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Self Defense Tip: Were You Really Taught How To Defend Yourself?

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

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:
  1. Years ago, 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! That instructor's lie gave her false confidence, causing her to believe she could fight off an attacker!

  2. 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 asked him about his sparring: He informed me that they did only “air sparring”. Non-contact, just kids facing each other and making believe like they were fighting. Additionally, 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. This is what passes for a black belt nowadays? No wonder the poor kid got beat up!

  3. 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.

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

Here are a few tips to ensure you and your children are being taught properly:

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

  2. Do the 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 light touching do not count). Live sparring & grappling builds true ability and fight-confidence.

  3. Is 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. It matters!

Being trained in this way will increase your chances of being able to handle yourself in a real fight/self-defense altercation.

Do you train remotely?

You too can get the benefits of real training by getting some training partners to spar and/or grapple with (this is actually how martial arts schools originated). Keep each other honest with a mix of hard and easy sparring/grappling matches (easy for technique development, and hard for realism).

Start a meetup group if need be. You can train anywhere: yard, park, basement etc. If you want help setting one up contact me.

The bottom line!

Fighting off an assailant is one of the most difficult things you will have to do, so you need to practice fighting! Learning fancy or cool looking techniques cannot help you when someone is set on having their way with you. Additionally, those unproven (fake) techniques can get you seriously injured or killed in the street.

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

Can you help me by leaving a review for my book on Amazon? This will help me to continue providing free training for you.

Thanks so much!

Until next time, Stay Safe!

Lawrence Castanon

Author, The Short Fight

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