Self-Defense For The Deaf – Part 1
When a friend recently asked me about self-defense training for the deaf, I was excited to have the opportunity to talk about some of the finer points of effective self-defense. What are the challenges a deaf person must face and what are their advantages? Yes, you read that right. You see, I had to really sit down and think hard about what obstacles deafness would produce, because the reality is that ALL people (deaf or not) have challenges to overcome. I come across many students with bad shoulders and bad knees and my honest, professional assessment is that a physical impairment of the limbs is much more of an obstacle to defending oneself than the inability to hear. If you are talking about survival, then being deaf has very little to do with the ability to defend oneself…after all, natural selection has not ended human deafness, right?
When looking at self-defense, I like to break things down into the categories of Pre-Event, Event, and Post-Event. Pre-Event has to do with all of our planning and preparation before a situation arises that necessitates the need to defend ourselves. Event has to do with surviving the attack itself and Post-Event has to do with the aftermath of the incident. Thoroughly examining the challenge for the deaf student of self-defense, I find three areas that will present challenges: Learning, Awareness and Communication. In this article, I would like to discuss these three challenges as related to the Pre-Event, Event and Post-Event contexts.
The Pre-Event areas I want to discuss are: Planning, Training, Training Methodology and Awareness. Planning entails things like being prepared and preventing yourself from falling into situations that are likely to produce a potentially dangerous situation. All attacks will occur at a specific place and at a specific time and planning really has to do with avoiding the wrong people by not being in the wrong places at the wrong times. A safety conscientious lifestyle can help us avoid most confrontation and deafness simply has no ill effects on proper self-defense planning.
Training specifically suited to the deaf (where communication is augmented through literature and or sign language, for example) may not be readily available, but there are several martial arts schools in every major city. I would encourage everyone to seek training at a qualified school and under a good instructor. I would NOT worry about whether the communication was going to be easy or difficult. Even if your instructor cannot easily communicate with you, you will learn something…and so will they. I can’t tell you of all the times I have been in a dojo in Japan and not been able to fully understand what was being said in class. But, we find that in self-defense training, communication is secondary, while providing the student with a physical skill is the main task at hand.
This brings me to my next point which is Training Methodology. This is an advanced topic that will quite possibly shed light on one of the advantages of being deaf during martial arts training (when fluid communication is not possible). Here in the West, students expect to understand the finer points of the art. They want to know why we do a certain move, how we do it, when we do it, etc. That is how the Western mind works and the best instructors in the US accommodate this need by doing a lot of talking during class time. In Japan, there is little talking, if any, during classes. The student is expected to learn through observation, and by doing their best to copy the teacher’s movements. They are charged with figuring out most of the answers to their own questions. Training is not a time for talking about things, it is a time for doing things. Learning self-defense movements is a kinesthetic process and I find students in the US constantly impeding their own ability to learn and perform because they are thinking too much! Training has to do with teaching the body how to move, not teaching the mind…it is a feeling that we are trying to capture. In my professional opinion, I really feel a deaf student could progress more quickly than a student who was over-engaged in what the teacher was saying. That is why I would encourage the deaf to join a good school without worries about the quality of communication.
The last Pre-Event factor is Awareness. I know I am supposed to be talking more about the challenges of being deaf, but here again, I have to bring some of my real world experience onto the pages. I have seen professionally trained people get themselves into serious trouble simply because they were not paying attention. You see, you can have all the training, know all the moves, carry all the weapons…and the reality of the situation is that being aware of your surroundings can make or break your self-defense plans. I understand that deaf people cannot hear suspect noises around them, but being aware also means using your eyes, nose, and sense of touch. If you are paying attention and actively watching your surroundings, you will be fine. You will know whether a person is a threat or not based on their body language, which accounts for most communication anyway.
Continue to Self-Defense For The Deaf – Part 2 here.