Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Question of Trust

There's a lot of discussion in the martial arts world about how to get more people in self defense training, especially women.

The thing is, to study the martial arts, or to even attend a short self-defense course that has any physical component to it whatsoever, requires a whole lot of trust.

Asking potential students to allow people they don't know well to enter their personal space (much less lay hands on them in any way) is a really huge thing to ask - no wonder we often have such a difficult time convincing people that self defense training is a good idea!

Potential students don't know us personally, they don't know that we're good people who want to help them, and honestly, there have been enough horror stories and even criminal cases of instructors or fellow students taking advantage of students that it makes sense to be wary.

Pair up with this strangely dressed, somewhat angry looking guy I've never met before and let him grab me? TAKE MY MONEY!
Image by ajaywalia

I think this is somewhat of a blind spot for we experienced folks, mainly because we've developed a sense of trust in our training situations, even if it is with strangers.  There are rules - both written and unwritten - to martial arts culture that allows us to let down our guard and train.  But it's been a long time for most of us with experience to remember how incredibly strange and scary it at first.

In other situations, a person entering our personal space we do not know well is a threat (and rightly perceived as so).  When you think about it, it's pretty weird that we ask people to pair off with perfect strangers and allow said strangers to enter their personal space without even knowing their names - but we do this all the time.

We don't - and we shouldn't - give up "intimate" space lightly.  This is self-defense 101 in just about any other situation but martial arts training.

But at the same time, there's just no way to get around the fact that even rudimentary self defense training requires people you don't know well to invade your personal space.

So how do you do it?  How do you help new students in the martial arts or in self defense training develop the trust to train?

I'd love to get your thoughts!