Basic Truths of Martial Arts Training

written by Diana Rathborne


Working, and/or working out in a gym, is always interesting. There are lots of different people sharing the same environment over long periods of time. A martial arts school is an even more interesting place to be – especially for a woman. For the female martial arts instructor, it can be even more so.

I walked in the door of Rick Faye’s school (the MN Kali Group) with no martial arts background, and no contact experience. Most of the girls that I know didn’t grow up fighting with their friends or school mates at recess or after school. Most didn’t watch boxing or martial arts movies. As a result, like many women, I had no frame of reference for the information I was learning. For the information to make sense to me, I had to make it really simple and logical. I have been lucky enough to learn from great martial artists, such as Sifu Rick Faye, Guro Dan Inosanto, Master Chai Sirisute, Sensei Erik Paulson, Professors Machado, Guro Rick Young, and many, many others. Below are some tidbits that I’ve gleaned from my instructors, training partners, classmates and students on a few of the basics of interpersonal dynamics and personal development as they apply inside the gym, and possibly outside of it as well.

Martial Arts Realisms

  1. Where the head goes, the body will follow. A pony tail, hooded sweatshirt, and jewelry all make great handles.
  2. If your head isn’t working, neither are you. Protect your head at all times.
  3. Never trust your holder.
  4. Never trust your kicker.
  5. Keep your eyes open. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not going to hit you.
  6. Keep your mouth shut. Biting your tongue is not just a metaphor.
  7. There’s nothing about “eye poke” that doesn’t work.
  8. Everytime you get hit, learn something, especially if the person who hit you is you.
  9. Size matters. So does attitude, intensity and ingenuity.
  10. The stronger you are, the harder you will hit. Always work on the big 3: speed, strength and endurance.
  11. Hydration: sweat is good. More sweat is better. Water is your friend.
  12. Don’t judge someone’s ability by his appearance.

For the Advanced Students and Instructors

  1. Everyone walks in the door of a martial arts school for reasons of self-improvement. People stay for a vast array of reasons. Someone else’s reason may not be the same as yours.
  2. The more women in your classes, the more men you’ll have in your classes, and the more people you can impact with the art.
  3. Help out the beginners. They are the future of the art.
  4. Don’t hit the beginners. While it is fun and easy, they are the future of your art.
  5. Don’t hit on the beginners. Wait at least a couple of weeks (kidding). They may need the training more than you need a date.
  6. Don’t let your students/instructors stare at the beginning women students (no matter what they are wearing).
  7. Don’t partner your new good-looking students with known lecherous students.
  8. Don’t partner your new small students with really big students, or students training for a fight. They’ll leave feeling beaten, and most often won’t come back.
  9. Men new to grappling are just as freaked out by having to grapple with a woman as new women are by having to grapple with a man.
  10. If you have new women in the class, keep the grappling to a bare minimum, unless it’s a grappling class, and train the triangle choke from the guard on another day.
  11. Breathe. Green, grey, splotchy and ash white are not colorings you are aiming for. If you see these colors on your training partner or your students, make them slow down before they pass out, keel over, or throw up.
  12. Be nice to the really weird people. You may be someone else’s really weird person.


  1. Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene: soap, toothpaste and deodorant are essentials to training.
  2. If someone says you smell, you probably do, and not just on the day they mention it.
  3. If you inadvertently hit your partner in the groin, get out of range and keep moving until he isn’t mad anymore.
  4. Scratching your partner is a bad thing. Trim your nails and wash under them.
  5. Bleeding on someone is bad form. Cover your blisters, etc., before you start training.
  6. Wear underwear….please! Going commando may be comfortable for you, but the view certainly isn’t for those around you.
  7. Running shorts are not good for grappling or Thai boxing. Your personal parts will not stay enclosed in the clothing.
  8. A halter top is not good for grappling or Thai boxing. (See above.)
  9. Don’t squish your partner in grappling just because you can.
  10. Storage of sweaty clothes in the trunk of your car should make them ineligible for the next training session. In a moist, dark environment, they grow their own special odors.
  11. Wash your hand wraps and throw your gloves away when they smell.
  12. Don’t make anyone else wash your blood off the heavy bag, floor, Thai pads, focus mitts, mat, etc.

Life Lessons

  1. The term “Princess” is:
    1. gender neutral.
    2. does not mean you will look good wearing a crown and sitting on a throne. Expanding your comfort zone is a benefit of the training. It is not an evil plot on the part of your teacher or training partner to see how you look when you are uncomfortable.
  2. Don’t quit unless you are injured, and don’t let anyone else cause you to quit.
  3. Don’t quit because you are frustrated. Find a different aspect of the art, or your motion, to focus on and develop.
  4. Anything you set your mind to do you can do.
  5. Each of us has a different and unique body, which has different and unique attributes. Just because you want someone else’s attributes doesn’t mean you’re going to get them. It’s your job to develop the ones you were given.
  6. Don’t compare yourself to those around you. You’ll either be way better or way worse in your analysis, neither of which is true, and neither has any bearing on your own development.
  7. You can learn from anyone if you keep an open mind. The answers will come from a variety of people, styles, systems and cultures.
  8. Your way is not necessarily the best way, and is definitely not the only way.
  9. You will change through the training. Make sure it is in a positive direction.
  10. Unless you absolutely have to (or have chosen to in a sanctioned format) don’t hit anyone outside of the gym.
  11. Anyone can do this art if he puts his mind and body into it. Don’t quit, don’t whine, leave your ego at the door and get to work.
  12. The body talks. Let how you move speak for you. Regardless of your body and the package you’ve got, you have to establish your own credibility. Once this is done, move on; it’s done. Everyone has the same hurdles to overcome: too skinny, too heavy, too weak, the wrong gender, too old, from a different ethnic/cultural background, physically, mentally or learning disabled, too big, too small, too tall, too short, the list goes on. Don’t let your issues get in the way; they are irrelevant to everyone but you.
  13. Have fun. This is a great way to keep learning and developing!

We are all going to move differently, think differently, and impact others differently. That is the beauty of JKD. As men and women in the martial arts, we are all part of a wonderful experience that encompasses self-defense, health, fitness, physical, mental and spiritual development and cultural enrichment, as well as intellectual and spiritual growth. We have the tremendous opportunity to improve ourselves and those around us, both in and out of the martial arts environment. The people with whom we come into contact will enhance this experience and make us and our art better for it.

Building Muscle While Burning Fat

written by Kenny Barry

Most people would probably agree that having a swimmer’s build would be really nice. Most people would also agree that it takes a certain amount of work to obtain such a physique, not to mention genetic qualifications. All too often, one may read about losing fat while building muscle, and while many of these programs are factual, just as many ” if not more ” are some type of scam.

After reviewing several articles and speaking with professional athletic trainers, one constant seems to hold a true work ethic. Before one can even think about staring a routine, one has to have a strong understanding of work ethics and commitment to “gaining the mass while losing that fat.” The three-step precursor to building muscle and losing fat is as follows: adequate amounts of nutrition, sleep and exercise. For argument’s sake, let’s say that sleep is not an issue, and you are getting the proper amount of it. Now we have two areas to address: nutrition and exercise.

