Snake Oil Salesmen in Self Defense

I sweat too much to stand by quietly.  My training partners, my family, they work too hard to have hucksters take it away and cheapen it.  It upsets me, and I’m not exactly known for my subtlety.

Let me be clear.  It is morally reprehensible to me to be taking money from hard working honest people and give them flashy promises and catch phrases in exchange that will fall flat the day they need it to save their lives.

I’ve heard all the excuses.  From they are just teaching what they were taught to the ever popular appeal to the odds of someone actually needing this skills we teach.  Such nonsense!  If you don’t think anyone will ever use their skills why are you teaching?  This is akin to selling someone a car with no brakes and sleeping soundly on the bed paid for with their labor saying “its not like they will ever need to actually drive it!”.   In today’s market there is no excuse for not seeking out relevant, effective training that performs under pressure if you position yourself as an instructor.

Who do you entrust the lives of your loved ones to?

My wife, my sister, out in the city at night fumbling with their keychain when a stranger approaches.  I know whose hands I’ve placed their lives in.  I know who I trust with the most valuable pieces of my life, and I know they take that responsibility seriously.  I know that they do the work, they have put in the sweat equity.  I am secure knowing they are well prepared for real violence in the real world.

I have wasted plenty of training time.  I’ve bought my share of snake oil.  Let me share with you some warning signs.

Lack of competitive pressure.

Whether that be the man on man shoot off in a shooting class, or student vs student force on force if you never needed to perform the technique you’ve just been taught under the safety of supervised pressure what do you think the chances are it will work when the balloon goes up?

“Competition is always the way to keep honesty in fighting arts. Lack of competition brings out the charlatans that can play on egos and lack of knowledge. That is why UFC disrupted fighting arts. The arts had allowed themselves to be corrupted, at least many did, when there was no true competitive arena in which to test efficacy. Corruption and entertainment focus undermine competition.”
~Warren Stout

Type of pressure.

I stay highly skeptical of methods in which only designated role players or the instructor themselves act out the role of adversary.  If they are charlatans then it behooves them to feed the student reactions they expect and mimic their techniques expected results.  There is a place for this type of work, but devoid of any real unpredictable competitive pressure within a peer group the student has no access to true winning and losing.

Lack of ambiguity.

Reality is foggy.  Not everyone reaching in their pocket when they ask for a light is going for a gun, and there is a mental safety net with the above mentioned type of pressure.  The student on student evolution is key.  It lends to unpredictability and apprehension thus evoking the sort of emotional response we need to learn to manage for real life encounters.

Constant accolades.

Ever spend a full day training edged weapons in close quarters, not break a sweat or get a bruise and be told over and over what a badass warrior you are?  Run.  There is TRUTH in real training, no one needs to tell you what you have achieved when you finally perform against real resistance.  An honest win leaves no doubt, and the recognition of real success is confirmation of that truth.

Discouraging competition and outside influences.

Typically encountered as “That will get you killed in da streetz.” Disdain of such endeavors as competition shooting or combat sports.  The myriad ways this manifests itself to seclude a student from outside influences and near life encounters with the truth of performance are too many to count.  Good coaching should encourage finding what works in an open source training methodology based on performance under pressure as the only coin in the realm.

One of my training partners was over the other night.  We were working our clinch work, taking a water break, and he made mention to me a friend who was training with an outfit that was selling this guy on all kinds of fanciful notions and parlor trick type tactical combatives training.  It got me a little riled up, and I suggested perhaps those guys should come out to one of the training sessions I put on and try this stuff against our guys.  “Oh, They’ll never do that!”  Well, that should tell you all you need to know.

“1. Do not think dishonestly. 2. The Way is in training. 3. Become acquainted with every art. 4. Know the Ways of all professions. 5. Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters. 6. Develop intuitive judgement and understanding for everything. 7. Perceive those things which cannot be seen. 8. Pay attention even to trifles. 9. Do nothing which is of no use.”

― Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

Shawn Lupka

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