The 5 BS Myths of Self-Defense Training

Self-defense… as a term, is sometimes too broad.  The word itself is thrown around and marketed so much, that it’s tough to actually understand what it is AND what you can expect from learning self-defense.

Recently I worked with a group to give them some self-defense skills during an 6 hour seminar.  This group contained about 20 people who were a mix of men and women around 30-50 years old.

What was interesting about this group compared to our normal jiu-jitsu or MMA classes, is that they had no preconceived notion of what to expect, nor were they REALLY excited about learning.  it was almost something that they had to do.

I started giving my speech on the importance of self defense, the “survival mindset” and some expectations for the class.

The first thing I always show as a technique is the bubble principle combined with getting into a defensive stance and posture called “the fence”.  If I could have taught one thing to these people, this was it.  It is all built upon awareness, creating space aka opportunities to escape or grab a weapon of opportunity or fight for your life if you have to.

Not even 1 minute into my explanation, a women chimes in and says “We don’t need to learn all of that, we need to learn how to defend when someone grabs our neck”.

I was completely baffled, and to be honest, a bit pissed.  I’m not used to having a student tell me what they need to learn.  In fact if that happened, the rest of my students would probably tell him / her to shut-up before I would have to say anything.

But, as a looked across the room after he statement, and saw a good portion of the group nodding in agreement, I INSTANTLY realize that this group has really no clue what goes on in a real life or death situation where you either survive or you get seriously injured or worse.  

It was her impression that learning self-defense was basically being shown a series of moves, and then suddenly she knows how to do them.

This was evident by how they approached their training (the group would practice something a few times, and then stop and chat, as if they “got it” immediately).

So – let’s dispel the myth of what self-defense is, and how you can approach training to defend yourself or not.

Myth #1: Self-Defense can be learned in 1 class / session – It’s funny how many people actually think this is possible.  Yes, the ability to defend yourself against 80-90% of the population can be learned in a short amount of time, but my idea of a short amount of time is roughly 50 hours of training.

Not many people are willing to hear this.  But, I can prove this fact every day.

Give me a fresh student, let me train them 2-3 hours a week, for 6 months, and I will give you someone who can handle themselves REALLY well.  We prove this by live sparring / training drills and technical work.

Myth #2: Self-Defense is a series of moves – NO.  Self-Defense is a mindset where your body, mind and spirit do NOT accept the threat.  You REFUSE to be a victim.  You have confidence in your ability to fight and survive.  Confidence is earned.  You have to spend time working on it, you have to develop it through training.  It is impossible to just give TRUE confidence in your ability in 1 session.  The self-defense moves you will learn in a class are not designed to give you “answers”, they’re designed for you to learn a concept that doesn’t have to be remembered.  It becomes instinctual.

Myth #3: Strength = Self-Defense – 🙂  This is a favorite of mine.  We have many, many, MANY new athletic students come in who are strong as hell, built like it too, and THINK they can fight.  Strength and size may look intimidating, but that doesn’t mean that you can use it.

Those who spend hours in the gym getting a pump on are actually training their bodies to NOT be optimal for self-defense.  Of course their strength helps, but when you train fixed movement patterns (bench press), you’re only learning how to be strong in one way.  Give me a small student with some basic head movement and entering skills, and I’ll show you someone who can dance around a “big guy” who only lifts a lot.

Quick side story.  For many years (before she started traveling the world), we had a girl at our school who was very talented, yet was the sweetest and quietest girls you ever meet.  She weighed about 150lbs.  As a joke among the black belts, we would have these new strong cocky guys… and even the experienced strong cocky guys go against her during rolling (grappling sparring), and the boys would get completely destroyed.  The guys would get so frustrated and confused as she would politely submit them over and over again … and apologize to them after HAHAHA!!  Ahhh what good times 🙂

The point is, just because you are strong and BIG, does not mean that you can fight or defend yourself.  In fact, those big strong guys can become very easy to defend against because they are typically slower, tighter, and gas out VERY quickly.

Myth #4: All I need is a gun, a knife, etc – This is another favorite of mine.  For all you gun owners out there, how many times do you actually train to get your gun out, in your hand and ready to use… compared to shooting at the range?  Yes the range is a lot of fun, but that’s just target practice.

Using a gun in a self defense situation is much more COMPLICATED and STRESSFUL!

I attended a seminar recently on exactly that – ways of drawing your weapon quickly and efficiently, and then firing in the “point and shoot” method starting from the hip and zippering up.  We did TONS of live action drills using replica air-soft handguns, and it was insane at how challenging it was when you had a single or multiple attackers charging you / threatening you with deadly harm.  There were a lot of gun owners in that workshop and one of the biggest themes was that just because you have a gun, does not mean you know how to use it.

The same goes for a knife.  I walk around all the time and see people carrying knives.  I always wonder, how good are they at deploying that knife?
Do they know how to get it out of the pocket, open and ready in one beat?
Or are they going to fumble around and give their attacker an opportunity to use their own knife against them?

Because that’s a big concern!

If you don’t know how to handle your weapon the stress of a life or death situation, I’m sure your attacker won’t mind fighting for that weapon and using it against you.

Myth #5: I will never have to use self-defense – While I hope this is true, I think it’s pure ignorance and arrogance.

Why would you not be prepared?  It’s like having car insurance.

You NEVER want to have to use car insurance.  But when you have it, thank GOD!  Self-defense is the same way.  You never, ever  want to deal with a life or death situation.  And for those who haven’t – GOOD.

Having to defend yourself for REAL is a very scary and eye opening encounter.  It will change you.  But that doesn’t mean that you just ignore the possibility.  You’re almost setting yourself up to be a victim.

I’ll leave you with one last question to ponder on the victim mindset.

Let’s play out a little scenario.

You’re leaving a restaurant on a Saturday night, a bit late, a maybe had a glass of wine or two, and you had to park on that side street because there was no parking anywhere close.

Maybe you’re talking to your significant other, or maybe you’re on your phone texting your friends what a great time you had.

Suddenly you’re faced with a man who has got a gun in his hands.  There’s a look in his eyes that isn’t right.  And he simply says “Get in that car now”.

Do you….

A: Comply and get in the car, and put your “TRUST” in this man to do what he wants with you.


B: Fight for your fucking life.

Of course everyone WANTS to choose B.  But if you don’t have the skills and the confidence to deal with the fear, stress, and threat… and truly fight for your life.  Then I guess your only option is to go for a ride and hope for the best.

Surviving means fighting.  That doesn’t mean you need to be a “fighter”, but it does mean that in order to survive the worst, you need to learn and train to develop those skills to not become another victim statistic.  It’s your right and responsibility to be able to defend yourself and protect those you care about.

We offer a variety of self-defense classes and training options at the Cage JSA.  We have multiple paths / curriculum(s) to help people of all ages, sizes, experience levels, etc to gain the confidence and ability to fight.

When you realize that learning self defense is one of the best things you will ever do for yourself.  Take our free, unlimited, NO BS 1-week trial to get started.

Author: Matt Bryers

Matt is one of the owners of the Cage JSA / Head Instructor.  He has been training martial arts / combatives for over 25 years with multiple black belts and deep experience in a wide variety of “fighting situations”.  He teaches classes 7 days a week, along with his staff, empowering people with the skills and confidence to defend themselves and better their lives through the study or Jiu-Jitsu, MMA and Reality Based Self-Defense.