The focal point of the next few pages will be geared toward the most effective type of nutrition and exercise to gain muscle and lose fat. Many people feel that you have to do one or the other; however, this is not true. The respiratory system, the vascular system, the muscular system and the digestive system are all in one body, though they are separate systems. They all work together, yet separately, all at the same time with proper nutrition and exercise fundamentals. Being that muscle is denser than fat, often people get discouraged right away because they are building the muscle and losing the fat. However, the numbers on the scale don’t show the dynamics of what really is going on inside the body. Nutrition and exercise have a strong relationship, and proper nutrition is important when you are involved in physical activity.

Basically, there are three groups of exercise: strength, flexibility and cardiovascular. In order to build the muscle, one must stimulate the muscular system. The easiest way to achieve this is by weight training. This topic should not be ignored. There have been many studies done on the benefits of weight training. Most studies show that multi-joint exercise, like bench presses and squats, allow you to make big gains, not only in muscle size and density, but also in increasing growth hormones and testosterone levels in males. Furthermore, squats and bench presses will engage more major and ancillary muscle fibers than many other exercises. As far as muscle building is concerned, you can break it up into three major sections (which have three major sub-sections): A. pushing-muscles of the upper body (chest, shoulders, triceps), B. pulling-muscles of the upper body (back, biceps, neck), C. three major lower body muscles (quads, hamstrings, calves). Once there is an understanding of muscle developments, you can take it in any direction you so desire. For most people, the hardest part is getting started. The second hardest part is sticking to it.

Cardiovascular training, such as running and aerobics, is the key to burning fat. Aerobic activities will burn the fat without really building the muscles. Weight training mainly builds muscles. Fat loss can be achieved by prolonged sub-maximal cardiovascular training. High intensity training will also help reduce lactate accumulation by preventing its formation. A good example of this type of training would be running for 40 minutes and sprinting 100 yards every mile. Participating in exercises such as these at least twice a week will aid in getting rid of body fat. Both strength and cardio exercise need to be as routine as brushing your teeth in order for them to be beneficial to your physique. Without proper diet to support this type of activity, not much will happen, aside from fatigue.

“Cavemen” would only eat twice a day at most, so the body would automatically store as much as it could for energy later. Many people who are trying to lose fat while building muscle don’t eat enough times per day. Recent studies have shown that six small meals per day will keep your energy levels high, and your amino acid storage steady, to allow your muscles to grow. In order for your body to assimilate and use the food you ingest, small and more frequent meals are more advantageous than fewer, larger meals. The muscles primarily consist of two things: amino acids (proteins) and water. This being said, it should be obvious that we should consume the proper amounts of water and protein. According to a study in the Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, if you want to pack extra muscle, you will need roughly one gram of protein per pound of body weight. Quality protein burns into amino acids in the body, and with an exercise program in place, the demand for amino acids goes through the roof since the aminos are responsible for muscle growth and repair. Foods to stay away from would be anything fried. Fried food will not help you build muscle and shed unwanted fat.

In short, you have three areas: muscle building exercise, fat burning exercise, and diet. In speaking with several professional trainers, they have said that diet is probably up to 80 percent of the whole picture. There is no diet that will help you build muscle without exercise, and you can exercise all you want, but muscles need food to really grow.

Character Traits

written by Terence Miller

It has been told to us on many occasions that in order to preserve the arts that we study, and to better our individual selves, we must exhibit a particular trait. This trait is more important than all others, because it instills in us a characteristic that is not inherently found in many people. Many ancient civilizations showed characteristic strengths of it, but it has become a characteristic weakness of ours. We need it to do well in whatever endeavor we choose. It is a prerequisite that most of us want more of, and tend to admire in those who exhibit it in abundance. This personal trait is discipline.

Modern conveniences have created a climate that we as human beings find pleasing to our sense of laziness. The loss of tradition and values, as well as the abandonment of such practices, has fostered a lackadaisical incompetence in our desire to personally attain something greater that what we are. This unravelling of tradition no longer ensures that a great degree of discipline will be instilled in each individual.

I believe that there is honor in what we train for. I know that my peers believe the same as I do. We are not the sheep….we are the wolves. Why else would we subject ourselves to physical and psychological pain just to prepare for a possibility? Why would we hold our teachers in such high regard and train hard to earn the respect of our peers? It is because we believe in something more than ourselves. We believe in discipline. It is in the physical training required through discipline that we achieve higher levels of consciousness. Most fighters are different from other people. We search for totality in our discipline because we understand that it is more than being physically capable. It is the whole package. The mental, spiritual and physical planes must all work together as a cohesive unit to define the greatness of an individual in any chosen endeavor.

Training develops discipline. It is a long, arduous process that involves instruction, demonstration, repetition and sacrifice. We live in an age of softness where most people do not want to work in order to get what they want. Discipline involves work. Discipline is the act of doing something you hate in order to achieve greatness in something you love. It involves listening to those who can lead us towards the truth in what we desire. Disciplined students do not involve themselves in the policies of martial arts. We already know the truth. We already have the answers. Discipline is future-oriented, and superintends future choices. It is proof of our desire and love for those we respect and those who have shared their time and knowledge teaching us.

Discipline is a war of attrition: it occurs incrementally. It is not a personality trait that will come overnight. We learn it by experience. We learn it by doing. For those of us who have the fortitude to impose discipline upon ourselves, we can pass this trait on to our students through example. We can have a moment of grace by allowing them, at the very least, a chance to create at the core of their beings an attribute of greatness.

Remember to give thanks to all of your instructors for their guidance.

Competing With Your Instructor

written by Diana Rathborne

Martial artists develop in an infinite number of ways. Our instructors are there to inspire, motivate and give us information. After that, our work begins. There are a few students who, because of their physical and mental gifts and their life circumstances, have gained a high level of skill in a short period of time. Unfortunately, some of these talented students have missed the attributes of character that every martial artist should develop: humility, respect and gratitude to name just three. As they approach the level of their instructor, (perhaps gaining instructor status themselves) they believe their instructor has nothing left to teach them. The physical ability, time and availability to train with your instructor, and the personal closeness that comes from that time, can lead to destructive ideas, including: you are no longer a student of your instructor, you are both a better martial artist and a better person. I think it is arrogance, a lack of respect and delusion that lead a student to the belief that his instructor is a competitor against whom he is on a level to compete. Not only does this seem to limit time in the art, but it is also damaging to the student, the school, and by extension, the instructor. It seems, however, to be a phenomenon that every school owner experiences.

I have seen many people transform their lives through the lessons that training in the martial arts can bring. A student who gets started on the path of development, only to detour onto this false path of comparing himself to, and competing with, his instructor, is wasting his talent when he could be doing much, much more for himself, his art and his fellow students. Luckily, I am not burdened with the kind of talent that would enable me to physically compete with any of my instructors, so for me as a student, the point is moot. As an instructor, however, I do run into it from time to time. In my opinion, all things being equal, if an athletic student who’s put in some training time can’t outperform me (a short female on the wrong side of 35) in a training drill, there’s something wrong. It has absolutely nothing to do with my capability, or my ability to instruct, guide, motivate or add technical information to his base. Over the years, I have had the benefit of watching my instructors handle many weird situations, questions and possible challenges. They have always done it with grace and amazing variety of the most “appropriate” responses imaginable. I am lucky to now have their answers in my arsenal to pull from. The new guy walking in the door, giving the instructor the once over and all but saying, “I could kick your butt,” the student who “fights” a technique in a demo, and the student who interrupts a class or seminar to say, “That wouldn’t work,” or “What would you do If I….” are a few examples of scenarios I’ve had the opportunity to watch. Had those situations been mine to solve, they certainly would not have been handled so well.

My primary instructor, Sifu Rick Faye of the Minnesota Kali Group in Minneapolis, has a humorous perspective on the dynamic of students competing with him. He finds the fact that some of his students have seen fit to compete with him both sad and annoying. “If they want to compete with me, they can compete with me at 7:00 on a Saturday morning when I’m mopping the weight room,” he comments. Those who enter the martial arts and end up in the role of an instructor, do so to impart many of the personal qualities that martial arts bring to others: humility, respect, honesty, loyalty, dedication, kindness, etc. These are people who have chosen their profession because of their passion for it, their belief that it can improve the lives of those involved, and as a way to support their families. They have put in an enormous amount of time and energy into their students’ development as martial artists and as decent human beings. I don’t see where the desire or ability to kick your instructor’s butt falls into this equation. Sifu Pete Hetrick’s staple answer to a student who challenges him and says that he could kick his butt always is, “Yes, but I can teach you to kick my butt faster and more efficiently.”

Each and every instructor I have learned from is excited by the acco mplishments of his students. Each one has handed us his art and as a result, we are already starting ahead of where he started. I believe that the number of times Guro Dan Inosanto was hit on the head by his instructors to bring us his art (without the contact) should speak for itself. I was recently reading a book on an aspect of the Filipino martial arts, and the author took the time in the first two pages to put down one of the greatest instructors in the Filipino martial arts. Why? Because he got his ego in a bind. Big deal. Isn’t there room for more than one authority on the art? What is your purpose for training in the martial arts? To be the biggest bad ass? To be a killer? Enlist—they’re hiring. You can go see what it is to fight “for real.” In fact, now is probably a great time for that. For the rest of us, martial arts are a self-development vehicle. For your instructor, it is also his livelihood and that of his family. The “my instructor can beat up your instructor” mindset has no place outside of kindergarten. I’m sure most boxers could beat the tar out of their trainers, but you don’t see most of them wasting their training time and mental energies on that focus.

As instructors, we need to remember two things. First, that we are still students of our instructors, and second, that a student’s urge to compete with us is completely immaterial to our own art. It is a pain in the rear end, but it is also an opportunity to try to find and utilize the most appropriate response to a challenging situation. Etched in my mind is a class where Sifu Rick Faye told all of us that his personal martial arts ability was none of our business. That it was between him and the mirror. At that time, I was shocked by the statement. On further digestion, I realized he was right. My personal capabilities have absolutely no bearing on my ability to teach others or to help others.

Each of us has to take a hard look at why we are in the martial arts, and where our personal defensive abilities lie. Look around your class and ask yourself the question, “If Big John Doe flipped a gasket and came after me, would I be able to survive it?” Gauge where you are and where you might need to be to answer “yes” to that question. Assess the areas you need to develop: mobility, strength, speed, power, technical base, impact and functionality of your techniques, etc. Then get to work. Then put it aside. There is so much more to develop as a martial artist, and to bring longevity to your art than looking at everyone as either a threat or a possible attacker.

To the fighters, if your passion is training to fight and getting in the ring, ask yourself these four questions: 1) Do I still pay my dues? 2) Do I put away my wraps, pads and gear each and every time I train? 3) Do I own the equipment I train with? 4) Are the other students afraid of me? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your instructor takes a financial loss to train you. You are not so good that you “deserve” to follow different rules from the other students. In fact, just having you in the school costs your instructor money. Appreciate the fact and change our behavior! Martial arts competitions can offer a great experience for those who want to participate in them. Bear in mind that a martial arts competition is just that – a competition. It offers the contact of sparring in a more intense venue with more adrenalin. Competitions have rules, time limits, referees, judges and a specific competition arena. A competition is not self-defense, and it is not “for real.” It also has absolutely no bearing on the ability of those who don’t wish to participate in it. To mentally put our instructor in the ring with you as your opponent is ridiculous and disrespectful. If your instructor does get in the ring with you, depending on who you have as an instructor, the experience may not be as pleasant, or as successful, as you have imagined it. However, it probably will impact you and shift your perspective significantly.

I’m certainly not saying that you don’t need to assess the functionality of the techniques you are taught. You do. As martial artists, we need to look at techniques and training methods with a critical eye. We are not learning chess, and should have the ability to fight if need be. I am saying that respect for your instructor’s time in the art, time teaching and time with you, are essential for your growth as a student, a person, and a martial artist. I am also saying that your instructor has provided you with a place to train. This fact deserves your respect and gratitude as well. Your instructor has put in 5, 10, 20 years before you started, and just may have something to offer because of that time. How each martial artist develops is unique. However, there are common threads, principles and development cycles. Our instructors have the benefit of having worked with hundreds of students in varying stages of development to use as a base to help our growth. He/she is not competing with you. If you are competing with him/her, ask yourself, “Why?” What is this going to do for me as a martial artist and as a person? We have been given a mix of arts into which many people have put in a great deal of time and development. We have been given it in a comfortable, well-lit gym with protective equipment and the benefit of our instructor’s insight. If you honestly feel that you have nothing to learn from your instructor, then move on. Make the effort and take the time to be polite, respectful, courteous, kind and adult in your conversations to others about your decision to move on.

If your physical skills have surpassed your instructor’s in an area of the art, he/she will be happy for you, if you are respectful and give credit where credit is due. Once you have reached this level, unless you quit the art, you’re not done. Enhance the art by being a part of it. The creation of divisiveness and pettiness isn’t enhancing anyone. If you have a different approach, great. Share it, but don’t put down every else’s approach. You may have a new twist, or maybe you just didn’t recognize something that’s been there all along. Either way, your instructor has guided you to where you are. Be humble, respectful, and do something creative rather than destructive. From time to time it may be necessary to either remind yourself, or a fellow martial artist, that in the martial arts, even if you do surpass your instructor, you are still his/her junior in the art.


written by Rick Faye

My name is Rick Faye. I have run the Minnesota Kali Group, a martial arts school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for over twenty years.

I see we are once again in the midst of controversy as yet another generation asserts itself. There seems to be a new examination of whether drills in martial arts are productive. Along with this seems to go a wholesale disposal of technical information from the arts we train.

First off, let me say that I am adding my opinion as a way to solidify my own thoughts, and to constantly re-examine what we teach and train at the Minnesota Kali Group. I don’t have any great hope of changing minds (they seem to be quite convinced of their own genius). I’m also not here to challenge anyone’s abilities. The J.K.D. family has always been full of people much more physically talented than I.

I will weigh in with what experience I have. It seems to me that Sifu Dan Inosanto has settled these issues at every seminar for the last twenty-five years. I’ll try to repeat, in my own language, the messages that seemed so obvious to me from the very start.

Drills work, and are necessary for most students. Drills themselves are not fighting – that’s understood, and this has been pointed out at every seminar I have ever been to. Drills allow students to go through a progressive learning process, and make the art accessible to many different types of students. Drills help to pass on combative and developmental insights gained over time at the cost of many lives. Drills allow concentrated repetition on important aspects of the art. Drills also happen to be fun, which is important for those of us who don’t spend every waking moment trying to “kick ass” on the next random attacker.

In martial arts we are in the business of trying to modify how people act under stress. This generation has come up with the stunning revelation that personal combat is an aggressive, frenzied, painful and nasty business where things get very difficult. (I’m sure the warriors of the ages will be thankful that someone has finally discovered the true nature of combat.) It will be interesting to see how they go about passing these insights on to students of different abilities, different personalities, different values, and different needs. Could it be that creating drills of some sort would help the student get a glimpse of their instructor’s true brilliance?

I apologize for the tone of these statements, but it seems to me that people are overstepping. Sifu Inosanto, Master Chai, and many other great martial artists have taught us through drills. So now, we have students who make their personal discoveries public, and are inadvertently disrespectful to those who taught them. (Respect of any kind is one of the deeper values that has left martial arts in the last years.) Are they questioning the intellect or the sincerity of these teachers? Either they don’t see these instructors as smart enough to guide students correctly, or they believe they are somehow filling the time with useless fluff. I don’t see either of these as the truth.

There are good reasons why most martial systems take many years to “declare” a student a “master” or even an instructor. The perspective and maturity gained by years in the arts are very important. You need perspective to understand complete developmental cycles for many kinds of students. You also need perspective to understand the many different ways to approach the art. You need maturity to be able to understand the place for your capabilities in life. You also need maturity to assess your role as instructor and as a martial artist in life. The martial artists that I admire are outwardly mild and easily approachable. They think and act on many levels – most of them much deeper than just fighting.

Next point: we have been constantly told three related things. Number one: just because the technique or strategy doesn’t work for you in your circumstance doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. The fact that a technique doesn’t work is not always because it is structurally ineffective. Most failures in martial arts are due to a problem in attributes, such as distancing, timing, rhythm, strength, line familiarization, etc. It could also be that the technique was tried in the wrong circumstance. A gym is not always the best format for each technique.

Two: we should constantly experiment to find what does work for us at this stage of our development. As we experiment with different things, we will find that we are able to do some things quite naturally, and that others will take development.

Three: we should determine what attributes we need to train to become functional in a given area. Many of the drills we do are designed to improve certain attributes. Like weight training, they are more about development than they are directly related to fighting. In many aspects of the arts, we simply need more repetition on specific motions. Drills are often the best way to get the desired repetitions in the shortest amount of time.

Martial arts are an intensely personal search. To discredit anyone’s way of practicing his art, is very arrogant, and not a credit to Sifu Inosanto’s example. Sifu Inosanto has always taught us that each individual will find his or her own way. Some, however, will find their way and then tell everyone about it. This assumes a level of accomplishment, intellect, ability and insight that may not actually be there, other than in the mind of that person.

I believe we can all find something in the arts that fascinate us. Yes, we need to examine the material for function and application. In our analysis, we need to keep in mind a broader context. The art should serve as a tool for self-development as well as self-defense. There is room for more than one area of training. To narrow our focus to include only what works against a determined athlete in the gym when performed by a talented athlete is to set “limitations” on J.K.D. I admire the athleticism and durability of extreme competitors, but it remains a small part of this great art. Extreme contact is not for everyone, and should not dictate our training. “Ultimate” or “Extreme” formats can be learned from, and that knowledge should be added to the things in which we train, not replace them completely.

As for the Minnesota Kali Group, we will continue to use drills to train our students. Making this art accessible to a wider variety of students has been my goal, and I will continue to seek out methods that allow average people to improve their lives. If you get a chance to visit, look forward to working on Thai Boxing combinations, Sumbrada and other great stick drills, a whole variety of drills for sensitivity and body feel, set focus mitt combinations, grappling drills, and equipment training set out in combinations. You’ll find all sorts of students having a great time, and improving in all sorts of areas.

-Friday, December 13, 2002

JKD Women

The following excerpts are from an interview with Amy Tucci, “JKD Women,” January 2004
By Sonja Henrici

“I feel that learning martial arts is like sculpting a work of art from a block of marble – a lot of small, subtle motions over time finally reveal a beautiful work of art, but no one motion necessarily stands out”. – Amy Tucci

Amy Tucci grew up in New Jersey, an hour’s drive from New York City. She worked for the state of New Jersey government for over twenty years before turning to martial arts full time. Now she is the third female ever to become a full instructor under Guro Dan Inosanto. “JKD is a way of living life that is not bound by ideas of limitation. As female martial artists, we are already a bit outside the accepted norm for women in society.”

Sonja Henrici: Tell me a bit about yourself. When and how did you come to martial arts?
Amy Tucci: I never really pursued, or was interested in, martial arts as a child. I dabbled a little with Tai Chi when I was in college, but it wasn’t until I met my husband, Rick, who was very into martial arts that I became interested, and even then, it took me quite a few years before I began training seriously. I started to take classes he taught at our home to a small group of students, and then gradually got hooked.

SH: What was your profession before starting to teach martial arts full time?
AT: After I graduated from university, I worked for the government of the state of New Jersey as an administrative analyst specialising in data processing. I held a variety of positions, including many years doing technical writing, newsletter editing, and writing and producing a promotional video. After 20 years, and having spent every other waking hour working at the academy or training, I left to devote all of my time to teaching and running our Princeton Academy of Martial Arts.

SH: Were there any other women when you started?
AT: There has always been a shortage of women in the martial arts. There were no other females when I trained. Every now and then, a woman would join the class, but that was usually short-lived. Later on, there were a couple of women who were frequent training partners for me at our academy.

SH: What do your non-martial artist friends think about your training?
AT: Most of my non-martial artist friends seem to understand and support my martial arts training. They actually think it’s quite good. It is a little hard, and I don’t really feel a need to explain my passion to them, because I think it’s something that you can’t really understand unless you do it yourself. It’s one of those things you either do or you don’t.

SH: Do you ever fight against stereotyping?
AT: I don’t feel I’ve had to fight against stereotyping, but of course it exists for all women in martial arts to a certain extent, because it’s such a male dominated sphere. However, men have been very supportive and encouraging throughout my years of training. They often express surprise when I do something well, because they almost don’t expect a woman to hit hard, for example.

SH: What does it mean to you to be the third female full instructor under Guro Dan Inosanto?
AT: It is a huge honor. I’m truly happy that Guro Inosanto thought enough of me and my skill level to promote me to “full,” but of course, I feel like I’m constantly improving and have so much further to go with all of it. Recently, because I’ve been spending so much time training with him, I’ve started to appreciate even more how bit the arts we train in really are, and how much time he has put into them, and the level of his understanding.

