Protecting the Frontline Course 6 (diary entry)


Wednesday’s first lesson, my teacher consultancy course focusing on frontline self-protection training, took a divergent path.  Instead of continuing with today’s stage of the course where we cover self-defence law, we moved into discussions on how best to deliver the material. The subject was steered by the very serious problem of lip service being paid to certain core elements that define the purpose of self-protection teaching. My thanks to my client at Drum Kempo Ju Jitsu for convincing me to cover this topic. I think it might prove a useful subject for a future podcast and/or vlog.

Soft Skills

The overwhelming consensus of opinion among the most respected modern self-protection teachers operating today is that soft skills are the single most important element in training. Even among the general public, when the matter is properly discussed, most would agree that getting the non-physical elements of attitude, awareness, conflict management, managing stress and the legal side outweighs the physical side in importance. However, it still remains a much neglected element in training.

One major problem is a good number of teachers don’t really understand how to teach these skills and another is that certain class formats heavily favour physical training. Regular, recreational classes, for example, are limited on time and need to see a relevant connection between hard and soft skills. Here I set the challenge for teachers to come up with physical and interactive activities rather than lectures on soft skills. In short, approach your soft skills as if they were hard skills training.

Attitude is the single most important soft skill. Without having the right attitude, the rest of the training suffers. It should be encouraged regularly by promoting a “can do” and proactive approach to life. The simplest way to get this across is to ask for volunteers for new activities and to emphasise how important it is to step forward when one knows doing so will be productive.  Next we look at developing personal moral codes and firm yet adaptable principles. This sets a baseline for when and how an individual acts. Such a point can really only be made through discussion, anecdotes, case studies and hypothetical situations. I confess to resorting to “begin with end in mind” tactics. Here the student asks what is worth and when is it necessary to fight.

Another crucial element of attitude training is “never give in”. My client pressed me to better clarify this statement. This is a general view of survival. The individual, identifying as a protector, decides that they will live and thrive when faced with a violent situation. They must be willing to change their tactics and even strategy when matters go wrong but ultimately they believe themselves to be worth protecting and their life is extremely valuable.

Awareness can be taught at various different levels. We should constantly be monitoring and feeding back successes and failures of paying attention in the different activities carried out during training. There are several different attention tests, be they video observation tests or training drills where tunnel vision is addressed or simply going for a walk and observing areas of risk.

Proactive Hard Skills

When dealing the in-fight stage of a conflict, many systems contradict the proactive nature of preemptive striking. Having taught how important it is to be in first, they seem to move back onto reaction-based training. This is particularly evident in their weapon defence work. My view is that hard skills need to be preemptive, proactive and pressure tested. When it comes to the in-fight, everything should be geared towards getting on and staying on the front foot, leaving no time for the enemy to take charge.