense/Personal Protection Training; What’s the value?

As a traditional martial arts (TMA) instructor for many years, I have always been intrigued why people start training in the martial arts. Over time I have heard just about every reason – “I want to learn to protect myself”, “I want to get in shape”, “I wanted to try something different”. All good and valid reasons, and there are many more.

I want to focus on the ‘protect myself’ for a minute. To be honest, when I first started my martial arts training, protecting myself was not even in the equation. I thought it was cool! Bruce Lee was Kato in the Green Hornet and David Carradine was Kwai Chang Caine in Kung Fu. It was a great time to be a martial artist, especially being new to the whole concept. But I never thought about having to use my limited skills to defend myself.

Things have changed quite a bit in the world since 1968 when I started my training. Over the years I became more pragmatic at the thought of having to use my skills. I realized there were evil people out there who did bad things to good people. So, my effort focused more on the practical and applied aspects of the martial arts and not as much on the esoteric.

Fast forward twenty-five years and I found myself on the tail end of a decent competitive career that offered me great opportunities to train with and fight some of the best around. Add to that, experience as ‘club security’ (i.e., bouncer) and as a law enforcement officer and you have the formula for a good education in the practical application of traditional martial arts skills. I found out quickly that some of the things I had been practicing for years were of little use in a real fight – whether in the ring or on the street. I wound up paring down my arsenal to a few things that had served me well over time. As Bruce Lee said,

“It's not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”

When I began teaching self-defense/personal protection courses in earnest, I tried to place the emphasis on easy to learn/replicate techniques. As time went on, I was able to attend some great training that also reinforced those concepts. As I aged, the normal physical infirmities started popping up (no more jump spinning back-kicks for me!) and I had to adapt my responses to my ‘new’ abilities, and I looked at the simple (i.e., easy) skills rather than the complex.

So how does all this relate to value? If you were to take all the hours I studied and practiced my empty-hand defensive skills over the years and put a dollar value on it, I’m sure it would come out to be some astronomical amount. I can’t even fathom how much. But, if you were to ask me if it was worth it, I would explicitly say yes! Why? Because, besides the physical skills and benefits, I learned much more - Discipline, self-worth, self-awareness, humility, character development, patience, and spiritual and philosophical cultivation. All of these have helped mold me into what I have become. I have often said, if it weren’t for the martial arts, I have no idea what I would be doing today. How can you place a monetary value on that?

But let’s not consider the monetary value. Let’s also look at it from a different perspective. What is the importance or worth of something? How is that determined? From the standpoint of personal protection, the worth of my life and the lives of my family are priceless. We are important.

So, in terms of value, taking a self-defense or firearms course or studying martial arts, the value shouldn’t be considered only in terms of how much you pay for it but rather in what you get out of it. Peace of mind knowing that you and your family are safe; better health and fitness; more awareness and a better overall feeling of well-being. Sounds like a value to me.


Photo of martial arts people
Circa 1977-78'ish


The Director's Desk

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