Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Are we guilty of scaremongering?

Ok, so all you instructors out there, have you ever asked yourself “Am I guilty of scaremongering?” To a degree I think we all are, look at the majority of adverts for martial arts clubs and they will advertise the fact that they will teach you how to defend yourself. I think we can pretty much agree that the majority of the people start training in the martial arts to learn how to defend themselves, but how do we attract the student to our class? I have seen a number of adverts over the years, an example being: an attacker wearing a ski mask brandishing a knife and various similar scenarios. Are these just scaremongering tactics that prey on the fears of the general public?

Looking at scaremongering from  a different point of view, I am sitting here writing this the day after the horrific shooting of PC Ian Dibell; now because of this shooting we may well see an increase of people claiming to teach firearms defence but in the UK is this sort of training really necessary? If you train for reality then surely this is something you need to consider, but really, how prevalent is gun crime in your neighbourhood?

The Metropolitan Police class gun crime as, “Crime (Violence against the Person, Robbery, Burglary and Sexual Offences) in which guns are used. A gun is taken to be involved in an offence if it is fired, used as a blunt instrument to cause injury to a person, or used as a threat. Where the victim is convinced of the presence of a firearm, even if it is concealed, and there is evidence too of the suspect's intention to create this impression, then the incident counts. Both real, and fake firearms, and air weapons are counted within this category.”

A quick search of the Met Police website ( reports that in the 12 months to May 2012 there were 2277 reported gun crimes, approximately six a day over the course of a year, down on the reported 2591 from the previous 12 months and this in a city with a population of circa 7,825,200 (reported figures from 2010). If you want further information on gun crime figures you can check out this website,

Looking at these figures we could ask ourselves if teaching firearm defences to the general public are necessary then. Look around at many of the modern “reality based” system and you will see them highlighting the fact that they teach defences against various types of firearms - pistols, shotguns, machine guns etc. but, is it necessary? That is the question. Some may argue that we should offer our students the option and opportunity of training in this area, maybe arguing better to have the skill and not need it instead of possibly needing it and not having it. In a country or society that has a greater exposure to firearms, say the USA; is it a valid area of training? Possibly, who am I to say?  We also need to consider what our students do as a job - armed forces, law enforcement, close protection, all areas that may need some exposure to firearms training.  There is good reason for offering this type of training to people serving in these areas but what about Joe Bloggs who works in the supermarket?

In closing, please do not interpret what I have said here as a pop at systems that teach firearms defences etc. I have merely used it as an example to highlight the original question of, ”Are we guilty of scaremongering?” Personally, I do not teach firearms defences, I have no knowledge or exposure to this area and so avoid teaching it. However, as with anything, if someone is skilled in this area and has a good level of knowledge and understanding then I do not see why they cannot teach it. 

As with most of the blogs and articles I write, I do try and get the reader to at least go away and think about their approach to the martial arts and get them to reflect and question the what, why and how of what they are doing. Sometimes this means being the devil’s advocate, but in the long run I understand that this can be beneficial as long as I open my mind to all points of view.

Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog here on
As usual I welcome any comments, feedback or questions and you can contact me via my website

Until next time, stay safe, train hard and have fun.

To find out more about Rider Martial Arts visit:
 You can e-mail Stuart at:

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Is this art good for self-defence?

Well, It has been a couple of months since my last blog for which I apologise, I have had a fair amount going on including getting my coursework submitted for university, exams as well as preparing my demonstrations and workshops which I did at this year’s Martial Arts Show Live in Birmingham and also redoing my website which you can find at

So, let us get on with the months blog, Ever since I started training in the martial arts, my focus has always been self-defence.  Competition has never been an area that has interested me. So naturally as an instructor it is the self-defence orientated arts that have always drawn my attention over the years.

Before getting in to the guts of this article, I would like to point out that unless I am being specific about something, when I talk about self-defence I am including self-protection, and personal safety within that equation, remember though this is only for the purpose of this article. So with that cleared up, let’s move on.
A question I am commonly asked is, “is this art (insert an art here) good for self-defence”. I know I am not the only instructor out there to be asked this. You just need to check out a martial arts forum or similar to see the question bounded around everywhere. Now in my opinion, answers people give are often poorly informed.

I will not apologise for the content of this article; I am positive it will raise a few hackles but if it can create some debate all is well and good. What I am going to do is attempt to look at the broader picture and for this article will take it that the person I am trying to advise is just your average member of public, someone who may only have 3-4 hours maximum a week to train.

Before one can give an informed answer there are a few criteria that need to be taken into consideration: first of all and the most obvious - what is the art that one is actually asking about? Then, other criteria include the person’s long term and short term goals as well the time they have available to train.

One art that is commonly recommended for self-defence is western boxing. When I see or hear that I really need to ask myself why? As an art and combat sport it is superb but as a self-defence system it has some serious limitations. First and foremost as a sport it is governed by rules; by their very nature these rules put massive restrictions on oneself if self-defence is your aim.

Other negatives that boxing as an art has with regards to self-defence include: boxers wear gloves / wrap hands, only punch, grappling not allowed (to a degree), train against one style or type of attack (punches) - not grabs, kicks attacks from the rear etc. No threats or verbal aggression, no weapons, no ground fighting, single attacker not multiples. Naturally there are some positives that one would gain from training in boxing and this includes punching power, foot work, fitness and ability to take a shot amongst others. But before giving out advice, especially on faceless mediums such as forums, then one really needs to know more about the back ground of the person asking the question.

In closing, I do not have anything against the sweet science and art of boxing, I have just used it as an example for the point I am trying to make. As usual, I hope this has given you something to consider and welcome any questions and feedback.

Until next time, train hard, stay safe and have fun.


To find out more about Rider Martial Arts visit:
 You can e-mail Stuart at:

Monday, 30 January 2012

Reflective practice

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I am currently attending university to further my experience within complementary therapies (check out November’s blog on the healing arts for more information on this); anyway, an important tool we use as therapists is reflection.

Reflective practice is about developing the “capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning”. It can be an important tool in developing knowledge and awareness about “the self” through experience rather than from formal teaching or knowledge transfer. There have been a number of models developed by various professionals based on reflective practice, some are pretty simple others not so much but I can recommend you take a few minutes doing a Google search of these. However, in my experience the Kolb learning cycle is one of the simplest out there.

Reflective practice can be a useful tool for the martial arts student and instructor alike. Looking at it from a student’s perspective first of all. As a student you could be asking yourself if you’re getting exactly what you want from your training, is the art you are training in tailored for your specific requirements? For instance, does your class train predominately for competition when your intention was to learn self-defence? If this is the case ask yourself why are you still training at the club. Is it because of cost, convenience or for the social side? There is nothing wrong with training at your club for any of these reasons, but if you’re really serious about your training you may want to reflect on this and look elsewhere.

As an Instructor, regardless of whether you do it on a professional basis or once a week, you should be reflecting after teaching each and every lesson you take. Did the lesson go as you planned?  If not, why not? If it did, what could you have done better? Did you get across the information you wanted to and are your students progressing as you would like, what can you do to improve on this?

Also look back at the training and type of instruction you received whilst working your way up through the ranks. Sometimes we are so busy trying to develop new and exciting training methods and drills we forget about some of the really good drills and methods that we were taught. Reflect back on your years as a student and see if you can bring any of this in to your classes.

Thanks again for checking the blog out, slightly off topic from developing self-defence skills but hopefully this may have got you thinking about how you can develop as an instructor. As always I welcome any comments or questions via email.

Till next time, train hard, train safe and have fun.

To find out more about Rider Martial Arts visit: You can e-mail Stuart at: