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Self Defense Tip: Did They Teach You How To Fight?

Updated: Jun 30, 2022

The terms "Martial Arts" and "Self-Defense" has almost as many meanings to them as there are people teaching them. The problem is that some of these systems do not teach you how to fight at all. Some are no more than classical dances, whereas others are so far detached from reality that trying them in the street can get you killed. Another big problem is the false sense of confidence these "teachers" instill in their poor unsuspecting students.

Let me give you a few examples I've seen to illustrate my point:
  • One year, a woman came to my school and asked if I taught people how to actually fight. I said of course. When I asked her why she specifically wanted to learn fighting, she told me that she had been taking fitness-kickboxing classes for years. One night after work, she was assaulted by a man, and couldn't do anything to defend herself. Yet, in her classes, she had been told by her instructor that she was learning self-defense! His lies gave her false confidence, causing her to believe she could fight off the attacker!

  • Another story: Years ago, a frantic mother stormed into my school and went on to tell me that her son got beat up by a school bully. Her son, a 10-year-old boy, held a first-degree black belt from a big commercial karate school. When he began training with me, I noticed he was very weak and couldn’t do any strengthening exercise. He told me that those exercises were not part of his karate classes, and that they did fun things like dodge ball and other games. When I asked him about sparring, he informed me that they did only “air sparring”. Non-contact, just kids facing each other and making believe like they were fighting. This is what passes for a black belt nowadays? No wonder the poor kid got beat up!

  • My own story: When I was in my teens, I was invited to a popular "self-defense" school. They claimed you could beat anyone without using any force at all. This school was packed with students, so I was excited to learn their "secrets". That was until I saw what they were actually doing. The obese instructor (a red flag) talked about using your "chi energy" and "ghost fists" to fight off any attack. Whaaaaatttt? Energy? Ghosts? As I watched these people slowly dance around each other, only allowing their hands to barely touch, I suspected it was fake. When it was my turn to spar (read, dance), I started to box and wrestle them. They said that I was doing it all wrong and they kicked me out of the class. That "self-defense" class is the kind of nonsense that could get you killed in a real fight, yet everyone there was taught to believe that it was real.

There are so many other examples I could share, but I think you get the picture. If you want to watch some of that nonsense, just YouTube fake martial arts.

So how do you know if you are learning, or have learned how to fight for real?

Here are a few tips to ensure you are being (or were taught) properly:

  1. Did/does the instructor have any amateur, or pro-fighting combat sports experience. If he doesn't' he cant possibly teach you how to fight.

  2. Did/do students actually spar or grapple in class? You cannot effectively defend yourself if you never been hit, or taken down and controlled (slow motion dancing and soft techniques do not count). Live sparring & grappling builds true fight-confidence.

  3. Is/was fitness an integral part of the training? Getting strong, fast, and explosive is the ONLY way to maximize your fighting attributes. There's a reason why every military organization, has physical fitness requirements.

If your teacher/coach trains (trained) you this way then you're in good shape.

NOTE: For those who train remotely, get some training partners to spar and/or grapple with. Start a meetup group if need be. You can train anywhere: yard, park, basement etc. If you want help setting one up contact me.

If you're interested in learning some essential self-defense techniques and tactics, get my book, The Short Fight, on Amazon at

You'll receive free lifetime access to my video library that contains over 100 self-defense and fitness videos at

Want to get in the best shape of your life? Check out our fitness training programs here

Until next time, Stay Safe!

Lawrence Castanon

Author, The Short Fight

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