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What makes a self defense expert?

PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2007 2:04 am
by MikeK
This may be a carry over from "What determines your skill level?", but what makes someone an expert in something that they rarely, if ever, have actually done? Do book smarts count, seeing something first hand or hearing about it second hand? If real world experiences are what count, then what kind of encounters matter, does de-escalating count or does it have to come to blows? What about scenarios? Does avoiding what we think could have been a deadly confrontation count even though it never happened ( and may have only been our misreading of what was really happening )?

So with all the self defense experts around, and so little actual experience, what makes them an expert?

PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2007 5:34 pm
by RACastanet
Hmmm.... This is a question the perplexes me.

I have an 'expert' rating in various martial skills from noteable organizations, including the Marine Corps, NRA and maybe Uechi-ryu if a black belt confers such a meaning. My gunteacher has elevated me to the teaching ranks in his security company. I have thousands of hours of training from the above sources, with instructors who have been in combat, taken human life, been shot, seriously wounded etc.

My dilemma? I have never been in a serious fight. Never been mugged. Never been accosted. My most serious encounter was being challenged by a young Marine guard at a checkpoint on a dark foggy morning... looking into the barrel of a Beretta M4 shotgun in the hands of a shaky kid was somewhat disturbing.

A few self defense students have told me stories about encounters and thanked me for whatever it was they learned from me that kept them safe. That is rewarding.

So... can I really be an expert with no first hand experience of violence? Am I very lucky or do I really do all the right things to stay safe?

What do you think Dave?


PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2007 6:37 pm
by MikeK
Am I very lucky or do I really do all the right things to stay safe?

Rich, Maybe that could be a good indicator of someone who is an expert of self defense. 8)

The question started to really nag at me after the thread mentioned above, something Rory wrote on his blog and a comment by someone that I knew a lot about self defense, which I don't. I then looked at the people that I know that have had a lot of experiences, none of which I would want to have, and many of those who are selling their skills as SD experts in the magazines, who it's doubtful have had many experiences unless they stirred it up themselves.

An Expert?..............

PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 2:07 am
by Dave Young
Like what Rich was saying I think there is even more of a break down; THE MEANINGS ARE ENDLESS.....


Subject Matter Expert - Meaning a person has been qualifed (By ANY organization that have met THEIR standards or specifications), or as an expert in a court case - This means they have been researched, and been investigated by the courts and the Judge has appointed them and for the time being they can offer their expert opinion on the subject matter at hand, and documentation to support their qualification.

Professional Expert; A meaning of a person who is recognized nationally on a subject or topic, and who makes a living on their level of expertise, and documentation to support their qualification.

Within this catagory there are 2 seperate areas one who has been field proven and one who has not. Regarding court cases there are MANY self proclaimed Experts, but the difference between one who is field proven and one who is isn't is about $5,000.00 per day plus :D

Is there really a level called expert

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 2:54 pm
by Klossnerkid
Im certinally not trying to sound like a know it all so if this comes out like that then i am sorry.

I believe that people should not use the term expert to much. If a person uses the term then they get to too cocky. No matter who you are, no matter what your skills are, there are some situations that are just plain impossible to get out of without being hurt or cut by a knife. I look at it as what does the term master actually mean. When i see it i think about a person who knows everything, but if someone knew everything, then what would be the purpose of training anymore if you could do everything and stop everything. There would be no point to. Everyone out there wether your a student or a teachers has mistakes that they need to fix, and so we work on then but it takes years to fix some of them, and by then you have more that you need to fix. It's a never ending process. I try to look at it as not how much i know, but as how much i still dont know and how much more i can learn. I try to look at it as a long term event. Spending your whole life with others and talking about tequniques to find out what way works best and most importantly why. So basicly I really dont think there is any true expert out there. But thats just my opinion.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 4:18 pm
by RA Miller
Since I (indirectly) started this, maybe I should clarify.
The question is not about when you are an 'expert' or a 'master'. The question is about the people offering to teach the skills.