Being a full instructor, regardless of gender, means that I’m serving as a role model and source inspiration for others. As a woman, I clearly serve as a role model for other women on this path, but men have also told me that I’ve been their inspiration to become better. I think we all need people ahead of us on the path so we know we too can get there.

SH: What other things do you do outside martial arts?
AT: I do quite a few other things, including horseback riding and art (right now I’m specifically into drawing and pastel painting). I’ve also very recently started to learn to play the drums, as in a 5-piece drum set. I love doing other things besides martial arts, because it helps me to be more well rounded. It keeps me fresh, and the learning process is a great mental stimulator. I’ve found that my martial arts training has carried over and hugely enhanced my other activities, especially horseback riding and drum playing, because of they physical nature. I’m much more coordinated in these activities then I would be without the training.

SH: what is your most memorable experience with a teacher?
AT: It’s difficult to say! Probably my more memorable experiences have been those that sparked me and made me enthusiastic about a particular area or a particular aspect of an art. This may sound a little vague, but I feel that learning martial arts is like sculpting a work of art from a block of marble – a lot of small, subtle motions over time finally reveal a beautiful work of art, but no one motion necessarily stands out. It’s more the gestalt of the whole process that has been my experience.

SH: Have you had any female instructors?
AT: Simo Paula Inosanto would be my primary female instructor. She has always been an inspiration to me, and I had the good fortune to have spent a lot of time with her when she was travelling with Guro Inosanto on seminars all over the U.S. for quite a few years early on in my training. She was always so impressive, and very tough, but such a good teacher and able to explain things very well. She was really the first woman I ever saw who was good at these arts, and she made a huge impression on me. Since I met her in 1987, she has become a dear friend and has supported and encouraged me as any true friend would. So having her in my life is a blessing.

SH: could you describe a typical week in terms of your training and teaching schedule?
AT: Right now, I’m spending most of my time in Los Angeles, so my typical week includes a lot of training with Guro at the Inosanto Academy. I usually do about eight hours a week in Guro’s classes, including the Kali, Jun Fan, Silat and mixed martial arts classes. Then I train one or two hours per week with Erik Paulson in Combat Submission Wrestling, and sometimes the Vale Tudo class. I’ve recently started to focus a lot more on the grappling, and have been able to train with my colleagues in the Inosanto family, who are much more knowledgeable than me in the grappling arts. I try to train outside of classes for about two to three hours a week with different training partners, or on my own. I’ve also just started to take a few classes with Rigan Machado at his Machado Jiu Jitsu school in Torrance.

Because I’m currently in Los Angeles, I don’t do as much teaching as I did in the academy in New Jersey. I teach a couple of classes a week at the Inosanto Academy, and if Guro is out of town, I will cover the classes. I’ve been teaching private lessons, and also assist at the Instructor Conferences held at the Inosanto Academy where certified instructors come for intensive training.

SH: Can you describe your experience of teaching women’s only classes as compared to mixed classes?
AT: As a woman, I’m able to influence and connect with my female students. Over the years, I’ve taught many women, some of whom never considered themselves tough enough to train with men, and now they’ve moved into co-ed classes and are doing very well, commanding a lot of respect from male students.

Some of the women just wanted to do something non-threatening and not as intense as the co-ed stuff, but ended up being totally into the whole martial arts experience. I also like to break the stereotype by not letting the women’s classes be too girly or easy, and I make it more intense than they probably expect, but they are comfortable with it, coming from a woman, whereas if a male was teaching the same thing, they may be thrown off.

One of my happiest moments teaching women was when I had about 12 of my more experienced women in my first intermediate level class, and they all had boxing gloves, headgear and mouthpieces, and they were all sparring, and basically going for it, hitting each other and experiencing all of that for the first time. These were all women I had taught, and who’d never trained in a men’s class. It was a great feeling for me to see them transformed.

SH: How has your personal life changed through martial arts? Has it changed you? Has it made you feel safer?

AT: It has been a subtle and gradual change. Martial arts are now such a part of my life that I can’t separate myself from it. It has definitely made my body very strong and helped me to feel very comfortable about being “in my body.” Many people often feel out of touch with their bodies, almost detached from them in a way. Through training, we get a real understanding of our bodies and what they are capable of doing. I also know that I feel like I’m in better physical condition than many people half my age, and that makes me feel pretty good! It has also helped me with my ability to focus mentally and direct my energies to specific goals.

SH: You recovered from a serious illness not too long ago. Do you mind talking about this period in your life?
AT: It’s something that you can’t really imagine until you go through it (it’s kind of like a very exaggerated version of the Thai boxing instructors test!) but somehow you just gather yourself up and go forward. I know I couldn’t have done it without the support and help of my husband, friends, and all the healers who came into my life, and the spiritual guidance I received from the Creator. And I thank God that I didn’t really have any physical discomfort to speak of . I was, and am, very, very fortunate. In fact, I really didn’t even miss much training because of the illness or the treatment I selected. That’s not to say I wasn’t terrified, but you just have to go on with what you need to do and trust the universe.

SH: Can you tell us whether (and how) martial arts helped you to overcome it?
AT: I think that martial arts gave me the philosophy that worked for me, which was to choose a completely unconventional and personal approach to dealing with my illness. I truly took the Jeet Kune Do approach: to absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add specifically what is your own. Also, that ability to focus and zero in on the task at hand, and just keep going, is really just an extension of training, and this is what got me through some of the uncomfortable procedures. It’s what you do when you’re trying to get through a round on the Thai pads, and you feel like stopping, but you don’t, or when you think you just can’t swing the stick anymore, but you keep going anyway, or when you are so frustrated trying to learn something that you just want to give up, but you don’t.

SH: Is there anything you would like to pass on to others in similar situations?
AT: I would say that anyone faced with something like this really has to look at themselves as a unique individual, and really look at all the options available and leave no stone unturned. Listen with a critical ear to what doctors or others tell you, and don’t let them do the thinking for you. Generally, the medical profession only has statistics and doesn’t look at each person as unique with many, many different factors that make their experience different from other people’s, and most of all, you need to be the one that is responsible for your decisions and what happens to you.

SH: What is Jeet Kune Do for you?
AT: JKD is a way of living life that is not bound by the ideas of limitation. For me, this includes martial arts, but also goes beyond into other areas of my life where I try to live outside the confines of generalities that are accepted without question. As female martial artists, we are already a bit outside of the accepted norm for females in society.

SH: A lot of martial artists “sell” their expertise on the back of other people’s fears for personal safety, etc. Do you have an opinion about that? How does martial arts fit into modern society for you?
AT: Well, martial arts is about self-defense and preserving safety. So, as long as it’s done with integrity and for the right reasons, there is nothing wrong with that. I think martial arts in modern society are, however, a lot more than that, and that most people will hopefully never have to apply what they have learned on the street. So, it becomes a way of life, a way of staying healthy, a way of keeping the mind fresh, a way of building personal character and confidence.

Lee Plaque

This plaque was recently presented to Sifu Daniel Inosanto.

Dan and Paula Inosanto would like to thank Robert, Phoebe, Peter and Agnes Lee for their unconditional love and support throughout the years.

