My second evening class on Tuesday was my teacher consultancy lessons focusing on a new children/teenage self-protection syllabus. My client presented a systematic overview of a programme she wishes to run alongside her established martial arts lessons that offers reward levels of achievement in alignment with the age group of the participants.
My children’s self-protection programme is usually aged from 7 years to 13 years. However, I have taught younger participants and I also have a teen programme. My client has challenged me to aid with applying principles to a younger age group. We are still roughly dividing up the different age groups and this will be an ongoing process, but we agreed that the reception age and younger primary school years should get the basics in understanding personal space and the basics on what to do when getting lost. My client is already working on teaching very good social skills, including negotiation and – for want of a better expression – picking one’s battles. These skills help individuals build their fences as their get older, allowing them to differentiate between legitimate threats and other social issues. When lost, an elementary understanding of the right type of person to go to can be provided. I also believe that as the children get older parents should be involved in testing their children on looking for help from strangers in controlled situations.
A key point I have begun enforcing in my children’s self-protection courses is the relevance of long-term self-protection. A lot of the time this issue is side-lined and used to explain the difference between “What is” (short term self-protection) and “What should be” (long term self-protection). This is often a quick way to address the issues at hand rather than to dwell upon injustice and unfairness, and various other factors in life that simply will not change a crisis that is happening in the right here and now. However, long term self-protection is more than a noble goal for a better life; it provides genuine empowerment for self-protectors/defenders. When we look towards defeating the bystander effect we not only look at short-term tactics to recruit help in a crisis but also long-term strategies to help set the example for being proactive in the aid of others. Overall this helps build a survivor’s attitude and leadership qualities that underlie an effective self-protector/defender.
Later age groups work towards creating a better sense of self-responsibility when youngsters can be trusted to go out alone. This includes simple personal security knowledge from situational awareness – people, places, hazards and changes – to being prepared with fully charged mobile phones with emergency numbers at the ready. Different cultures have different social norms. Children are taught these norms at a young age and therefore self-protection principles need to be ingrained there as well.
The issue of internet safety is becoming a huge part of a young person’s personal security education. I need to update my eBook on this issue. From cyber-bulling to online predation the dangers presented by the internet are heightened through our ignorance of a changing culture. Self-protection training needs to incorporate this rapidly changing aspect of children’s lives.
When it comes to hard skills I concede that there is a lot of controversy as to what should and should not be taught to young people. Some of the most effective techniques you can teach a person to successfully defend themselves against an aggressor require extra careful considerations when teaching children. Firstly striking targets and joint locks might cause direct physical developmental problems to a child’s growing body. Secondly, techniques such as chokes or strangles taught to a person who hasn’t developed a true sense of responsibility and the consequence of one’s actions could be a recipe for disaster both in training and at play. However, if you are teaching a young person self-protection I believe you have a responsibility to teach self-defence (hard skills). Why should a child be denied the right to defend themselves or protect another in a crisis situation? Why should they be shown diluted and less effective techniques when they are potentially at greater risk from violence than adult?
One of the first things a teacher might consider building on is “roughhousing”. More parents are being advised on the value of roughhousing as a form of natural social development expressed by many mammals including humans. There are various games than can be built on this that can teach funs ways for children to cultivate strong positioning. Grappling and anti-grappling can be taught using these games. Likewise, chasing games begin the foundations of tactical escape training. Striking can be taught but greater care should be taken to protect a child’s developing bones. We shouldn’t be looking to encourage children to condition their hands in anyway or to spend the amount of time an adult might focus on power development. Submission holds should only be taught under very careful supervision and care of teachers at a time when it can be agreed the child has enough sense of responsibility.
All of the above and more will be further covered in our next consultancy lesson.