How Can You Tell if Your Self Defense Training Is Useless

How Can You Tell if Your Self Defense Training Is Useless

Guest post by Andrew Holland to BJJEE. Check out Andrew’s great website theselfdefenceexpert.com

You go to a self-defence school or club and for years, you train as your are told. So when you see someone else on Facebook or YouTube showing self-defence techniques in a way that is not like you are taught they are automatically wrong!!!

I see this time and time again.

The bottom line is this……

The vast majority of instructors that teach self-defence are teaching you techniques that will get your ass kicked!!

And you might be reading this right now and thinking “Who is he, what does he know?” Well, I have had 17 years in law enforcement and even longer in boxing, Judo and other martial arts.

And yes I truly know what works and doesn’t so I might have an opinion worth considering for a minute.


How To Find The Self Defence Scam Artists

But how do you actually know if your self-defence training is any good? I mean unless you have to use your skills in a real life situation how can you really know?

Well here is our guide to spotting the scammers from the real instructors.


1.You Only Learn Open Hand Slaps or Palm Heel Strikes

This is a real issue that I have! Many times I hear people say “I do not teach people to punch with a closed fist because the hands break too easily”, or they say ” a slap is far more efficient than a punch.”

Ok, so let us address this bullshit straight away.

Slaps work, I have taught them, and they are great….. to a point.

The human fist is in essence, a projectile weapon. It is very solid, and if you have the ability to send that weapon out with speed and power, you have at your disposal an instant method of self-protection.

A slap on the other hand is an impact tool. It has a large contact area and again can be used with great power, generally from a circular ‘hooking arc’.My personal rule is this:

The Slap Should Only Be Used As A Pre-Emptive Strike

Why would I say such a thing?

Simple, because if you are taking punches to the face, your slaps will not win!

Don’t believe me, take off your big ass padded suits and head gear and one of you be the puncher with MMA gloves and the other use your slaps and see who wins.


The only goal of the slap is the KO which is great when you aren’t getting smashed by two boulder-sized fists. In essence, this is an ‘Impact v Damage’ debate. But ask yourself this, if slapping was so great why don’t you see UFC stars using it?

You don’t because it doesn’t do the damage required.

Now remember I would never exclude slapping from training and a good slap works wonders and can even work in the midst of a self-defence situation. But you still need to be able to punch and if your instructor can’t or simply says punching doesn’t work then they haven’t been in enough fights.

But….. “What about the hands breaking?”

Yes, the hands can break when you throw punches. However, that is better than having your nose, jaw and teeth broken!

You can play pattycake all you like in the gym but when the s##t hits the fan in real life, you will need to be able to throw serious punches or hammer fists that are fast, accurate and have power.


I had this once as well.

An ex-military guy who stands about six ft 3 of chiseled muscle criticised a video I did show how to jab. I think he said “You can’t jab in the street, it just won’t work.”

That in itself is stupid (A jab can be used as a bridging technique, a feint to get in close and should always be used before you throw others strikes anyway, but that is another subject for another day)

However I checked his stuff, he teaches palm heel strikes????

I do not know where people get these ideas from; perhaps it is just a desire to be different. To have something really different to teach that makes them stand out, who knows.

So let me say this……….

I cannot think if a single striking situation where a palm heel will work better than a punch? Not to mention that there is a risk of breaking your wrist. What would you rather have? A broken knuckle or broken wrist?

Well, I can still grab with a broken knuckle but with a broken wrist, you are not going o be able to do anything with that hand because your wrist will be flopping all over the place.

The bottom line is this: You need to start building some hurting strikes

Be it hammer strikes, elbows or punches, you need to be able to hit so hard that it rattles the attacker ancestors (I admit I stole this off the great Duke speech from Rocky Balboa).

I hear it all the time…. It takes too long to learn to strike.

Yes, it does, and that is why self-defence training is really hard. This is not personal safety; self-defence is all about when the crap hits the fan. In essence, it is a game of rock, paper scissors and stone. Don’t get caught out using paper against a rock!