Mind Over Matter

written by Diana Rathborne

“Self knowledge is the basis of Jeet Kune Do because it is effective, not only for the individual’s martial art, but also for his life as a human being.” Bruce Lee

“Mind over matter: if you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” That statement is one of the most simple yet profound statements I’ve heard. It also is an essential mindset for the martial artist of any level. The opposite mindset is what is referred to at the Minnesota Kali Group as the “Martial Arts Princess.” The “princess” can be of either gender, and is focused on his/her own comfort above all else. I have been told that when I started training in the martial arts, I fit into that category. (I am sure that, while true in essence, the description is completely exaggerated.) One day, about 4 or 5 years into my training, I was getting ready to train before class, and Guro Rick Faye was doing his own training nearby. Just as we were about to start, he walked over to my training partner and me, and smilingly asked if I’d been able to locate the “pea” under my mattress yet. My training partner began laughing uncontrollably, and recognizing the seeds of truth to this, I did too. Thus, the moniker “Princess” was born.
Unfortunately, I think we all have one or two princess points to strive to eliminate. I know I still do. If we challenge some of our less productive training habits and attitudes, it may just make us better martial artists, training partners and people. Here is a short checklist of habits, characteristics and attitudes that can make up a Martial Arts Princess:

  • You’re not ready and everyone has to wait for you to get started training.
  • You need the “right” training music and have to change the channel, CD, etc. before you can train.
  • You just ate and can’t train until you digest.
  • You haven’t eaten and can’t train until you do.
  • You forgot your lucky kicking attire: underwear, wraps, gloves, special shoes, etc.
  • Your favorite pads are in use or unavailable.
  • Your holder holds the pads to high, too far away, or at the wrong angle.
  • Holding Thai pads is uncomfortable and makes you sweat so you avoid it at all costs.
  • Your feeder is giving you the wrong energy and you can?t train.
  • Your partner is new and you can?t do the drill the way you want to.
  • You?ve been in the art for at least two years and don?t own your own equipment.
  • Your attire is more fashionable than functional and not conducive to training hard: earrings, nose rings or other body jewelry, low riding or too tight pants, etc.
  • You frustrate easily if the information is too complex.
  • You are easily bored and must have new information all the time.
  • You lose your temper when frustrated or out-skilled.
  • You don?t like being told that you?ve got some room for improvement.
  • You harbor a belief that your current knowledge of the art is the entire art.
  • Incidental/accidental contact ruins your training.
  • You only train with people who can train at your level or higher.
  • You only train with people you can dominate.
  • You believe that if others can?t train the way you do, they?re not ?doing it? and are not legitimate practitioners of the art.
  • More than one of your training partners has been out of training due to injuries from training with you.

Luckily, getting out of the “princess mode” is pretty easy and completely within our own control. We will all have better success at challenging our own “comfort zone issues” if we can train ourselves to be completely focused on what we are doing. We will be better able to function in any physical conflict. The little things are an essential element that is often overlooked in the adage, “You fight how you train.”
In The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee encourages us to find the cause of our own ignorance. Ignorance in the art can be a physical, emotional and/or intellectual condition. Tolerance, patience, kindness, humility and being open-minded are essential to our development. Toughening ourselves, and improving our self-discipline, as well as our physical abilities, technical knowledge and attitudes, will make us better people and better martial artists. Luckily, this art provides us with both a vehicle for change and some amazing role models to follow. The most wonderful part is that there is no deadline.

“Learning Jeet Kune Do is not a matter of seeking knowledge or accumulating stylized patterns, but it is discovering the cause of ignorance.” Bruce Lee

Pacific Northwest Muay Thai Camp 2003

written by Diana Rathborne

With the exception of a few years after college, I have always gone to summer camp. The last five years, I’ve been lucky enough to go to two camps each summer. One is run by Ajarn Surachai Sirisute (“Master Chai”) Oregon, and the other by Sifu Rick Faye in Wisconsin. Once again, this year’s Pacific Northwest Muay Thai Camp (the “Oregon Camp”) was an amazing challenge and experience. It is an intense experience that I value, dread, and have to train hard for each year, but each year I leave the camp a better martial artist than when I arrived. The training, instruction, camaraderie and environment combine to equip a Muay Thai fighter/trainer with the form and discipline of the Muay Thai fighters from Thailand. Master Chai, with his intense scrutiny and attention to detail, misses nothing and brings the best out of everyone.

The invitation to go to the Oregon Camp is only extended to a select few fighters, instructors and students. Each year, the number of students who would like to go greatly exceeds the capacity to accommodate them. This year, over two hundred students were turned away. Some of this year’s students had been on a waiting list for four years. “Campers” came from around the world: New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Canada, Mexico, Luxembourg, and all across the United States. The demographics included about 30% women, and the ages ranged from 16 to 67. Martial arts school owners and their students, fighters, military personnel, police, martial artists, heart surgeons, computer people, engineers and artists all came together to put themselves through one of the most rigorous experiences imaginable, and they call it “vacation.” Many of the instructors also call it “professional development” and “continuing education.”

Some of this year’s first-timers to the Camp were Kuehn Kru* Dwight Woods from Miami, Kuehn Kru David Hatch from Michigan, Kuehn Kru Ralf Beckman, Kuehn Kru Oliver Nickel, and Kuehn Kru Cord Stahlman (Kuehn Kru is the Thai title for Instructor) from Germany. All five are amazing martial artists and Muay Thai
instructors of long standing under Master Chai. Each was finally able to fit this experience into the hectic schedule of a professional martial arts instructor. The most well known “professional martial artist” in attendance, Guro Dan Inosanto, celebrated his 67th birthday at the Camp. At 67, he does all the training, sparring, pad work, bag work, and was at the camp from 6:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. each day. Any time I felt tired, all I had to do was look over and see Guro Inosanto working hard, and it shut me up.

This year, Kuehn Kru Greg Nelson from Brooklyn Center, Minnesota was at the Camp, for his 13th season. Greg was diagnosed 15 months ago with an advanced, aggressive form of lymphoma. He has been battling for his life, and his body has been ravaged by both cancer and the treatment. After a stem cell transplant, he has been steadily getting stronger. He is the only person to survive the disease thus far. His particular permutation of this cancer is actually going to be named after him (Nelson’s Non-hodgkins Lymphoma). He and his wife, Vee, their daughter, Nina, and son Gunnar, all made the trek to Oregon (with 2 nephews in tow) to come to the Camp this year. Kuehn Kru Greg was not expected to still be here, and the fact that he taught 60 rounds on the last afternoon of the camp is unbelievable, inspirational, and the ultimate no-whining check. One of the main factors he credits for his miraculous survival is the rigors and discipline of his martial arts training.

The Camp is held at a beautiful site in the Silver Falls State Park outside of Salem, Oregon. A lodge-style building is the hub of the Camp. The first floor has the kitchen, bathrooms and fireplace (and 22 heavy bags). Picnic tables are set up outside under a tarp, and each year it is signed by every student. Bunk beds and floor space on the second floor are taken up with 60+ campers. Many students bring tents and take advantage of the opportunity to actually “camp.” Some students also stay at a nearby hotel – a 30-minute drive.

The first day, students started arriving in the morning, the last of them coming in at 4:00 a.m. In the evening, there was a dinner and orientation by Master Chai. At the orientation, the participants introduced themselves, told where they were from, and whom they train under. Afterwards, Master Chai outlined some basic housekeeping issues, and set the time for the first run, which was at 6:15 a.m. At 6:00 a.m., coffee was ready, and everyone in the building was up getting ready for the run. At 6:15, a group stretch was led by Kuehn Kru Bob Carver (Canada) and that started the day, followed by the 3-mile run. The run took us through morning fog on a winding road in the pine forest. A competition between the fastest five or six participants is always interesting to observe for those of us at the back of the pack. Each year I’ve attended, Kuehn Kru David Cervantes (Monterrey, Mexico) finished first, each day he ran. Guro Dan Inosanto waited at the halfway point to ensure that everyone made it to the turn before having to bike himself up the 1.5 mile hill that dominated the run. At the end of the run, everyone shadowboxed until the last runner came in. After a great breakfast and a rest, the training started in earnest at 9:00 a.m.

The training is amazing. For the first session, Master Chai lined everyone up, and we counted off (104 on the first day). Each person had to decide whether he or she would be in the “fighter group.” (80+ were in the fighter group.) Then, we broke into 5 groups, and we were together for the duration of the Camp. Next, shadowboxing and combination work followed for a good 45 minutes. Then the “circuit training” began: 5 stations, 2 – 4 rounds at each station, and at least twice through. (Yes, that’s at least 20 rounds!) A short (3/4 mile) run followed the circuit, and then there was more shadowboxing. Usually at this point, the “non-fighter” group is dismissed, and can wait for lunch. The fighter group then has about 30 minutes of the training on “Prumm.”*

The drilling for the Prumm (Prumm is the standing grappling/kneeing range of Muay Thai) was done in a format called “3 on 1,” and it’s a very sweaty, dusty close-range version of “Monkey in the Middle” with neck grabbing, positioning, and kneeing. Every time the whistle blew, someone else in the group grabbed the “monkey” until the whistle blew once again. If you were too slow making the switch…..30 push-ups.

You definitely do not want to slack on this drill: After a good 5 – 10 minutes, the person in the middle gets rotated out, and someone else is rotated in. This goes on until everyone has been in the middle. The key is to relax and move with your partner. Otherwise, you’ll be completely wiped out and banged up. All the while, Master Chai and the instructors who assisted him, watched for slackers. Kuehn Kru Ray Guinn (Oregon), Kuehn Kru Matteo De Los Reyes (Virginia), Kuehn Kru Nat McIntyre (Minnesota), Kuehn Kru Bob Carver (Canada), Kuehn Kru Will Bernales (Utah) and Guro Dan Inosanto (California) were in charge of assisting Master Chai in the Prumm instruction, callisthenics, and were on push-up patrol. The first day, they were fairly heavily chastised for not making people who were slow in changing partners do push-ups. Those of us within hearing range did not overhear any specific quota given, but there were many, many more people doing push-ups after that. The Prumm drilling was followed by some type of callisthenics. This year, 30 sets of the 8-count bodybuilder was the most prevalent.

Next: lunch time!! The cooks provided the most amazing meals with at least 3 different Thai entrees, for both vegetarians and carnivores. After lunch came napping, knife throwing, studying, icing any injuries, and socializing. This took up time until 3:00 p.m., when the activity started all over again!

The afternoon session was run very much like the morning, with 20 – 40 rounds through the circuit, timing sparring, Prumm, a run, more Prumm and callisthenics. On the last day, 20 rounds of timing sparring were added to the line-up, bringing the total rounds for the day to 89! On the second day of Camp, a boxing workshop was taught by Punong Guro Leonard Trigg. It was held in early afternoon, before the second Muay Thai session. Guro Trigg’s precision, power, and philosophical approach to boxing and martial arts as a whole, was inspirational. One of his topics this year centered on strategy against the left-handed boxer.

After the afternoon session was finished, dinner and showers were next. After dinner, there was a meeting prepping us for the dreaded written test. Guro Inosanto was in charge of giving us the questions and all the answers for the test. When the test will be given is a surprise. What is not a surprise is the penalty for failing it. The thought of an extra 3-mile run, 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups makes everyone take notice and study like crazy. 100 questions are on the test, and have to do with Thai vocabulary, Muay Thai history, and technical knowledge of the art and fighter training. The passing grade is 85 or more. On the fourth day, the tests were graded, and those with 16 or more wrong were singled to make the journey down the hill and back, and to do the sit-ups and push-ups. For those whose native language is German, French or Spanish, a test in English on Thai words is even more of a challenge than it is for the rest of us.

Lights were out at 11:00, but by then, almost everyone was already in bed.

Some other yearly Camp highlights include an afternoon outing to the waterfalls at the Silver Falls State Park, a celebration of Guro Inosanto’s birthday, and an authentic Native American pow wow and party (the last night). This year, an added bonus was an impromptu jam session on the drums featuring Kuehn Kru Dwight Woods, Master Chai, Guro Inosanto and some of the other musically gifted students. Musicians continued to play on the drums during some of the afternoon classes, which made the sparring and pad work even more fun. Also unique to this year was the filming of a documentary about the Camp. The Discovery Channel and National Geographic might be airing the finished documentary in the fall. The training, runs, conversations and meals were all included in the footage.

The amount of work to make this camp an exceptional experience takes many months and a lot of man-hours. The at-camp labors of Kuehn Kru Mike Walrath (camp founder), Kuehn Kru Steve Wilson, Kuehn Kru Bruce Raymer, the cooks, Annete and Kuehn Kru Ken Koenig, and the entire Oregon/Washington crew are staggering. This year, 344 pounds of bananas were consumed (in five days) and the kitchen staff spent hours each day chopping vegetables for the meals! All the elements of the Camp, from training to meals to transportation were excellent. All of these details, combined with training from world famous instructor Master Chai Sirisute, make for a great experience for any Muay Thai practitioner. If you ever get the opportunity to come to the Camp, it is an experience you won’t soon forget. But definitely make sure you train – hard for it!!!

Personal Safety For Women

written by Diana Rathborne

We all take measures to assure our personal safety on a daily basis. Most of us wear our seat belts, lock our car doors, lock our house, dress for inclement weather, wear shoes that will be appropriate to our environment, and have fire extinguishers in our homes. We all know the difference between uncomfortable and unsafe when it comes to our footwear, and don?t wear spiked heels on ice, sandals in the snow, snow boots on the beach, or go barefoot in a parking lot. We have seen numerous news programs on missing children, battered wives, date rape, date rape drugs, pedophiles, serial rapists/murderers and we?ve watched many dramas about the same. As a result, we are often afraid of a myriad of threats to our person. Some are realistic and some are not.

The good news is that we can change our lifestyle to make ourselves safer and less likely to be the victim of personal violence. We can become a ?hard target? by first eliminating the risky behaviours and unsafe areas in our lives, and then by getting self-defense training.