Take hostage rescue- if you define a "successful hostage rescue" as one in which the tactical team made an entry, all threats were neutralized and none of the team or hostages were injured... how many have their been?

Can anyone name an agency that has done five successful hostage rescues? Three? Two?

Yet there are hundreds of people offering classes on it for pretty hefty fees. How do you winnow out the theorists from the professionals?

I recently attended a hostage negotiation and survival class. The teacher had a very impressive resume and is considered the top expert by a national association of professional corrections people... and the teacher did not have a single personal insight or personal experience to share. He had never done what he was teaching. To the handful of us in the class who had done crisis negotiation, there were some basic things he got very, very wrong... but for everyone else, he came across as an incredible source.

Two more ways of looking at it:
1) I've had five unarmed knife encounters (never a scratch by the way). In the self-defense field, that's a lot. Would you even consider training for a karate tournament with a guy who only had five matches in his life?
2) I have over three hundred real fights with real bad guys. It may seem like a big number but (discarding two flukes) that's less than five hours of experience.

The point that Mike was trying to make is that there are more people selling knowledge than there are people who have it.



PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 5:26 pm
by Klossnerkid
The way i see it is this. Usually the people who have a substantial backround are decient martial artists. For instance i am part of an orgonization called Uechi Ryu West. The teachers within the orgonization all or at least most of them have rather small classes. yet there students turn out good. I think the schools that are more promoted and are really big are mostly into making money. Smaller schools with teachers who are not doing it for a living usually care alot more about the sucess of each indivisual student. This is not the case in every dojo, but i find that it is common among alot of them. Some people are in the buisness to make money not to really teach their students what will really work. thats why you see alot of these places holding contracts with people.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 6:04 pm
by MikeK
Well said Rory.

It's about people without real world first hand experience in a subject being called an expert. You can have the most sincere instructor who is wonderful at the technical parts of what he's teaching, but has never used it in real life. I've seen this in everything from computer science professors to karate instructors. This doesn't mean that he has no value as an instructor, but just that he's missing something in the experience department that could matter to others who will be using what he's teaching.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 6:44 pm
by Klossnerkid
I dont think it should matter as much as people try to make it though. The most important thing in a self defense situation is to stay alive, but whats the best way to do that? I think the best way to do that is if you are given the chance to run. Yes we train for these cases and yes it is helpful if an instructor has been in a situation but to be honest thats not what is the most important thing if you have to defend your self. WHat makes the teacher good at controaling the situation if he has to use force. Body michanics, where you audimaticly just do. you dont think about what you have to do you just do. It comes with years of experience. The best teacher in the world can not teach this it just comes with practice. thats what makes or breaks you in a situation. THe teacher who has been in a situation can tell you what he would do to stop something in that case but everyone is different and no two people do it the same way so i dont think it really helps that much. its all about body mechanics.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 7:08 pm
by mhosea
MikeK wrote:It's about people without real world first hand experience in a subject being called an expert.

This is ironic, considering that the word essentially comes from the word "experienced" in Latin (expertus).

Greg, I know I'll be running if I am alone (not defending anyone) and I can, but I kid thee not, I learned karate as a kid because I am slow as the day is long at running, always have been, even at my fittest when I was regularly running 6 miles at a time (but slooowly, and not too impressive in present company, anyway). Some of my fondest memories of elementary school were racing the fattest kid in class out to the PE field (we were left in the dust by everyone else). Often enough, he won. Somebody's got to anchor the left-hand tail of the normal distribution, and yours truly is among them. I probably won't make it very far unless they don't give chase.

I hear Rory, on the other hand, has a different problem. He's usually running in the "wrong" direction for self-defense purposes.

Devil's Advocate

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 11:46 pm
by Norm Abrahamson

Do you think that years of dedicated study can make up for a lack of actual "fight" experience? I'm thinking about a guy like Bill Belichick, who coaches the NE Patriots. He never played above Division 3 College ball. Yet he has proven himself as a coach at the highest level due to his knowledge of the game. He can teach people to do things he never was able to do. There are many other examples in the world of coaching, and I believe even in boxing. (Did Goody Petronelli or Angelo Dundee have successful boxing careers?) Can a "civilian" ever be an "expert" in self defense?


