Updated: Nov 27, 2021
What a journey it has been!
We have completed our three week program here in Cape Town, South Africa, and it is an understatement to say that we had both an incredible teaching and learning experience. Our program was coordinated by the continent-wide non-profit organization, African Impact, who I had emailed 8 months prior about the opportunity to get me in front of as many audiences here as possible to teach self-defense. At the time, I really had no idea how popular, successful, and necessary the program would be. African Impact, who works daily with different groups of people, including childcare groups, pregnant women, adults, and even grannies, essentially replaced their daily programming with mine, giving me 2-3 hour sessions, 1-2 times a day, for three weeks, with my students. In this article I am going to try to describe this deep experience.
What Did Students Learn? The Curriculum:
How to stand properly and move defensively
This is the initial concept to know, since most conflict starts while parties are on their feet. Very simple and seemingly trivial things matter, like how to maintain your legs and footwork. Feet should have space between them, with slightly bent knees, to improve the defenders ability to move efficiently- provided running isn’t an option - and to reduce the risk of them tripping over themselves or objects, and making it easier to defend things like punches or grabs, because you have a strong base into the ground. This is fundamental to any martial art, and certainly self-defense. Without a proper stance to start with, we are significantly increasing our risk and reducing our ability for self-defense.
This also, of course, includes hand positioning, which is meant to protect your face and other body parts need be. Once you’ve got static position right, the next step is learning how to move while maintaining that. Running is great, but it isn’t always an option for a variety of options, therefore it is important to know how to move to optimize your safety protect your space when you are in close quarters.
The elements that are important here are:
Maintaining your footwork: moving in smaller, quicker, steps that don’t allow feet to cross.
Keeping someone in front of you: not allowing someone to get a dangerous angle on you where you are exposed and unable to see attacks coming, by moving ourselves - NOT relying on pushing the attacker or going into their space.
Maintaining distance, or ‘range’: establishing a distance between you and the attacker at which you are safe from them reaching out to punch or kick you quickly, and using your footwork to keep them at that distance away from you, protecting your personal and vulnerable space.
How to fall properly, and stand up properly
A nasty fall, or a sloppy stand up, can significantly damage us physically and worsen our situation dramatically. There are widely accepted practices for falling and standing up, not just in martial arts, but also seen in rock climbing and other dynamic sports.
How to defend common grabs and holds
Wrist grabs: one hand and two handed defense - including when someone is pulling you away.
Waist grabs: from behind, someone grabbing your waist and pulling you away or picking you up.
Neck grabs/ chokes: when someone chokes you from the front with their hands, and from behind with their arms in a headlock or choke.