Reality: Most Martial Arts Instructors Are Not Qualified To Teach Self Defense

Reality: Most Martial Arts Instructors Are Not Qualified To Teach Self Defense

Tom Callos is a martial arts business and school management teacher, coach, and consultant. He helps martial arts teachers and other professionals.

He is also the step father of Keenan Cornelius, and he is also BJ Penn’s first ever BJJ instructor. At the age of 17, BJ Penn began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after being introduced to it by his neighbor, Tom Callos who had put up fliers in local gyms looking for people to train with, and B.J.’s father Jay Dee Penn had called Callos and said his boys were interested. Callos then taught B.J. and his brother what he knew.

Callos recently wrote on his Facebook page about self defense reality on martial arts:

Like many of you, I grew up in a martial arts school environment where you didn’t really question the instructor. Well, that and I was not yet a teen, so while listening to my parents was required but not necessarily cool, listening and trusting the instructor was –and that’s what my classmates and I did. We listened to the teacher (who at the time was just barely 30 years old) tell us what self-defense was —and we bought into it hook, line, and sinker.

We did 1 steps, 2 steps, 3 and 4 steps with all the required enthusiasm. We were taught XX number of “self-defense” techniques, which we memorized on the left and right, forwards and backwards. We were coached on the idea of “one punch and one kick kill,” we recited the Taekwondo Oath, which told us to “never make an unjust kill,” and we hypothesized what we would do against a choking attack, multiple attackers, judoka and wrestlers, against a knife (we were taught at least 4 knife defense techniques I can still remember), against a gun, and of course, as it was in our “book,” against a bayonetted rifle.

Of course, at the time and for years to come, I didn’t know that the teacher didn’t really know what self-defense was, what it looked like, how to teach it, and what might actually happen in a truly vicious attack. Well, maybe he did, we sure thought he did, but he certainly didn’t prepare us for such a thing.

Not until I was much older and a teacher myself, passing on the same things I learned and had accepted for gospel, did I start to meet people and have experiences that altered my understanding of what self-defense was –and wasn’t. I found out, as much as I didn’t want to believe it, that while I could block, punch, and kick like a demon, I didn’t really know much, if anything, about real self-defense. I’d been sold a bag of goods –by someone who I don’t think intentionally lied to me, but simply didn’t know any better.

That’s what I see in a lot of instructors today: People who are truly unqualified to teach self-defense are passing on techniques and ideas rooted in near or absolute fantasy. These teachers truly believe they’re “teaching” practical self-defense, but sadly they are not. They’re passing on what they learned from their teachers, who learned the same thing from theirs. A whole lot of that and the methods used to prepare people for self-defense situations is incomplete, impractical, disconnected from reality, and often just completely bogus. The instructors mean well. Many of them are simply doing what they were told to do –and they were taught not to question, but to listen and do as they were told.

Listen, my friends. There ARE legit people you can go to to learn hand-to-hand self-defense; people who can take your old and outdated fantasy self-defense curriculum and give you easy to practice pragmatic tools, tools that connect the dots between what you learned, what you presently know, and what could make you a real teacher of self-defense –the kind of self-defense that stands a chance of actually working.

You don’t have to “come out” about what you know, are teaching, and how you feel about it —but if you feel, in your gut, that you’re missing some of the puzzle, reach out to me privately and I will steer you to the best of the best people I know; people you can study with, people who can help you immensely (and allow you to better serve others).

Question what you were taught. Put it to the test. Seek new knowledge. Let’s move the idea of “what is self-defense” right into the 21st Century.

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