The reasons people seek out a self-defense instructor are as varied as the individuals themselves. Over the years I have mentally developed different categories for those who call or the brave souls who walk through the door. Now to be clear, I am not judging any of these people nor am I saying any reasons for attending self defense classes are not valid.
The first category are Multitaskers, women who like to kill two birds with one stone. Or in other words, “I want to learn self-defense and get into shape”. They women have probably not experienced violence (thank god). Their main focus is to keep moving and “feeling the burn” takes precedence.
Category two are Movie Buffs – usually male and Bruce Lee fans. Luckily they haven’t experienced much violence in their life but are enamored with the movies and the concept of one man taking out dozens of bad guy’s singlehandedly. That image tends to fade over time once they realize true mastery of any skill takes time and dedication and taking out one bad guy may be the only possibility.
Category three are Recipients – those who are on the receiving end of support from moms, dads, uncles and grandma’s trying to help their loved ones. They are there to help themselves cope with ADHD, over aggressiveness, not being aggressive, anxiety, or bullying. They may be entering a new stage of life like going to college, going into the service or even going to prison. Success depends on whether they want to be in self defense classes and do they want to learn anything. With kids it can very fulfilling. With college kids you hope it is enough and your prayer is they never need it.
Category four are Martial Artists. These are men and women who want to achieve the rank of Black Belt. This could be unfinished business from their childhood or something they always wanted to achieve but never had the time. They are hobbyists, bucket listers or collectors of different styles. If the chemistry between instructor and students is strong, a long and rewarding relationship for both parties is possible.
Category five are Street Fighters. These are no BS men. They’re here to get the good stuff, the magic formula. Similar to Movie Buffs but probably have experienced violence or live in a bad neighborhood. They want to feel like they can defend themselves. They’re willing to learn and work hard. Fun to teach them because you can be a little more hands on.
Category six are Survivors – people who have experienced violence. These are men and women who have faced an ugly violent encounter and never want to feel helpless again. They want to gain some measure of control over an ever increasingly frightening world. The veneer of calm has been pulled off their life and they want to never feel that terror again. Very challenging for an instructor but it is very rewarding.
We all have different, legitimate reasons for learning self-defense. I find it is imperative to learn what my student’s needs are so I can tailor the instruction to them. Even in a group class you can teach one technique and make it work for the individual student if you know their motivation.
Regardless of why they attend self defense classes, they walk out more focused, disciplined, energized, and self-confident. Awesome.