Business of Well-being

Smart & Safe Self Defense

Sometimes the term 'self defense' presents an inaccurate perception (physical violence) of what is truly involved in such training - so the term 'personal safety' may be used interchangeably with self defense. The initial (previous) article in this series identified several benefits for including self defense training into a Corporate Wellness program.

This list included several personal benefits, as well as many not-so-obvious professional benefits that could result from providing employees with self defense or personal safety training program. Like health education and fitness training, the end results of personal safety training will include both direct and indirect financial benefits for a company or organization.

"It will never happen to me." "It can't happen here." This is a very common, but naive thought process held by much of the general public, especially by those who live in "safe" neighborhoods. There was a time when personal safety did not need to be a high priority concern in our daily lives.

The slightest thought that our well-being could be threatened, rarely entered our minds. Based on daily news stories that appear in the various media venues, it seems as if society has changed over the years - not necessarily for the better. And so, our behavior and thought patterns need to adjust with the changing times.

We all need to take responsibility for maintaining our own personal safety. In the corporate world, employers need to be proactive in protecting their assets - employees. If a corporate entity is going to take on this responsibility, it should be done in a cost effective way, while still providing the most comprehensive, high quality program possible.

The program should serve the exact needs of the client (the corporation and its employees). The concept that an employee personal safety training program can provide a positive return on a company's investment is hopefully understood and accepted. Now, let's identify the potential curriculum components that could be included in a comprehensive, quality training program. A quality self defense training program should include two major subject areas:

  • Awareness (mental, emotional, environmental and physical) Training, and
  • Physical Skills (simple, practical, realistic, effective methods and skills) Training.

A comprehensive Awareness training program covers mental, emotional, environmental and physical awareness.

  • Mental awareness - knowing what is going on around you. This type of awareness is necessary in order for us to be able to proficiently use the other types of awareness. It provides you with the ability to interpret and analyze input from your emotional, environmental and physical awareness. Mental awareness helps us make quicker and better decisions for actions.
  • Emotional awareness - this is two part: It involves:
  • Knowing and understanding your own emotional state so that you hopefully learn to control the outward symptoms of emotions like fear, nervousness, etc. If a person has an appearance of confidence and of being in control, they are less likely to be a target of random violence. You may be afraid, but if you don't look afraid (because you recognize the feelings and take control of (eliminate) the outward symptoms), then you won't "look like a victim."
  • Knowing and understanding the emotional state of those with whom you are interacting. If you learn to recognize the outward symptoms of another person's emotional state, then you will be able to interact with them in a more positive way. For example, if you see that someone you are having a discussion with is getting angry, then you can begin to take the actions necessary to defuse the conflict.
  • Environmental awareness - knowing and understanding the physical environment you are functioning in, at all times. Are you in a dark alley, a high crime area, amongst a rowdy crowd, in a room with one exit, etc? Comprehending and evaluating these, and many more, environmental "situations" could help you make better decisions about what actions to take should a personal safety issue arise.
  • Physical awareness - again, this is two part:
  • Knowing and understanding your own physical abilities and capabilities - what kind of physical shape are you in? Could you outrun an assailant? Do you have experience in physically defending yourself?
  • Knowing and understanding the physical abilities and capabilities of those with whom you are interacting. Mental awareness will help you evaluate a given situation. Does the aggressor appear to be in good physical condition or is he out of shape? Would you want to try to out run him or fight him? Is he right handed or left handed - you would want to stay away from his strong side. These are just a few of the many concepts that should be included in a physical awareness training program.

A good physical skills program teaches recognition & avoidance, verbal conflict resolution, exit methods and physical self defense techniques.

  • If you are able to recognize and avoid conflict, you may never need to use physical self defense techniques.
  • If you are able to verbally defuse a conflict situation, physical self defense may be unnecessary.
  • Using proper "exit" methods to leave a volatile situation is critical to maintaining high levels of personal safety.
  • Physical self defense training, while being the last choice for action, is necessary to elicit the greatest levels of confidence from a person. It also provides that person with a higher level of potential success if it becomes necessary to use physical counter force for defense. The general physical skills that should be taught include:
  • Evasion movements - how to move away from an attacker
  • Re-Direction techniques - some people call these blocking techniques, but I prefer to use the term "re-direction" because you are being taught to make sure an aggressor is unable to easily grab or strike you.
  • Striking techniques - including how (execute strikes properly to maximize power, speed and accuracy), what (learn about all the parts of the body that can be used as a weapon to strike with) and where (target areas for the various strikes).
  • Loosening/Escape techniques - how to get out of and move away from different types of grabs and holds.
  • Self defense against weapons
  • Ground fighting - what if an assailant gets you to the ground?
  • Environmental-specific considerations - in what environment (small room, elevator, airplane cabin, car, etc) might you need to perform self defense actions.
  • How to exit after physical self defense actions - don't just turn and run.
  • Recognize what you carry everyday that could be used as "weapons" for self defense and how to use these objects.

