Teaching Self-Defense at WWU

Back in early 2003 I had a few minutes of free time and went by the Physical Education Health and Recreation (PEHR) Department at Western Washington University (WWU) to check out what they offered in terms of Martial Arts classes.  This interested me greatly due to my personal history with the Martial Arts.  You see, although I had been associated with the Martial Arts from an early age (7 years old) with some of the basics that my father shared from the perspective of a Marine Corp Veteran and spent many years training in traditional and non traditional arts my first start to finish teaching occurred when I was in University myself.  I was charged with teaching a PE Sports Karate Class and taking individuals from complete novice to a basic proficiency during the term.  Of course with the perspective of my family the Self-Defense was a greater emphasis than the sport aspects and this empowered many of the students, good people who had not been in fights, with a greater understanding of how to manage conflict.

Post university with degree in hand I found myself drawn into the law enforcement community where the physical skill I had developed were a valuable asset for myself as a Deputy, Detective and later as a U.S. Secret Service Special Agent.  I also enjoyed numerous opportunities as a Defensive Tactics Instructor to share those skill with others in the law enforcement community and that tradition continues today.

Now back to the University.  When I stopped into WWU to check out what they had I learned that they had introductory classes for Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Judo, etc.   However the program director advised me that they wanted a class that addressed the topic of Self-Defense directly.  Having conducted many Citizen Self-Defense Academies in the past I offered to outline a program to cover the basics, but I would not be able to teach the program due to my commitment at that time with Uncle Sam and the Secret Service.  There was just know way to insure that I would be in the area the next day or even that night.  Little lone the next week.  However, the outline of the basics I could commit to do and I did.

Of course those basic involve many things from environmental awareness, victimology and how to avoid looking like the prey for the predators out there to verbal control and descalation of an incident with posture and demeanor to the “Fight or Flight” syndrome and gross motors skills to natural weapons and multiple attackers and what to do immediately before during and after an incident has occurred.  Throw in some classic situational training along with many other cool things to numerous to mention in this blog and you have the recipe for a  great class geared for that group of people who may not have all the street smarts and want to be law abiding citizens, but not be taken advantage of by those who choose to follow a lessor path.

Well a few years passed and I had the opportunity to make a change from the Secret Service to a Dot.Com company which provided me a somewhat more stable schedule.  I learned that WWU had approved the class that I drafted, but they had not found any qualified instructors in our community to teach it.  I spoke to my then current employer and he graciously provided the flexibility for me to begin teaching that class at WWU.  Now nearly three and a half years have passed with approximately 300 plus WWU students having completed the course.  I have to say, it is a wonderful time to see these student have the light go off in there heads and comprehend that they have more ability than they recognize.

We always end the class with a practical training scenario with a suited attacker working through various scenarios which allows the students to apply their newly found or newly awakened skills in as close to a real life situation as possible.  They fight through that situation and show that they can survive and don’t need to play the role of the victim, but can be the predator when absolutely necessary.  Of course they are taught to avoid those potentially volatile situation beforehand.  However, when you can’t a little preparation can help advert  a disastrous experience.

Now the class is among the most popularly requested in the PEHR Department.  They also have a class that I recommend to my students in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu (taught by the only genuine certified Gracie -Barra Black Belt in our area who also happens to be a retired Law Enforcement Professional and personal friend).  There are a lot of people out there who profess to do a Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, but lack the true credentials to back it up from a credible source or hide behind the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) title as an excuse for an anything I want to throw out there attitude.  The trouble is that they can teach techniques that might work in the ring or might not, but there is no room for compromise when it comes to your personal security and the safety of your loved ones.

The best thing about teaching the WWU students is getting the feed back from them of how they feel safer, more empowered, aware, and occasionally how they negotiated their way out of a situation with the verbal skill learned.  I encourage the students to continue learning and growing in their skill and abilities.  Even if they can only find the local Tae Kwon Do school that is better than nothing for they can get a good work out learn some things, but apply the Self-Defense principles that they have learned in my class as a litmus test of what works and what doesn’t when the going gets tough.  Rarely do I hear about them having to apply their physical skill on an aggressor.  The nice thing is that when I do hear back from them that they applied the techniques the training paid off, and that is success.

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