Self Defense Instructors | Are we guilty of scaremongering?

This may seem like a strange question for a self-defense instructor to ask but it is all about being honest with yourself, your students as well as potential clients.
As an instructor have you ever asked yourself the question “Am I guilty of scaremongering?” In my opinion I think all martial arts and self-defense instructors do this to some degree. I mean look at the majority of adverts for martial arts clubs and they will advertise the fact that they will teach you how to defend yourself. I think we can pretty much agree that the majority of the people start training in the martial arts to learn how to defend themselves, but how do we attract the student to our class? I have seen a number of adverts over the years, an example being: an attacker wearing a ski mask brandishing a knife and various similar scenarios. Are these just scaremongering tactics that prey on the fears of the general public?

What you will also see is instructors that jump on the bandwagon with regards to the latest news events, now I will hold my hands up and admit I do this, it is kind of a necessary evil in our business as it is one way of getting in new clients and students. But at the very least we must be honest about doing it. Just to show you how extreme some instructors can take this, I have even seen courses on hand grenade defenses!

Let me give you another example, we are fortunate that in the UK gun crime is not that prevalent, yes it happens but due to the laws of the land not as much as in other countries. The Metropolitan Police class gun crime as,

“Crime (Violence against the Person, Robbery, Burglary and Sexual Offences) in which guns are used. A gun is taken to be involved in an offence if it is fired, used as a blunt instrument to cause injury to a person, or used as a threat. Where the victim is convinced of the presence of a firearm, even if it is concealed, and there is evidence too of the suspect's intention to create this impression, then the incident counts. Both real, and fake firearms, and air weapons are counted within this category.”
A quick search of the Met Police website ( reports that in the 12 months to May 2012 there were 2277 reported gun crimes, approximately six a day over the course of a year, down on the reported 2591 from the previous 12 months and this in a city with a population of circa 7,825,200 (reported figures from 2010). If you want further information on gun crime figures you can check out this website,

Looking at these figures we could ask ourselves if teaching firearm defenses to the general public are necessary then. Look around at many of the modern “reality based” system and you will see them highlighting the fact that they teach defenses against various types of firearms - pistols, shotguns, machine guns etc. but, is it necessary? Is this really part of your regular class, I've spent 42 years on this planet, used to live on the first street in South East London that had a teenage curfew on it and I have never been threatened by someone carrying an AK47. Yes there will be specialist sectors and industries that may require this type of training but if you are finding that it is part of your everyday civilian life then perhaps you need to consider moving to a different area. Just how prevalent is gun crime in your neighborhood?
Some instructors may argue that we should offer our students the option and opportunity of training in this area, maybe arguing better to have the skill and not need it instead of possibly needing it and not having it. In a country or society that has a greater exposure to firearms, say the USA, is it a valid area of training? Possibly, who am I to say? Personally, I do not teach firearms defenses, I have no knowledge or exposure to this area and so avoid teaching it and if someone asks about it I will be honest and admit it is not my area.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and not been offended in anyway, it is not my intention to offend just to get people reflecting on the how, why and what. I welcome questions, discussions and comments on everything I write so feel free to get in touch.

About the Author:
Stuart Rider is originally from London but now living in Fife, Scotland. He has been training in the martial arts for 25 years, and has been teaching and running his own clubs since 1999. 

Stuart holds a 3rd Dan in street Defence Combat under Dave Turton, 2nd Dan Choi Kwang Do and several other grades in other arts.

These days Stuart teaches his own system, the Rider Martial Arts Cross Training System (RMA-XTS) which is his interpretation of the various martial arts and self-defence methods he has trained in and studied over the years. Stuart also hold an honours degree from Edinburgh Napier University in Complementary Healthcare/Therapies.

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