According to Statistics Canada’s Violence Against Women Survey, conducted in 1993, half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age
of 16,” (https://www.canadianwomen.org/the-facts/gender-based-violence/). We can only speculate how much that number has grown in the last 25 years. Today, more than ever before, women need to know how to protect themselves. However, women are not the only ones who could benefit from some self-defense knowledge. Men, women and children, can all benefit from understanding how to navigate dangerous situations and if possible, how avoid a violent altercation altogether. We spoke with self-defense instructor, Chris James, to learn more.
Who should be learning self-defense today?
Absolutely everyone. Everyone should take a self-defense class. If more people took a defensive martial art, they would be more prepared to defend themselves and they would be less inclined to get aggressive when confronted, too. They’d know how to handle themselves and how to de-escalate a situation.
Do you teach a specific style or type of self-defense?
The techniques I share with students are pulled from various disciplines. I’ve studied and practiced multiple martial arts. However, the main discipline I pull from is Commando Krav Maga. There are differences, though, between martial arts and self-defense training. A martial art focuses mainly on the discipline at hand.
Whether you’re doing Karate, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, etc., often, the lessons will focus on becoming proficient at the martial art. A self-defense class will focus on the demographic, research current trends in violence, and focus on the specific kind of attacks that demographic is likely to face to prepare them for those dangers. In this way, self-defense is tailored to the needs of the individual and their community.
What are three misconceptions people have about self-defense programs?
I can’t participate unless I’m physically fit.
People assume they must be athletic or perfectly in shape to attend – this is not true! We’ve had different kinds of people take this class, including elderly people and pregnant women. Attendees can go at their own pace. We encourage people to take breaks whenever they want. Also, you can just observe some of the routines if you feel more comfortable watching than participating.
I should only take martial arts if I live in a dangerous neighborhood.
Everyone is likely to experience violence or harassment at some point in their life. Learning self-defense gives you the confidence to deal with it. Even if you don’t have to fight back, the confidence that comes from knowing you can is invaluable.
I took a self-defense class a while ago. I should be fine.
I honestly wish people treated self-defense like CPR. You should refresh your knowledge, discover what the current trends are for violence and pick up some new techniques. Try checking-in once every six months or at least, once a year, to brush up.
Without getting physical, are there any self-defense techniques you can recommend for avoiding an assault or de-escalating a dangerous situation?
Discourage random acts of violence by paying attention to your surroundings. People tend to bury themselves in their phones today. Remember, the more isolated you are walking down the street, the more of a target you are.
Body language matters.
Body language is very important when preventing an assault. Walk assertively with your head up and a good pace. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with others.
Always remember to be vocal. Don’t be afraid to get loud right away when someone is invading your space. Random attackers aren’t looking to do draw attention.
Should a confrontation get violent, what are some strategies for defending yourself?
When in doubt, go for the attacker’s vulnerable spots – poking and gouging at the eyes, grabbing and twisting at the crotch. Use your hands when going for the genital area of your aggressor instead of knees and feet. This strategy will keep you from losing balance and give you a better chance of getting away.
Why did you become a self-defense instructor?
I had been doing martial arts for a very long time, and I was looking for a way to interact with my community. I started an initiative to teach self-defense in women shelters, because I thought it would be a great way to contribute to the goal of ending violence against women.
After doing that for a while, I decided I wanted to be a little bit more proactive. I started a women’s only free self-defense seminar that anyone could come to once a month.
Want to meet Chris James or learn more about self-defense? Hers Kickboxing in Markham and Richmond Hill will be offering a self-defense class with Chris James on Sep 23 (@markhm studio from 1pm – 5pm and Oct 14, 2018 @richmondhill studio from 1pm to 5pm.
Chris James holds several certifications in Commando Krav Maga. He is also an accredited Advanced Actor Combatant from Fight Directors Canada. A trained scuba diver, ESL instructor, Dance and Theatre teacher, Chris is a passionate teacher. He loves to learn new languages and is an avid karaoke fan.