How we process, store, and recall information is intricately linked to our emotional – not rational – reality. We process threats to our survival and well-being at a deep, gut level in our physical body’s viscera (our guts). These threats and possible responses are all processed through emotional memory faster than the rational mind could recognize. If a threat is confirmed, our nervous systems react with incredible speed without the awareness of our conscious mind.
If self-defense curriculum is not developed with this neurological understanding at its foundation, it will be taught to a brain that will likely be offline/inactive during our body’s crisis response. If self-defense courses are not taught from a foundational understanding of the links between emotion and memory, their techniques will remain theoretical to a person under attack. Finally, if a self-defense course is taught from the instructor’s perspective, the content will always only be an ideal for the students; never an organic reality!
Teaching for the student, not teaching -to- them
In the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire writes of education-as-liberation. Rather than believing students to be blank slates or empty jars to be filled by the teacher, Freire believed students should be co-creators of their own knowledge and the directors of their education.
The reason for this dramatic reversal of traditional education authority was to circumvent the core issue Freire noticed in his native Brazil. The education provided by the oppressor/colonial powers – even when benevolent – always ended up creating more “oppressors” out of those it educated. Freire finds that members of the oppressors – often themselves a product of violence and oppression – cannot create the solution to oppressive systems. Instead, the oppressed have the solutions and can discover them when given the space and support to do so.
In self-defense terms, this means the martial arts instructor does not have the answers for the students. The role of instructor is to listen to student concerns, be present for their physical education needs, and to guide them to their own knowledge of self-defense. The end product might not be the “ideal” technique or approach of the martial artist, but it will be infinitely more practical to the students!