This will not be a politically-driven blog promoting firearm ownership. What I hope to accomplish with this article is to stress the importance of proper self defense training with a qualified instructor.
But let me ask you this. If a heavily armed assailant walked into your building with intent to do great harm, are you prepared to survive the situation and protect those around you, or was that not covered in your 4-hour self defense certification course?
Self defense literally means to defend oneself, and proper training covers a wide array of situations that not only include a physical unarmed attacker. It is not enough to practice wrist-grab escapes and choreographed "one-step sparring" combinations. Proper self defense training encompasses not just preparing for an unarmed attacker but any scenario where your life could be in danger: fire, flood, active shooter, hostage situations, etc. It involves training under duress, regularly submitting yourself to ever more realistic attacks against not only unarmed attackers but all types of weapons as well. The attack must be believable, it must force you react or there's the chance you will be harmed in some way.
It doesn't matter what system you teach. It doesn't matter if you classify yourself as a tournament school or a traditional school. If you use the term "martial arts" to describe what you do in any way, there is an inherent trust and expectation from all of your students that when they walk into your school, they will learn how to defend themselves. They are trusting their lives and the lives of their family to you. We are descended from a long line of distinguished warriors who gave their lives to preserve what we now pass on, and ensure that it was of the highest quality. We owe it to their legacy to pass on the highest quality of martial arts that we can.
You can still teach sport martial arts. You can still focus on traditional kata. I'm not saying that every martial arts school needs to function as I do to be legit, but self defense must be a significant portion of your curriculum or you are giving your students a false sense of confidence, and God forbid they find themselves in a life-or-death situation and you have not properly prepared them, then every drop of blood spilled is on your hands. I'm sorry if that comes across as harsh or abrasive, but it's the truth. If you outright tell your students that you don't do self defense when they first enroll, they'll give you a puzzled look. Regardless of what the focus of your school is, everyone expects to at least learn a little bit of self defense when they walk into your school.
And a quick note on firearms. Just as we are descended from the warrior class, all warriors throughout history made it a point to become proficient in the most effective tools of their day to defend themselves and now is no different. Part of self defense training is also going to the range and becoming proficient in firearms, which are the most effective tools of today to defend ourselves. Whether or not you like guns, how can you expect to defend yourself against one if you know nothing about them? "Martial" means to be used in combat, so if you are not providing a complete self defense experience as I have listed above, then you have not earned the right to call yourself a martial arts school. You have not earned the title of martial artist, you are simply a glorified athlete in a cool uniform.