The real life dangers of learning self-defence from viral videos – martial arts experts

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David H K Brown, Cardiff Metropolitan University and George Jennings, Cardiff Metropolitan University

Every day, women live with the risk of being physically attacked. It’s not one of those dangers that is regularly blown out of proportion – such as being in an aeroplane crash or getting bitten by a shark. Attacks on women are common. The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights surveyed 42,000 women and concluded that 31% of women have experienced one or more acts of physical violence since the age of 15.

But there is also a long tradition of women learning how to fight back against assault. In Edwardian Britain, suffragettes trained in the Japanese martial art, jiu-jitsu, to defend themselves during rallies and protests. And during WWII, the growing number of physical attacks against women performing new roles led to the first of many self-defence manuals: Hands Off!: Self-Defence for Women.

Self-defence has recently moved to social media. Videos from sites such as Buzzfeed have gone viral. One video: 11 Self Defense Tips That Will Make You Feel Safer Walking Alone – has had more than 19m hits on Facebook alone. But while such displays often come with laudable intentions and good advice, they could actually put women in danger.

Let’s take the Buzzfeed video, as an example. The instructor and “assailant” is Nelson Nio, founder of martial arts-derived street self-defence system for women – SHIELD. The video offers some sound tips – it encourages women to be aware of their surroundings, use their voice or scream as a weapon and run in a zig-zag manner whenever possible.

The emergency self-defence techniques are correctly executed. The “victim” – an athletic young woman – overcomes bear hugs, hair and arm grabs and chokes from behind. She is most likely a SHIELD practitioner who makes the moves look simple, effective and readily applied regardless of size and strength.

But videos like this can imply that it’s possible to learn self-defence online, or that attacks will actually play out as the video depicts. Viewers may also feel more confident after watching such videos and shift their response to attack from “flight” to “fight”. The Buzzfeed piece concludes that if you must defend yourself, “let your adrenaline take over and become the aggressor”.

The physicality of fighting

But unless the viewer is prepared to invest plenty of time and training this is probably not the best advice. Simple techniques are difficult to apply under real-life pressure, where there are limited chances to slip, strike or run. And attackers often behave in unpredictable ways.

Even in self-defence classes, demonstrations tend to be given with compliant partners – as is clearly the case in the Buzzfeed video. You can see that the assailant pauses briefly following the attacks and uses singular rather than multiple attacking movements. He pauses and feigns pain when being “struck”, fails to free himself from the restraint techniques and remains silent throughout.

But real assaults are not perfectly choreographed – and attackers won’t be following the script. There is evidence to suggest that determined people can often absorb powerful strikes, even to sensitive areas, and may continue attacks regardless of injury or pain – especially if they have consumed drugs, alcohol or are experienced fighters themselves. Even strikes to the face or groin might not halt an attack, unless they inflict considerable pain and damage.

Don’t get close.
Shutterstock.

Striking ineffectually carries a big risk, because it leaves you within range of the attacker – and because striking an aggressor turns the confrontation into a fight. Attacks are usually fast and committed, and attackers do not normally freeze when executing a move. A grab from behind can transition to a takedown, while a hair grasp might be accompanied with strikes, kicks or shoves.

When people are put into locks, they generally resist, struggle, shift their weight to gain leverage, kick out or use a free hand. In a bear hug, when kicked in the groin, attackers will just as likely tighten their grip and drop to the floor with the victim underneath. A heavier attacker will be better able to resist locks and absorb strikes, too. Mass matters – this is why combat sports have weight categories.

Making techniques work

Bruce Lee said, “boards don’t hit back”. Training objects, such as compliant training partners and demonstration videos, lack the kinaesthetic feedback (the awareness if the movement of parts of the body by the sensory organs) required to develop skills to cope with real-world situations. Those looking to defend themselves must be able to adapt techniques depending on the circumstances of the attack. They should also be able to transition between techniques and automatically perform powerful and accurate counterattacks.

All this takes lots of time, practice and variation with partners of different sizes, reaches, strengths, personalities and motivations. Progressive scenarios should be used to simulate reality. Combat systems use such methods to prepare people for potential scenarios through months or even years of regular, intense and interactive physical training, with knowledgeable and competent others, some of whom should possess experiences of violence.

Training involves conditioning the body and multiple senses including sound smell, taste, and touch. This progressive practice eventually modifies one’s mind and body, developing contextually specific intelligence and creativity.

There’s scientific evidence to show that sustained training has the power to improve combat reaction times, attention and alertness and cognitive function in older adults.

The ConversationEven then, the ultimate aim of self-defence is to minimise violence and avoid confrontation. Spending so much of one’s life perfecting this goal is indeed the paradox of the martial arts – to love fighting but hate violence.

David H K Brown, Reader in the Sociology of Sport and ​Physical Culture, Cardiff Metropolitan University and George Jennings, Lecturer in Sport Sociology/Physical Culture, Cardiff Metropolitan University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

25 Years of Perth Aikido Martial ArtsSince 1993 West Coast Aikido Martial Arts Academy has trained thousands of people in Perth’s Northern Suburbs our Self Defence Martial Art. Regardless of your gender, age, fitness level or physical limitations, we can help you learn our amazing martial art and teach you great way to live.  Yoseikan Aikido Self-Defence is easy to learn and will enable you to defend yourself or your loved ones, overcome fear, gain confidence and get fighting fit. You will reduce stress, improve your fitness, become more self-disciplined, have greater focus, awareness, elevated self-esteem and get more out of life! Many learn Aikido as a form of nonviolent self-defence, but many also train in Aikido for the mental and spiritual benefits that it provides. At West Coast Aikido Martial Arts, we are dedicated to helping you acquire practical self-defence skills whilst reducing stress, and getting into the best shape of your life! We offer classes for Women and Men, Children, Youth, Teens, Adults and Seniors. Start you FREE TRIAL today by visiting www.wcaikido.com

Martial arts can improve your attention span and alertness long term – new study

ladies martial arts awareness women's self defence

Ashleigh Johnstone, Bangor University

Martial arts require a good level of physical strength, but those who take up training need to develop an incredible amount of mental acuity, too.

Mental strength is so important to martial arts that researchers have found karate experts’ stronger punching force may be down to a better control of muscle movement in the brain, rather than increased muscular strength. Other studies have also found that children who practice Taekwondo improved in maths test scores, and behaviour.

Which leads to an interesting question – does taking part in martial arts cause the brain to develop better control, or do people with these brain characteristics choose to do martial arts? It is something that our team has been researching, with interesting results.

Martial attention

We’ve been specifically measuring attention to assess mental control, as previous research has suggested that mindfulness and exercise can both have beneficial effects on attention. You could argue that martial arts are a combination of both – active sports that involve aspects of meditation and mindfulness.

Sparring black belts.
Kzenon/Shutterstock

In our recently published study, we recruited 21 amateur adults who practice martial arts (karate, judo and taekwondo, among others) and 27 adults with no experience in the sports, to take part in an attention network test. This test assesses three different types of attention: alerting (maintaining a sense of alertness), orienting (the shifting of attention), and executive (involved in choosing the correct response when there’s conflicting information).

We were particularly interested in the alert network, which can reveal how vigilant a person is. If a person has a high alert score on this test, it would suggest that they are better able to respond to unpredictably timed targets than those with a low score.

While there are differences across each martial art in terms of their core philosophies, whether they’re more of a “fighting” martial art or more “meditative”, and their intensity, we did not discriminate about the type our participants took part in. Future research could compare the different types, but for this study we were more interested in general martial artists’ attention compared to non-martial artists’.

Sparring tests

We invited the participants to our lab, and recorded details of their martial arts experience (including the type, how often they practice, and how many years they’ve been involved in the sport) before asking them to take part in the computer-based task. This involved participants seeing a row of five arrows, and having to respond to the direction of the central arrow by pressing a letter button on a keyboard (“c” for left-facing arrows, and “m” for right) as quickly as possible. In some trials, they were given a warning cue that told them the arrows would appear soon, and in others they weren’t.