2. You Walk Out of Class As Fresh As You Walked In

I have seen classes where the group walk out, and they look as if they have been to a cheese tasting convention and not a self-defence class.

The very act of self-defence requires effort, and you should make sure you leave class feeling tired.

Now I know some self-defence instructors are reading this and thinking “self-defence is about awareness, not fitness”. I understand why you would think this, so here is my view:

My old boxing coach used to make us go running for a few miles each session. I asked him why and this is the answer he gave

“Look, Andrew, I know you do your running at home, but some of these lads only train when they are here. So I send them running so I can be sure they are fit enough to fight.’

As an instructor, it is your job to be as happy as possible that your students can do what you teach them. So if you tell them to land a few strikes then run you need to make sure they can run. If you tell them to scream their lungs out while being dragged to the floor and attacked, you need to make sure they can do this. If you want them to throw as many strikes as they can in one minute, you need to make sure they can….

You get my point.

Your training should be as a real as possible!


3. You Spend More Than 50% of the Class Talking

Sometimes your instructor loves themselves. They love talking about how good they are, how many fights they have had and how tough they are. Others like to discuss science, tactics, evolution and politics.

Here is a fact. No one learned to defend themselves by standing around listening! The students need to be actually training. So here is my suggestion for class structure.

Warm up: 1 x 2 minutes footwork

1x 2 minutes body mechanics

1 x 2 minutes shadow fighting

Stretch 5 minutes

Technical Work 2o minutes

Resisted Training: i.e., grappling, striking games, free practice with a resistant partner or anything that is ‘live’.

Finish with a super circuit. Such as 30 burpees. 30 press ups, 30 squats x 3

Cool down an awareness talk at the same time.

This should take you about an hour and has zero breaks where the coach is jabbering on about startle flinch this and that. Science is great, but a lot of it is common sense, your students want results and not loads of excessive knowledge. If you want to be all geeky, share the articles on Facebook or by email later on.


4. Your Instructor Always Slates Sport and Traditional Martial Arts

This is another issue I hate! Just because a person does not want to learn self-defence in a traditional sense, it odes not mean they can’t kick your ass. This should be respected.

Yesterday I shared a great post from Joe Rogan that explains it all:


I am well aware that these activities do not cover knife defence, the law, awareness, etc. However, people seem to forget (or conveniently ignore) that the people doing these activities are hmm actually people.

In know of lots of cops that do MMA, boxing and Judo, erm hold on does that mean that they do not know anything about self-defence?

Of course, not these guys and girls would embarrass the average self-defence instructor with their skill and knowledge levels.


5. Your Instructor Has Never Seen an Angry Man, Nor Did His Instructor, and So on and So on…..

To teach a person to ride a bike you need to have ridden a bike.

To teach a person to drive you need to be able to drive yourself.

To teach a person brain surgery, you need to have actually done some brain surgery.

To teach a person self-defence you……….. need a certificate!

I know shock horror, hold the front page. Most people peddling self-defence lessons have never used their skills… ever!

Now here is the thing. I do not nor ever have believed you need to have had a fight or two to be a great self-defence instructor. But…

You better make sure your shit works when required or the person you learned it off has tested it all out for real.

Why It Is Essential To Ensure, You Have A Good Self Defence Instructor

Like it or not your self-defence instructor is training you to fight, and that fight will be for your life!

You love your family, your kids, your dog, your job, your holidays and so on.

The guy or group of people attacking you is trying to hurt you, they don’t care about your 3-year-old daughter. They don’t care about your little dog at home, or that your wife is expecting your third child.

But what is worse, your bad self-defence instructor doesn’t care either.

They just want their pockets lined. They want to have your money, and they will teach you anything that their mind comes up with.

So what is the solution?

You will never be able to defend yourself if you cannot hit with force, grapple and be able to stop an attacker in their tracks. Your primary focus should be on these aspects! If it does not then leave!


6.Your Instructor Teaches Everything Around Eye Gouges

I love this one.

What would you do if you got grabbed here:

“I would gouge his eyes.”

What if you got taken down?… “I would eye gouge them.”

and so on and so on.

