Why Should A Fitness Facility Offer Self-defense Training?
By: Tim Rochford
Why Should A Fitness Facility Offer Self-defense Training?
Good question! Aren't martial arts schools the recognized, professional resource for self-defense instruction? Can a fitness facility realize any real benefits from such programming? Here are some thoughts to consider.
Thought #1: Martial Arts Schools And Instructors Are Not Automatic Experts In Self-Defense Training
Self-defense training does tend to be associated with Martial Arts schools. It is true, learning and practicing
self-defense was the primary reason many martial arts systems were developed hundreds, even thousands of years ago. In some early cultures, the common people, or peasants, were not allowed to own or use weapons. These people had to develop other means of self-protection. So, they created self-defense systems and techniques from the "tools" they could legally possess such as their bodies, farm implements, or other objects that were considered normal and necessary for performing everyday chores. For this reason, it is understandable that martial arts schools and instructors are believed to be the automatic experts in self-defense training. Yet, this is not necessarily true. Having martial arts training experience or wearing a black belt does not necessarily mean that a person is capable, or knowledgeable enough, to teach a comprehensive and practical (for general public participation) self-defense program. Don't judge the content of a book by the cover around it!
But, at the same time, a martial arts school is probably the best place to begin the search for a quality program. As long as you have the information required to accurately evaluate a program, it will be fairly easy to determine if it will meet your needs. Later, in this article, some evaluation guidelines are provided to help with self-defense program assessment.
Thought #2 : An Aggressive Environment Is Not Necessary
Is there an "intimidation" factor involved with self-defense training - especially when the training is performed in the "mysterious" halls of the martial arts dojo or dojang? Martial arts schools can certainly be intimidating to people who are unfamiliar with that environment. The level of intimidation can be made even worse by unrealistic movie portrayals of martial arts schools or from horror stories offered by former, possibly disgruntled martial arts students. Some people may never have the courage to venture into a martial arts school.
A fitness facility may offer a less intimidating atmosphere to the general public. The
aggressive and physically violent environment that may be inaccurately considered the norm in a martial arts school is not typically associated with a fitness center.
Thought #3 Fitness Centers Can Offer an Attractive and Profitable Program
Fitness facilities may have a broad membership base to which self-defense programming can be offered. Self-defense training, if properly organized and professionally taught, can be an attractive and possibly profitable service/program to offer current members, as well as (hopefully) attract new members. If taught properly, it can offer a natural form of mental, emotional and physical stress relief. This type of training specifically and directly builds self-confidence, self respect and respect for others.
Thought #4 Self-Defense Training Should Be Separate From Boxing Or Kickboxing-Based Fitness Programs
Self-defense training can also be used as another form of physical exercise. However, it is very important to understand that real self-defense training is focused on teaching skills and knowledge for self-protection, not exercising the body. Unlike exercise, its primary objective is not to improve muscular strength and/or endurance, cardiovascular function, joint range of motion, flexibility, etc. But, self-defense training does involve movement. And movement is a form of exercise. This particular form of "exercise" is definitely an anaerobic activity that requires contact with equipment and/or another person. The risk of injury is much higher than a fitness-based class.
Fitness classes utilizing kicking and punching movements do provide a way to practice
self-defense technique movement patterns. But, when these techniques are not practiced under realistic conditions (adrenaline "rush", "fight or flight response" to a real or simulated attack, anaerobic vs. aerobic activity, etc.), participants do not receive the necessary experience that develops practical and effective self-defense skills and strategies. Claims that people can learn to defend themselves in a fitness-based class are misleading and unrealistic. For this reason, it would be wise for a fitness facility to implement a self-defense training program separate from any boxing or kickboxing-based fitness programs or classes. The goals and objectives, as well as the training regimens (skill and conditioning), for self-defense are completely different than those used for fitness.
Thought #5 Fitness Centers Can Meld Other Forms of Training into a Self-Defense Program
Facility-employed personal trainers sometimes offer sport-specific conditioning program
design. This type of specialized training could also be offered to self-defense program participants - adding one more specialized service that can be offered by a facility's personal training staff. Specific muscle groups may need to be trained to improve endurance, strength and/or power for the specific joint movements used and required for self-defense techniques (strikes, blocks, evasion movements, etc.). Flexibility needs to be enhanced so that a person will be able to reach their peak potential for speed and efficiency of movement. The cardiovascular system needs to be challenged anaerobically, in order to meet the energy needs of self-defense training.
Add to your teaching skills
Tim has created a whole series of self defense certification courses for fitness trainers that can be studied at home via DVDs (or VHS) and manuals.
Upon completion, you will be able to teach self defense and conflict avoidance to adults, women, co-eds, and teens. And, you'll be doing your part to keep America vigilant and strong. But best of all, you'll have another profit maker on your resume.
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To help them survive and thrive, fitness facilities need to find and exploit every possible unique service that they can offer to the public. Self-defense skill training, along with the physical conditioning required for such training, can provide programming that will help a facility differentiate itself from the competition - while helping to keep the links in the American chain strong in these insecure and trying times!
About Tim Rochford