The first action is to take a good, honest look at your lifestyle. The big areas to assess are your home and work environments. How can you get between them and your personal socializing habits with both strangers and people with whom you are familiar? Some brief questions to ask yourself are:

1. Do you have anyone in your life who is a threat to you? (If the answer is yes, go to the authorities and a women?s crisis organization and get help TODAY!)

2. Do you look like a ?profitable? target? (Do you carry easily removable belongings or items of obvious wealth?)

3. Could you quickly get out of your home and your workplace in an emergency?

4. Do you keep a full, or mostly full, tank of gas? (You never know where you?ll run out of gas.)

5. Do you drink too much or use drugs? (If the answer is yes, do you have friends who will look out for you and help you ?stay safe??)

6. Do you park your car in a safe place? (A well lit spot near an exit is best.)

7. If someone makes you uncomfortable, do you move/stay from him?

8. Do you have the ability to physically defend yourself if necessary? (There are a number of books and videos on the market that can help you assess your lifestyle and any inherent risks in it. I?ve listed a few at the end of this article.)

We all know that ?we should? go to a class and get self-defense training, but many of us only do it after something happens to us, a friend, family member, or something appears on the local news. We want to believe that a martial arts aerobics class will give us self-defense skills, and that one strike will do the trick. The facts are, unless you get lucky, one shot probably won?t do the trick, and an aerobics class will not give you self-defense skills. (An aerobics class will help you get in shape to run away, which is essential.) While the topic of self-defense training is uncomfortable, and many of us have chosen to do anything else instead, it is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health.

If taking a self-defense class is too intimidating for you, try taking a martial arts class first. If even that is too much, take a class on assertiveness. Learn to say ?NO.? Even something as simple as firmly saying, ?No, thank you? to an unwanted drink, or, ?I?m sorry I can?t help you, I?ll call 911? to a stranger asking for help, are huge steps toward your personal safety. Learning self-defense will free your mind and your life from the fear of physical attack by preparing you to deal with it. It will not make you more masculine. It won?t make you paranoid, and it definitely won?t discourage you from doing what you like to do (unless drinking until unconscious in an unfamiliar, all male environment is on your list). It will not create a situation where you need to defend your life. Living with the fear of personal physical violence is unproductive and time consuming. Learn to defend yourself, and you may make new friends, boost your confidence, and find a new freedom in your life.

What to look for in a self-defense class:

If you want to take a self-defense class, look for a course that emphasizes the following:

1. Awareness and avoidance: The emphasis should be on behaviours and sills that enable you to avoid any situation that calls for you to defend yourself. The importance of increasing your awareness of what goes on around you cannot be overstated. Once you know what is going on around you, can you identify ?danger signs?? Danger signs fall into two broad categories: environmental and human. An example of an environmental danger sign would be any dark, isolated place with which you?re unfamiliar. ?Human? danger signs are mainly behavioral: a targeting glance, a stare, gestures, body language, verbal harassment, or people in a group. Remember, the goal of any self-defense course is to help you avoid risky situations. It is not to put you into situations so that you can fight your way out of them.

2. Simple skill set: the class should teach skills that anyone can do. The curriculum should be simple and effective. A spinning heel hook kick to the head takes too much repetition, timing, and leaves you with only one leg on the ground for a long time. An eye jab is quick, direct, towards a vulnerable target, and enables either follow-up or escape. A reverse punch to the solar plexus is hard to land and may not cause enough damage to allow you to either leave or follow up. A solid slap to the ear or groin may open up other target areas for follow-up and/or escape. Your follow-up strikes should be able to make someone unconscious in a short time. Evaluate the mechanics and the target area of the skills taught to see if they meet these criteria.

3. Body, mind and mind-set: the class should teach you to use your voice, your mind, and your body. Your body is your most effective weapon, and it should be able to deliver a forceful offense. Your mind should be able to command your body to keep going while constantly looking for an avenue of escape. The focus of you going home ? no matter what you have to do ? is essential. The class should help you create and install the mind-set that you are going to go berserk on an attacker in a focused, forceful way and continue until you can go home.

4. Pressure testing the skills: The class should provide you with an opportunity to try the skills safely ?under pressure.? The pressure can be created in a number of ways: a verbal barrage: (envision military basic training), a physical assault (being pushed, slapped, attacked by someone padded), peer pressure (the entire class watches while you attempt the techniques) or exhaustion (sprint, kick, push-ups, etc. before having to do the skills required). Obviously, look for a class that will be in your comfort zone. If you know that you are afraid to leave your house, don?t like strangers and don?t do much physical exercise, the physical assault or verbal barrage may not be the ?pressure testing? method for you.

5. No weapons or ?one shot? solutions: Be wary of any class that gives you a one-strike answer, or advocates carrying a weapon. If you are going to carry a weapon for self-defense, you need to do A LOT of training. Every day. Everywhere. In every manner you can conceive of (getting in your car, from your bed, in the middle of the night, in the grocery store, at the mall, in the bathroom, at the bar, and everywhere else you go). If it takes you more than 3 seconds to get it out and usable, it will be useless to you. Research the legal ramifications of using your weapon in self-defense. Find a certified trainer and go through their beginner?s course. Practice what you learned and go through their intermediate course. Practice what you learn and go to another course. (There are instructors for every weapon category: mace, firearms, expandable baton, edged weapons, tasers ? you name it, there are instructors for it.) If you don?t think you will do the training necessary, DO NOT carry a weapon for self-defense. If you carry a weapon, there is the possibility that our attacker could take it and use it against you. Remember, if you can?t defend yourself without a weapon, you may not be able to defend yourself with a weapon, and you damned well will need to defend your weapon. Do some soul searching on the immediate and final nature of using a weapon. If you think that you won?t use it, DO NOT carry it.

6. Your instructor should have credentials in self-defense training, not just aerobics, personal training, or the martial arts. All of those areas are a part of self-defense training and skills, but the nature of self-defense is that a smaller, weaker person can use the skills quickly and effectively in a short period of time. Your instructor should be able to work with women, children, and the elderly, as well as the very fit professional athlete or solider.

Self-defense is an enormous concern for everyone. For women, self-defense is especially worrisome. If you haven?t taken a class, go. If you have taken a self-defense course, encourage your friends who haven?t. For the men reading this article, I hope it motivates you to get your female friends and family to go to a class. If you are teaching women?s self-defense, I hope this article helps you to evaluate your curriculum and approach, to ensure it is everything you would like it to be. Remember the best self-defense training should enable you to AVOID ever needing to use your physical skills.

Here is a short list of my favorite books and videos.


  • Defensive Living: Attitudes, Tactics and Proper Handgun Use to Secure Your Personal Well-being, by Ed Lovette and Dave Spaulding (This book has a great awareness and avoidance section, and it?s an easy read.)
  • The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence, by Gavin DeBecker (This book discusses why you should always trust your instinct. It?s a really interesting read and full of great information.)
  • Protecting the Gift, by Gavin DeBecker (Every good parent should read this one.)
  • The Collins Gem SAS Guide to Self-defense (small book and has great pictures of simple, effective skills).


  • Ladies Self-defense by Phil Norman