Next question…. “Have you ever gouged a person’s eyes?” erm…..

So let us address this issue. It is a fact that if you stick your fingers in someone’s eyes, it not only hurts a lot, but it can easily cause blindness or severe trauma. That is common sense.

So as a technique it falls really high up the use of force spectrum doesn’t it. And yes it is not only a fight ending technique but also a life changing one too.

Yes, you could argue that a punch could be a life ending technique. However there is this little thing that no one talks about called ‘intent’.

If you gouge someone’s eyes, you are intending to cause damage to their eyes. That is as simple as it goes. Can you justify this? One guy throws a punch at you, so you blind him in both eyes??? It is a fascinating debate. (in rape or potential murder or kidnapping scenarios, yes clearly it is far easier to be justified)

So if you manage to pull off this eye gouge, you have the whole legal battle to follow.

That is, of course, a big IF!!


I am not saying that eye gouging doesn’t work. But you simply cannot base your whole training around them.

So if your instructor does this “I would then gouge the eyes and the fight would be over” lesson plan and still after weeks of training you can’t throw a straight right or a decent Hammerfist perhaps it is time to move on.

This type of instructor can be easily found out. Just ask them if they have ever gouged a man’s eyes and what happened? If they say no, well then perhaps it just didn’t work for them, or perhaps they have never had a fight.


7. They Teach Personal Safety and Not Self Defence

Until recently I have always viewed self-defence and personal safety as one entity. That was until so many scam artists came out trying to make a fast buck! So now I think they need separating.

Personal safety is what I class as soft skills. The awareness, the breakaways, the talks about verbal skills, etc, etc.

Self-defence is the physical training. You need to be focusing on the physical skills that they will require to protect themselves, and no this is not fighting.

The Difference Between Fighting and Self Defence

If you still need to clear this up here are some examples:

-Headbutting a man walking towards you (or practising that) is fighting.
-Biting ears or noses (that is stupid and is fighting)
-Learning to kick a man on the ground (to finish him off), yes this is fighting.
-Self Defence is about teaching physical tools and techniques you can use in defence. It might be punching, kicking, -knife defence (not offence), grappling, body mechanics, takedowns, Hammerfists, limb destructions and more.

It is all about intent!

You are learning them with the intention of only using them for self-defence. And let me be clear, the term self-defence is actually a legal term for the lawful justification of using force, and there are an awful lot of situations where you might need to use force!

It is a bit difficult to claim you teach self-defence when you talk all day on Facebook about smashing people up.

I do not have an issue with people teaching personal safety, but I have an issue when people who only know personal safety start to try and teach self-defence. What happens then is you get made up stuff that just doesn’t work.


So there ya have it 7 signs that your self-defence training is useless.

Once again I fully expect those people out there to jump up, throw their hands in the air and say I am a fraud, or I do not know what I am talking about, or I have no real experience blah blah blah.

But the truth often hurts. I think that is why so many people get offended, because deep down they know they can’t punch their way out of a paper bag and have spent five k on self-defence lessons.

The sad fact is that there are really, really nasty people out there who do not give a crap about your self-defence training. They hit hard, attack you in large groups and would slice and dice you like a kebab and afterwards they are thinking about how they will get the blood out of their jeans and not your safety.

Most people get this and go to self-defence lessons because of this fact. But instructors that have zero clue sell you goods that will not work, and when you think about it, self-defence isn’t complicated.

Just ask yourself these questions:

-Can you strike with a decent amount of force?
-Can you grapple a little?
-Do you have some common sense knowledge to avoid trouble?
-Are you training each week to get a bit better at the above areas
-If the answer is yes to all the above, you are on the right track. If not, it is time to reassess.

Until next time folks.

Jiu-Jitsu Based Self Defense Solutions by Eli Knight. Learn how to use BJJ for its most powerful use, protecting yourself from an attacker on the street.

BJJ Black Belt Eli Knight shows how to use BJJ for self defense in 8 volumes of dedicated real world situations.

Eli Knight’s excellent new release: