Under: Self-defense
9 Jul 2016

As a young parent one of the things I had to deal with early on was how to keep my kids safe from all threats. Now most of the worrisome things were in the home like falling objects and hot things. But as your kids grow most parents find out more and more are out of their control. Bullies at the playground and school can be worrisome as well as muggers and rapists to and from school.


What is a parent to do? I learned early on I had to teach my kids how to fight. Not so formerly as you might think from a Kenpo instructor but playtime at the Zimmer household was dad against the kids! This helped make my boys tough. It did not make them bullies because I was the opponent – not all of my kids friends. So the first time I had to teach my youngest how to fight he was being harassed by a group of kids at the end of the block on his way to 7/11 (convenience store). More on how that turned out later.


Over my karate career I have taught lots of kids how to defend themselves! But back in the 1970’s and 1980’s a parent had two choices, Boxing or Karate! Wrestling was not a choice but most boys knew some how to wrestle. It worked fine against someone who did not know how to fight. Girls did not learn wrestling in school.


Your choices today include, Boxing, Karate (kung fu, kenpo, taekwondo), Jiu-Jitsu (traditional and BJJ), Muay Thai, Judo, & Wrestling, and MMA has even come out in some circles as a martial art (and their are schools).


I will make the point that if your children need to learn self-defense – then Boxing, Karate, or Muay Thai should be taught. I will explain this and why wrestling, judo, jiu-jitsu, and even mma (if ground work is stressed) does on lead itself easily to self-defense.


First here is a video of children learning striking via boxing lessons for your perusal.



Well what did you think? I chose a boxing video because of the respect I have for good hands. When I was learning kick-boxing (full contact back in the day) I had a boxing trainer. One great thing about boxing is that conditioning is stressed as much as how to strike, move, parry and fight.


It saddened me to say I was not able to find very many good examples of striking training for this post. When I put in boys and girls self defense in youtube – about have of what popped up was girls in low cut tops or bikinis or children playing games with Spiderman or children learning to wrestle around on the mat. No of which have anything to do with self-defense.


Lets break this down a bit. Striking with hands, fists, half-fists, chops, ridge-hands, eye shots (claw, two finger, four finger or how I like to throw – snapping all fingers at they eyes in a downward rolling motion), elbows, knees, kicks of all kinds are what should be taught for self-defense.


With all those strikes – how to move your body while fighting for your life as well as how to incapacitate and run should be on the children’s mind. How to take a punch (covering with the chin tucked down) is very important. If you kids gets hit for the first time when being mugged – what chance do you think he or she will have?


Now here is a bit of reality – standing self-defense techniques for grabs or BJJ ground techniques are all Hail Mary passes! What do I mean? Simple read on.


Fighting training in Boxing and Karate stresses critical distance! You don’t let anyone inside your distance or you only have two choices… stick or move!!!


Staying in the same place and letting someone get inside your distance is NOT one of choices!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


So if you let someone get inside your distance – you messed up big time. So if someone is choking you or on top of you on the ground… you have very little chance of  coming out ok.


But wait? Every martial art, even Western martial arts all have unarmed defenses if one one had the drop on you? While marital arts are built on this. Yes but if the other guy (the attacker) has the drop on you and knows how to fight and more importantly there are no rules… your goose is cooked!


So here is me being honest. If you are laying on the ground or someone grabs you and you don’t look complaint… the next move is to clock you silly. You will not have any chance to try your self-defense technique or maneuver your shin over his head to choke him out.


The only way any self-defense technique (standing or ground where they have already got you) will work – is if your attacker does not know how to fight!


Consider this for a second. That means to defend yourself you have to know how to fight and then not give up any advantages when someone tries to attack you! YES!!! Finally understand.


Don’t let anyone grab you! Don’t let yourself go to the ground in a fight! Don’t let anyone inside your critical distance! If you do any of these things – you all of a sudden have given up any advantages you may have had.


So learn some form of striking for children’s self-defense!


It is just fine to learn all of the standing and ground techniques too… don’t get me wrong but realize they are not self-defense… they are actually your Hail Mary pass when you gave up your advantages to your mugger… it is good to have something to try if that happens… and hope your mugger does not know how to fight.


Oh my youngest learned critical distance and a reverse punch… and he had no more issues from the kids at the end of the street after knocking the wind out of the biggest one. :)


On that note – here is the timeless Crosby Stills Nash & Young song, Teach Your Children.


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2 Responses to “Teach Your Children Well; How to Defend Themselves!”

  1. Toby Massell Says:

    Hey John! what a good write up like usual.
    I too have had my share of teaching youth self defense. I taught Kenpo at Silver Stand Naval Recreation Center And Bay View Recreation Center for several years. Bullying is a big problem along with many other forms of harassment for our youth. If they learn early in life the importance of learning a GOOD form of martial arts for self defense it carries on with them later in life. My daughter had problems in the late 80s early 90s with gang related incidences there in the El Cajon and East San Diego areas. So it was imperative for her to learn everything from environmental awareness to the hands on techs of kenpo. She managed to survive those dangerous years of her life.
    I’m a very thankful dad.
    Stryker Toby.

  2. Dr. J Says:

    Very important topic, John! I totally agree that kids need a simple effective system for self-defense that can be applied quickly in a variety of conditions. It’s okay to be fancy and have fun in the dojo some of the time, but well-practiced, basic technique and target application is best in my opinion. That is not what I see in most places that are specializing with kids today.