Time Over Content?

The other day, I received a call from a young woman representing a small women’s group here in the city. The members of the group had expressed an interest in learning self-defense; could I teach them? Absolutely, I replied. As we began discussing potential dates and times for a Saturday or Sunday (their preferred days), the caller stopped me. “Just what all is involved in your class, and how long do you need to cover it?”

I explained that we taught how to recognize a dangerous individual before it’s too late, de-escalation techniques, blocking and parrying, various hand strikes, proper punching and kicking techniques, as well as how to break strangle holds, wrist grabs, bear hugs, etc. And that we cover ground fighting and rape reversals, among other things.

“Well,” the group leader said, “that certainly is… a lot of material.” Yes, RAD Women’s Basic Self-Defense is a very thorough course. It has to be to effectively combat the broad spectrum of violence perpetrated against women in our society. But it was more than the caller and her group wanted. She asked how long I would need to pass all this information on to her group of 12-15. After all, “it’s important to keep in mind that they’re taking time out from their busy lives for this class.”

“For a group that size, we can offer a one-day workshop. We will complete the course in 6 hours. Three hours for the first half, maybe a short break for lunch, and three hours for the second half.”

“I see,” she replied. “That might be more time than they’re able to give. Keep in mind that a lot of these women are moms. They have to run the kids to team practice, piano lessons, etc. And some of them work on weekends. What can you teach them in two hours?”

Two hours? “Yes,” she stated firmly. “Time is more important than content.”

Rather than answer her question, I had to ask one myself: “With all due respect, ma’am, do the members of your group want to know how they can save their lives in case of an attack by a violent criminal? Or do they just want to pretend they know? Because in 6 hours, we can teach them how to break a hold, neutralize an adversary, and escape. In 2 hours, we can’t teach them anything, but they can kid themselves that they’re safe.”

When it comes to self-defense, there are no shortcuts. We’re happy to work with people, to set up classes around hectic schedules; to break up classes into multiple meetings if necessary. But knowing how to punch and kick with maximum effectiveness, to be able to rely on muscle memory to execute the technique… these are not skills that can be grasped by reading a book or watching a video. Nor can they be learned in a quick demonstration class. They have to be done, and done again, and again. Not slowly, and not against an imaginary “Bad Guy.” RAD understands the importance of dynamic impact–striking the specific targets of a padded attacker or martial arts dummy at full force, full power.  And we give each woman in the class personal attention and instruction to hone her technique.

I know you’re busy. You’ve got work, the kids, the house, your life! And learning how to fight for your life takes time and practice. But it’s not about giving us more time than you can spare. Give yourself  the time; we’ll bring the content.

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