I have to admit I am still interested in taking a martial art partly for exercise and partly for self defense. SAFE International is an organization dedicated to helping people who want to take a self defense course. The organization works with men, women, youth and in the workplace and also offers personal instruction. Recently SAFE announced that it would be providing services for people wanting private instruction in the Montreal area.
That got my attention so I contacted the CEO of SAFE Christopher Roberts to find out more about the home and other instruction they provide. Christopher, thanks for being a part of Candid Conversations.
Cliff T.: Chris, can you define what self protection means, is it different from Karate or other martial arts?
Christopher Roberts: I define self protection/self defense as being able to handle violence from not only a physical standpoint, but also from an awareness and avoidance position, as well as from a verbal diffusion position. Most self defense companies focus on the physical skills, but if we are truly interested in avoiding violence, one must cover all segments of violence prevention and handle them in a realistic, practical, and effective manner.
Cliff T.: I see from your website that you have been doing this for quite some time, since 1994. What prompted you to start SAFE?
Christopher Roberts: My reason to start is not like most in the self defense industry who grew up with a close tie to the martial arts. My reason was basically to have my own business and to have a business that could make a difference in people's lives. I had worked in the fast food industry for many years before this, and I could not see myself spending the next 40 years of my life feeding tasty, but unhealthy food to the public. With what I do now, I hear weekly how SAFE International is helping others.
Cliff T.: Besides teaching self defense are there any other things you teach?
Christopher Roberts: No, this is all I know how to do. Lol! Now, within the topic of self defense I teach different things as I mentioned previously.
Cliff T.: Also on your site you mention teaching for persons 12 to 82. Is teaching self defense different for a young person vs an older person? Do you also train women differently from men? And, what if a person has a disability, how do you handle training for them?
Christopher Roberts: Yes, while the top priority for all groups is the awareness/avoidance phase, it is particularly important for seniors since they have some limitations physically. That being said, if one is a life or death scenario, there are still some basic concepts a senior can use with success such as eye strikes which don't require a great deal of strength. While women and men have some very similar self defense concepts to cover, the methodology I use is quite different due to ego, comfort level, physicality level, etc. I have also taught those with disabilities and to be quite honest I have probably had my most fun teaching them due to how honest they are with their thoughts and with the lack of ego which is so commonly seen when teaching most self defense.
Cliff T.: What is the goal of the training, what exactly do you want your clients to get from the course?
Christopher Roberts: If I was to put it quite simply, I want my clients to leave feeling safer than when they began training and to have a level of Peace of Mind and confidence that they can handle confrontation from all angles such as awareness/avoidance, verbally, and physically.
Cliff T.: Is there a process that you go through before you begin to train someone and if so what would that process be?
Christopher Roberts: The only process is to ask what they hope to gain. If they want to learn how to fight, rather than how to get out of or avoid a fight, then my material is not for them. This is something I recall Richard Dimitri once telling me about someone who left one of his seminars.
Cliff T.: Chris I understand that you are going to offer training courses to people in Montreal and that the training will be in a private setting. Is there a particular reason that you are offering personal training vs public training? And does SAFE currently do public training sessions in Montreal?
Christopher Roberts: Since SAFE is a mobile company, we are always available in Montreal as we are throughout North America. I find that people are much more comfortable training with a group of friends, co-workers, family, or privately, than they are with a public group of people with whom they have no familiarity. Self defense is very personal for most people, so having the right environment is very important in order to make them feel comfortable to train, ask questions, and share their fears, concerns, and stories.
Cliff T.: I bet that you come across some real interesting myths about self defense training. What are the most common and what can happen if these myths are held on to?
Christopher Roberts: One of the biggest myths is that you need to train for years to be able to defend yourself. In fact, with a few hours of quality instruction you can learn the basics which are enough for most people. Now, the more you can train the better obviously, but this is a myth the martial arts community puts out there in order to increase their profits. Another myth is that martial arts/karate is practical in real life self defense scenarios. While I love the marital arts since I trained it for years, it is important to remember it is very different than reality based training which brings in the real emotion, psychology, and physical concepts which just aren't present in the martial arts. One more myth is that you have to be big and strong to be effective in defending yourself. I will take an inexperienced person with a never say die mentality over a 10th degree black belt who doesn't have the right mindset to protect oneself or one's family.
Cliff T.: There are lots of people and companies offering self defense courses, Chris what sets your company and course apart from the others out there?
Christopher Roberts: The biggest single thing I think that sets us apart is our teaching method which involves the use of humour. So many have told me there is no room for humour with such a serious topic. I say Bullshi....! When people are comfortable with the instructor and trust them, they open themselves to an optimal training experience. Think of seminars you have done over the years and I will bet the ones you remembered most and got the most value from involved humour.
Cliff T.: Do you still do any teaching?
Christopher Roberts: Yes, while administratively things are crazy with scheduling, training, etc, my real passion is teaching and I will always have time to do that. Our Women's Self Defense Parties have become very popular and I love teaching them. Also, our corporate courses, and courses for seniors are growing as well, so I have been doing much of that teaching. I will always do some teaching, but my goal is to keep surrounding myself with those who can teach better than myself.
Cliff T.: Have you heard back from clients, and if so what is the general feedback you are getting?
Christopher Roberts: The feedback we get is very humbling and inspiring. We have had people share with us how information we shared prevented them from being attacked. We always hear how much fun our courses are and how that was an unexpected benefit of our program. We consistently hear that the info we teach has been the easiest to remember due to us teaching concepts rather than techniques like most teach.
Cliff T.: Is there any story you have heard that makes you go yeah now I know what we are doing is working, making a difference to people?
Christopher Roberts: Yes, two young women we had taught 4 years previous were at a mall in Ottawa when they were approached by a man who held a knife to the throat of the one woman while the other woman was on the other side of the van. She began yelling which caused the attacker to run away. About an hour later he tried to abduct a woman and her child, but he was caught. People got involved and caught the man. After he was arrested and attacker went back to jail. Long story short, the young women had indicated they remembered what to do due to the humour they experienced with our course 4 year before.
Cliff T.: Well as much as it would be nice to not have to deal with the question of self defense, it's good to know that there are people like yourself out there making a difference and helping people stay safe. Thank you for taking time out to explain what you do. All the best in your endeavors.