Let's break it down:
- Statistics show that 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims knew their attacker (source)
- 85-90% of sexual assaults reported by college women are committed by someone known to the victim, half of which occur on a date (source)
- Violent attacks committed by strangers only accounted for about 38% of all nonfatal violence, including assault, robbery, rape and sexual assault, in 2010 (source)
- From 1993 to 2008, among homicides reported to the FBI for which the victim-offender relationship was known, between 21-27% of homicides were committed by strangers and between 73-79% were committed by offenders known to the victims (source)
- Children taken by strangers or slight acquaintances represent only 0.01% of all missing children (source)
Do violent attacks happen by strangers? Yes, however as you can see, they only account for a relatively small number of violent crimes. Unfortunately, that brings up a rather uncomfortable discussion. How do you tell children that the ones they love and trust are most likely to hurt them? Yeah, it sucks, but these are the conversations we need to be having with our children. We need to teach them to be vigilant and speak up if they feel uncomfortable, and not dismiss those feelings when we're told. But are we in the martial arts community at fault too?
Case in point, following the Parkland shooting I was asked by the Taekwondo school I rent from to come in and do an Active Shooter workshop for their students. That night, two of them quit and their parents specifically told the instructor it's because the class was "too real" and "not something they want their children to have to think about."
As unpopular as this opinion may be, as martial arts instructors we have a duty to our students to make it real and if that means some of them quit, then so be it. While I believe that all instructors should be compensated for their time and effort, and there is nothing wrong with making a living teaching martial arts, this idea that we are so afraid to lose students and thus water down our training into a padded box safe for soccer moms has completely destroyed the martial arts. I can't even begin to count the number of emails I get on a regular basis from prospective students who "don't want martial arts classes, just self defense." In reality, the two are one in the same! Everything in martial arts training should be applicable and viable for self defense, and the instructor must be qualified enough to make that correlation. Training should be rigorous enough to simulate real violence so that the students learn to survive and overcome it.
Yes, it's hard. Yes, injuries happen. Yes, people will quit. But how are you going to feel when one of your students gets jumped in school? What about if they get beaten and raped? Whether you want to admit it or not, that is on your hands! I know because I've been there, and that's exactly what set me on this crusade of making sure to provide the most realistic training I can. What do I mean by realistic training? Training that addresses and simulates the psychological aspects of being attacked. Under duress, your adrenaline rises. Your heart begins to race. You lose control of your fine motor skills. You get tunnel vision. You get an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach. You are afraid. If your training does not replicate these biological and psychological responses, it's false. It's contrived, and it will fail... And that's not even getting into the necessity of training with fully resistant partners.
As prospective students, this is the type of training you should look for when selecting a martial arts program. As an instructor, if your training does not include this, you should remove the word "martial arts" from your vocabulary because all you're running is a fitness class. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but as a community we need to stop lying to people. For centuries, people trained in martial arts to protect themselves and their families in times of war. I have to believe they took it pretty seriously and made it as real as possible. Maybe we should too.