Norm Abrahamson

PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 12:57 am
by RA Miller
Have I told you lately that I love the way you ask questions?

The biggest difference between coaching football and teaching self-defense is in how you test it. Every game is an experiment, and they are predictable and numerous. Looked at that way, a coach no more needs to be a player to learn and improve than a scientist needs to have been a lab rat.

Violence is a little less predictable. There is less experience of it; second-hand experience is far less reliable (people practice watching sports and get pretty good at reading the field, even on a TV screen- compare that with trying to get a useable description from a witness). Games are filmed with multiple camers run by professionals, real violence is always caught accidentally and rarely has more than one angle, or good sound or proper lighting.

Violence is also less limited. There is pretty much one type of football game, but just in a hostage situation the dynamics are different by whether it is a mental health issue, a felon attempting to escape, an extremist, an act of rage or a true terrorist siege... and those are different depending on number of hostages; and number, organization and equipment of hostage takers... and none of those have much in common with rape survival or domestic violence.

So in this aspect, without practical experience (and a lot of it) the football coach either knows what he is talking about or can find out, whereas the SD instructor is guessing or turning to sources that may be no more reliable.

One more difference- by the time the NFL coach recieves a player, the player has been in the game, getting hit for years. The player knows the environment and has adjusted to it so that his adrenaline is under control. He knows what a real game looks, feels, sounds and smells like. Some of these most basic, basic things the coach doesn't have to teach- anyone worthy to be coached already knows them. Compare this with the combat experience of the average martial arts beginner. Often never been terrified, never been injured (the basic environment of an assault). I believe it compounds the situation when the person teaching them how to deal with fear and injury has also never been injured or terrified.

The big mystery, Norm, is that a coach or teacher or sensei can teach a student how to move, but does it take something else to teach them how to let themselves move when every fiber of their being wants to curl up in a ball and pray for it to end?


Re: Devil's Advocate

PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 1:04 am
by MikeK
IMO a civilian can easily become a self defense expert by getting some training and then making some bad life and career choices. :lol:

Re: Devil's Advocate

PostPosted: Fri Oct 19, 2007 1:12 am
by AAAhmed46
MikeK wrote:Norm,
IMO a civilian can easily become a self defense expert by getting some training and then making some bad life and career choices. :lol:

You mean like him?

:twisted: :twisted:

PostPosted: Mon Oct 22, 2007 2:27 am
by Taekido
The title of expert is similar to the title of master or grandmaster in terms of who is using it. If one is calling him or herself an expert in something then it is the same as calling yourself a grandmaster. It directly addresses the ego of the user. If however, other people refer to you as an expert or master without your solicitation then I'd be more apt to say it is warranted.

Can a 'civilian' or professional that has never seen the 'white elephant' firsthand be an excellent instructor, even an expert of the subject? Yes they can. One can be not only very proficient technically but also be a fine teacher that can convey the information to the student in a usable form. One can be of an advanced age, or handicapped physically and still be an 'expert' in their ability to teach the subject matter.

The distinction should be made between teaching from experience and teaching from theory and the teacher should be honest with the student. There is no shame in not having been in a life/death altercation. To many self-proclaimed experts claim to have taught the Navy SEALS or some other SF group. Most of course, have not.

Many instructors have seen the white elephant as a result of their profession. Some in the military, some LEO, most Corrections and bouncers and some body guards have some or much experience with hands on. But can they teach?

A teacher than can 'expertly' teach valid and useful information that has never been in a fight is of more value than someone that has 'been there/done that' but can't teach their way out of a paper bag.

The examples that Mike gives in his first post as far as de-esculation, scenerio based training etc when taught properly would go a long way towards having people view you as an expert.