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Slim934's picture
The role of experience in being a good Self-Defense instructor.

I think this item may have been addressed in another forum thread or the podcast but I am having difficulty finding it.

The question is more or less: is it critical to actually have faced real criminal violence personally to be able to be a good self-defence instructor? Why or why not? My gut feeling is that the answer is: it is not necessary to have it, but it can certainly be beneficial. It seems to me that as long as you can ask the right questions (questions meaning what you are trying to defend against including getting the metrics to the question right) and can pressure test your answers to them then that is the best you can do within the confines of safe training anyway.

Other thoughts or links to discussions on this topic?

Neil Babbage
Neil Babbage's picture

That’s rather like thinking one has to have drowned in order to teach swimming... No it isn’t necessary to have faced real world violence not least because nobody has faced enough for it to have had a useful impact on their knowledge. That is, how many times do you need to be threatened with a knife until you have enough relevant knowledge to construct training from that knowledge? Rory Miller said he’d only faced a knife five times, and he considered each of those to be non-typical. What a teacher does need is knowledge gained through watching, analysing and understanding real world violence and the ability to sift and test that knowledge  to find the right things to teach. That is, they don’t just accept what they are taught, they try it out, experiment, discuss it with their teachers and ensure it really is useful knowledge worth teaching. 

Anf's picture

I have experienced genuine violence to varying degrees and different circumstances.

What did all incidents have in common? They were all pretty hostile. That's about where the similarities end.

I guess a question you might ask is, is it necessary for a self defence instructor to have experienced all the attack scenarios he is teaching how to counter?

Is it necessary for example for the instructor to have experienced a drunken idiot kind of clumsily pushing and shoving before falling over without any retaliation being necessary? Is it necessary for the instructor to have experienced one person striking up conversation as a distraction to allow his mate to crack you in the side of the head from nowhere? What about a group of chavs just deciding you'd make a bit of fun to shake down? Or seated on a bus when all hell breaks loose?

I could go on and on. There are many, many different ways that you can get caught up in something. I'd say if a self defence instructor has experienced all of them then he's quite unlucky, and if he's had to fight his way out of them all then he's probably terrible at self defence. Certainly I wouldn't want self defence advice from someone whose only solution is to meet violence with violence. Far better to recognise what's brewing and walk away, talk your way out of it, run if necessary and possible, fighting should be limited to facilitating escape. If the instructor has experienced a few hostile encounters and got out of it without anyone being really hurt, then he probably has some good advice. But does he need that to teach self defence? Almost certainly not, considering all the technical skill in the world counts for nothing if the student doesn't have the mindset to use it.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

This topic has come up a few times before. This thread was probably the most in-depth one:


Here are a couple of others that I can recall too:



I hope that helps.

All the best,


Marc's picture

Another analogy that just sprang to mind is this:

Does an aviation safety consultant (or whatever people are called who are responsible for advising airlines and teaching airplane crews about safety or how to crash land a plane) need to have been in an actual plane crash? If so, how many crashes are required?

To me it makes much more sense that those people have studied the topic in depth and have developed methods to reliably teach how to avoid safety hazards and how to deal with them in case of an emergency.

Take care,