Typically, in most martial arts training, there’s an element of sparring, which is a form of simulated fighting with a partner. One of the aims of this is that the partners will be attempting to remain focused and avoid their partner making contact. After all, nobody wants to be punched in the face. It is rare for a sparring opponent to give a clear warning of the exact timing of a punch so the defending partner needs to stay alert, or vigilant, at all times so that they are ready to dodge the hit.

During our research, the martial arts participants produced higher alert scores than our non-martial artists. This means that the martial artists responded to the arrows fastest, especially when they were not given a warning. This signifies that they have a greater level of vigilance, which could reflect stronger cognitive control.

We also looked at the effects of long-term martial arts practice, and found that alertness was better in the martial artists with the most amount of experience. Several of our participants who had more than nine years’ experience in the sport, showed the best alertness in our tests. This suggests that the longer a person sticks at martial arts, the bigger their reward. Taking this a step further, it appears that the effects of improved attention may be long lasting, rather than just a short boost after training.

The ConversationWhile it could be argued that martial arts simply are among many activities that can lead to better health, what we and other researchers have found is that their practice is one of those rare crossovers that helps significantly improve the brain just as much as the body.

Ashleigh Johnstone, PhD Researcher in Cognitive Neuroscience, Bangor University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

25 Years of Perth Aikido Martial ArtsSince 1993 West Coast Aikido Martial Arts Academy has trained thousands of people in Perth’s Northern Suburbs our Self Defence Martial Art. Regardless of your gender, age, fitness level or physical limitations, we can help you learn our amazing martial art and teach you great way to live.  Yoseikan Aikido Self-Defence is easy to learn and will enable you to defend yourself or your loved ones, overcome fear, gain confidence and get fighting fit. You will reduce stress, improve your fitness, become more self-disciplined, have greater focus, awareness, elevated self-esteem and get more out of life! Many learn Aikido as a form of nonviolent self-defence, but many also train in Aikido for the mental and spiritual benefits that it provides. At West Coast Aikido Martial Arts, we are dedicated to helping you acquire practical self-defence skills whilst reducing stress, and getting into the best shape of your life! We offer classes for Women and Men, Children, Youth, Teens, Adults and Seniors. Start you FREE TRIAL today by visiting www.wcaikido.com

Five brain-boosting reasons to take up martial arts – at any age

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Ashleigh Johnstone, Bangor University

We are all aware that exercise generally has many benefits, such as improving physical fitness and strength. But what do we know about the effects of specific types of exercise? Researchers have already shown that jogging can increase life expectancy, for example, while yoga makes us happy. However, there is one activity that goes beyond enhancing physical and mental health – martial arts can boost your brain’s cognition too.

1. Improved attention

Researchers say that there are two ways to improve attention, through attention training (AT), and attention state training (AST). AT is based on practising a specific skill and getting better at that skill, but not others – using a brain training video game, for example. AST on the other hand is about getting into a specific state of mind that allows a stronger focus. This can be done by using exercise, meditation, or yoga, among other things.

It has been suggested that martial arts is a form of AST, and supporting this, recent research has shown a link between practice and improved alertness. Backing this idea up further, another study showed that martial arts practice – specifically karate – is linked with better performance on a divided attention task. This is an assignment in which the person has to keep two rules in mind and respond to signals based on whether they are auditory or visual.

2. Reduced aggression

In a US study, children aged 8-11 were tasked with traditional martial arts training that focused on respecting other people and defending themselves as part of an anti-bullying programme. The children were also taught how to maintain a level of self-control in heated situations.

The researchers found that the martial arts training reduced the level of aggressive behaviour in boys, and found that they were more likely to step in and help someone who was being bullied than before they took part in the training. Significant changes were not found in the girls’ behaviour, potentially because they showed much lower levels of physical aggression before the training than the boys did.

Interestingly, this anti-agression effect is not limited to young children. A different piece of research found reduced physical and verbal aggression, as well as hostility, in adolescents who practised martial arts too.

