I’m Gonna Lose My Mind If I See One More Major Website Post A Bad “Self-Defense” Video

Photo Source: Tech Insider

You would think that for the degree to which women’s self-defense is glorified by any large tech company with access to a video camera, we’d have more good self-defense videos out there. Instead, the opposite is true: websites and Facebook pages with hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers are posting videos of demonstrations with self-proclaimed “self-defense experts”, and the majority of the things they teach are trash. Not even “paper bag on the side of the road” trash, but trash that could get people killed.

The most recent example of this that I’ve seen is a video posted by Tech Insider that we shared with you yesterday. It involves Female Awareness founder Gabrielle Rubin teaching viewers how to get out of a weak, unrealistic chokehold using techniques that are, at best, questionable in their efficacy.

The last time I went on a rant about a video like this, the instructor appeared to have no qualifications to be teaching anyone how to defend themselves. Looking at Rubin’s website, I can’t say the same for her. She’s been doing martial arts for 22 years (“Goju-ryu, Kenpo, Jujitsu” according to her site), and while I don’t know enough about her background to comment on the efficiency of what she’s learned as it pertains to practical self-defense, I can see why someone who doesn’t have experience in the martial arts industry would look at that and want to pick her for a video on self-defense.

In fact, Rubin’s actual program is really solid and succeeds where most self-defense programs fail: she offers refresher courses so that students can come back and practice what they’ve learned in their initial two-hour course. She also spends the first hour teaching what I firmly believe are the most important parts of self-defense: body language, how to be more aware of your surroundings, how to handle confrontation, and all the other things that happen before an attacker lays hands on you. As far as self-defense programs go, she knocks this out of the park, and I wish every self-defense seminar and class would follow this model.

I’m willing to be open to the idea that the Tech Insider video was an unfortunate outlier and that Rubin normally does teach effective techniques. I don’t know if it is. I hope it is. But regardless of whether it was one bad video out of normally effective techniques or this is the norm, that video is now out in the world with over 710k views. Despite over 500 comments, most of which (thankfully) acknowledge how bad these techniques are, Tech Insider hasn’t taken the video down.

It makes you ask the unfortunately rhetorical question: Are these pages posting these videos for women’s safety, or just because it’s an easy way to get more traffic?

The people who don’t understand how ineffective these techniques are might watch it and gain a false sense of security, thinking that they would be able to remember the techniques shown in the video in a life-or-death situation. Of course, they won’t, and even if by some miracle they do, the techniques shown aren’t going to help them at all. Even if the techniques shown were effective, I have my doubts that a single one of those viewers would call up a friend and ask to drill the movements.

Am I saying that websites with a large reach should just never advocate for self-defense at all? Obviously not. But please, if you work at a tech company or a news station or any other business that is considering putting out a self-defense video, skip the quick-fix techniques and consider these options instead:

Have your host take a class at a legitimate martial arts school. Show your viewers the reality of learning how to defend themselves — that it doesn’t happen in a cushy office, but inside a gym where you’re going to get a bit bruised and sweaty. Show them how your host, who didn’t know what to do when a large person was sitting on top of her before, can now escape and gain the upper hand after working hard and drilling the same movement over and over again. Advocate for krav maga and jiu-jitsu academies, and encourage your viewers to sign up.

Teach warning signs of violence instead. A video gives you a way to deliver information to viewers through audio and visual means. It’s the perfect opportunity to show your audience things like aggressive body language and talk about situational awareness. It’s not the ideal way to deliver information about how to perform techniques that are best learned through, you know, actually doing them. Rubin has been brought on to other programs to talk about these things, and even if I don’t agree with everything she brought up, it would have been exponentially better for Tech Insider to bring her on to cover that topic instead.

If you must do a technique video, do it right. If you’re bent on showing a self-defense technique for your page or program, at the very least, find an accredited instructor and emphasize the need to drill a movement over and over again. Tell your viewers that this stuff is only effective if you can do it without thinking. Remind them over and over that no technique is fool-proof and that relying on any technique to survive instead of running away could get them killed.

Anyone can open a martial arts gym or start a self-defense program. I have no doubt that Rubin and every other instructor featured in these videos have the best of intentions when demonstrating these techniques, but the way it’s being done is dangerous. The people who decide to feature these instructors need to understand that they’re broadcasting a message to large numbers of followers, and that this isn’t a cutesy cooking video in which the consequences for messing it up in real life is a burnt casserole — we’re talking about people’s lives here, and sharing the wrong information can have disastrous results.


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