A good program also educates participants on legal liability issues related to self defense.

  • Each state may have different laws. An individual should become familiar with what is allowed in the way of self defense. For example, pepper spray is illegal to carry in some states.

A good program progressively teaches easy to learn, simple to master, practical, realistic and effective physical strategies and techniques - not the TV & movie choreography we so often see.

  • The limited time that the general public will typically commit to self defense training makes it necessary to provide skills that are tailored to each individual's abilities and capabilities.
  • It is better to learn with repetitive practice and become adept at performing a few techniques than it is to learn (but not perfect) dozens of different techniques.
  • Training should be progressive - gradually increasing in intensity (speed of movement, power of movement, resistance to movement, etc) from low to high.
  • Biomechanics should be taught to allow each individual to reach their maximum potential for technique performance speed, quickness, power, accuracy, etc.

A realistic program provides clients with practice time against (intensity progressive) "realistic" attacks performed by a trainer in a fully padded suit. In this situation, the trainer "attacks" the trainee slowly, with little force at the beginning, but gradually increases the speed and power of the succeeding attacks until the trainee is able to perform at full speed.

Experiencing the "adrenaline rush" in this "safe" environment helps people to deal with it, if or when it really happens!I would like to give one final training guideline - the program you participate in should make it fun to learn self defense. Yes, this is a very serious subject and should be presented as such.

But, if you enjoy the activity, you will retain the information and skills better! If you enjoy this training, you might be discovering a whole new fitness program for yourself! But, fitness-specific training cannot be self defense training. Yet, self defense training can be a fitness program.

This will be explained in a future article!For those corporations who choose a proactive approach in protecting their corporate assets (employees) with a personal safety training program, I hope I have provided you with practical and useful guidelines by which to evaluate and choose a program that will meet your needs and desires. The next article in this series will concentrate on how to:

  • Determine the exact needs (or what is initially perceived as the exact needs) of their specific, unique group of employees, and
  • Design, structure and implement a Corporate self defense training program for employees.

In the meantime,One Body, One Life, One Choice - Get Smart & Stay Safe!

About the Author

"One Body, One Life, One Choice."

Tim Rochford, founder and owner of Empower Training Systems, Inc., has been a martial arts and fitness professional for nearly 30 years. During this time, he has displayed his passion for helping others by sharing his expertise in Self Defense, Martial Arts and Kickboxing Fitness through his training workshops and programs, and his writings.

Tim has a 6th degree Black Belt in Kajukenbo Karate and has successfully competed in sport karate and amateur kickboxing since 1978. Tim also possesses numerous personal fitness trainer certifications (A.C.E., The Cooper Institute, etc). Tim has developed and teaches a multi-leveled self defense program, known as Proactive Personal Security (also known as Empower Self Defense).

This program has been taught nationally and internationally. His self defense training participants run the gamut from employees of international airlines (American Airlines, Southwest Airlines) to high school students, from major corporations to universities, and from realtor and police groups to athletic clubs.

Tim also offers a "train the trainer" program to develop and educate those who want to become self defense instructors. Tim provides guidance and recommendations but ultimately custom designs each training program according to parameters specified by his clients.

It is this customization that makes his training program unique and successful for corporations and organizations. Tim is also an accomplished writer whose achievements include authoring and co-authoring numerous training manuals in self defense and kickboxing fitness.

Tim's workshops and authored articles have been highlighted in numerous prestigious martial arts and fitness magazines and newspapers including IDEA Source, IDEA Health & Fitness Source, IDEA Management, Fitness Management, MA Success, and The Washington Post. Tim can be reached by e-mail at or by phone (888)627-8348. Get more information at or .

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