In control.
El Nariz/Shutterstock

3. Greater stress management

Some forms of martial arts, such as tai chi, place great emphasis on controlled breathing and meditation. These were strongly linked in one study with reduced feelings of stress, as well as being better able to manage stress when it is present in young to middle-aged adults.

This effect has also been found in older adults – the 330 participants in this research had a mean age of 73 – too. And the softer, flowing movements make it an ideal, low-impact exercise for older people.

4. Enhanced emotional well-being

As several scientists are now looking into the links between emotional well-being and physical health, it’s vital to note that martial arts has been show to improve a person’s emotional well-being too.

In the study linked above, 45 older adults (aged 67-93) were asked to take part in karate training, cognitive training, or non-martial arts physical training for three to six months. The older adults in the karate training showed lower levels of depression after the training period than both other groups, perhaps due to its meditative aspect. It was also reported that these adults showed a greater level of self-esteem after the training too.

5. Improved memory

After comparing a sedentary control group to a group of people doing karate, Italian researchers found that taking part in karate can improve a person’s working memory. They used a test that involved recalling and repeating a series of numbers, both in the correct order and backwards, which increased in difficulty until the participant was unable to continue. The karate group were much better at this task than the control group, meaning they could recall longer series of numbers. Another project found similar results while comparing tai chi practice with “Western exercise” – strength, endurance, and resistance training.

Evidently, there is far more to martial arts than its traditional roles. Though they have been practised for self-defence and spiritual development for many hundreds of years, only relatively recently have researchers had the methods to assess the true extent of how this practice affects the brain.

The ConversationThere are a such a huge range of martial arts, some more gentle and meditative, others combative and physically intensive. But this only means that there is a type for everyone, so why not give it a go and see how you can boost your own brain using the ancient practices of martial arts.

Ashleigh Johnstone, PhD Researcher in Cognitive Neuroscience, Bangor University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Since 1993 West Coast Aikido Martial Arts Academy has trained thousands of people in Perth’s Northern Suburbs our Self Defence Martial Art. Regardless of your gender, age, fitness level or physical limitations, we can help you learn our amazing martial art and teach you great way to live. Yoseikan Aikido Self-Defence is easy to learn and will enable you to defend yourself or your loved ones, overcome fear, gain confidence and get fighting fit. You will reduce stress, improve your fitness, become more self-disciplined, have greater focus, awareness, elevated self-esteem and get more out of life! Many learn Aikido as a form of nonviolent self-defence, but many also train in Aikido for the mental and spiritual benefits that it provides. At West Coast Aikido Martial Arts, we are dedicated to helping you acquire practical self-defence skills whilst reducing stress, and getting into the best shape of your life! We offer classes for Women and Men, Children, Youth, Teens, Adults and Seniors. Start you FREE TRIAL today by visiting www.wcaikido.com

PARENTS…REST EASY, THAT BULLY WILL NOT BOTHER YOUR CHILD ANY MORE.

Bullying is out of control! It seems that every week we hear of people, especially kids, being bullied whether at school, in the playground, at the shops, at bus stops, or even by their so-called ‘friends.’

Too many of our kids are being bullied and some are paying a huge price for not being able to stand-up for themselves.

Enough is enough! No-one should have to put up with being bullied. The consequences are too great, effecting a child’s confidence and self esteem, not to mention their grades at school and friendships.

So what is the solution?

The traditional martial arts have a long history of teaching not only the physical self defence skills, but just as importantly, the ‘life skills and values’ such as self control, self discipline, respecting self and others, focus, awareness. Put simply, the more you train in the martial arts, the more confidence you will gain.

At our martial arts academy we teach kids how to ‘Bully Proof’ themselves. We have 12 ‘Bully Proof ‘strategies that your child can use at any time to discourage the bully, helping them to walk away with confidence.

Dozens of our students have used these strategies effectively in real situations. Many of our parents have seen the benefits of how these strategies have given their children more confidence to walk away from the bully.

The ‘Bully Proof’ strategies are easy to learn and to put into action. In fact we have a FREE SPECIAL REPORT , 12 Ways to Stop A Bully’ . To receive your Special Report simply fill in the form below.

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