This is in response to a recent article on The Guardian, paid for by TikTok, explaining that the author had used the app to learn self defence remotely during the pandemic.
I’ll start by saying that there’s nothing wrong with remote learning, instructionals are huge in the BJJ community and for good reason; they allow you to get elite-level techniques to replay and learn at your own pace. But i don’t think there’s any good coaches out there who would advocate for exclusively remote learning, it’s a pretty common opinion that instructionals are best used to supplement live training and only when a grappler already has a decent fundamental knowledge of the sport.
Trying to learn self defence techniques over TikTok as an absolute beginner violates both of these basic principles of remote learning. First, the beginner isn’t live training so has no idea how good they actually are at the techniques being practiced. How many of us have sent a session perfecting a certain technique in drilling only to try it for the first time in sparring and fail miserably? Now imagine the technique is one you’re being told will save your life, and that first time in sparring is when somebody is trying to attack you on your way home. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Even worse in my opinion, as an absolute beginner you would have absolutely zero reference point for what works, and what doesn’t. High-level grapplers can see this just by watching something demonstrated, it becomes readily apparent whether the technique is high-percentage, low-percentage, or damn near impossible to pull of and not really worth learning. But as a beginner, everything looks the same. Everything you watch works in the video that you see it being demonstrated in, so why wouldn’t it all work when you try it in a real-life situation?
These two problems are readily apparent in the original Guardian article. The writer openly admits that the only person she’s live-training with is her housemate, who also has zero experience. Apparently this was enough for her to learn “front choke defence”, from a video of a woman demonstrating it without any partner at all. There’s just no feasible way that the author has managed to learn this technique to any usable standard, if it was even reasonable usable to begin with.
Now you’ve got a situation where a completely untrained person has learnt a bunch of techniques that may, or may not work. But they haven’t really learnt any of them at all, they only know them well enough to do them at a slow pace in a zero-pressure environment and have never even attempted them at full-pace against a fully resisting opponent. This unearned confidence and bad reaction is what turns a mugging into a stabbing, it’s what ensures that the attack takes place because the victim has decided to try and defend themselves instead of running away, or immediately finding help.
No, TikTok won’t teach you self defence. It’ll just allow you to think it has, which is even worse than never learning to defend yourself at all.