The first 9 months at UTKM are the most important for anyone who is serious about learning self-defence.
Self-defence isn’t something that can be learned in a day. Sure, there are seminars, courses, and even TikTok videos that promise how to fend off an unwanted attacker (“Go for the eyes! Two fingers under the rope around your neck! Kick’em in the groin!”) but it is almost universally acknowledged by anyone with any real experience that developing actual self-defence skills requires consistent, regular, AND effective practice.
When the adrenaline kicks in, when the disbelief of the situation happening to you is paralyzing you, when the attacker uses his left hand instead of his right, only your effective tools in the moment will have been your practice and muscle memory.
At UTKM, there are five levels of classes:
- Defence for New Students
- Regular Defence
- Novice Colour Belt (Yellow and above)
- Advanced Colour Belt (Green and above)
Most students will attend only the first three levels of classes in their first 9 months.
All new students are offered to attend one free trial class and are welcome to attend the Defence for New Students (Defence N) classes for four weeks. The fees for this first month are heavily discounted, and the intention is for the new student and the UTKM instructors to get to know one another. After all, it’s in everyone’s best interests to make sure that UTKM is the right community for the student to learn in. Classes are relatively low intensity in nature and are designed to introduce self-defence concepts, including critical thinking and basic techniques.
After the first four weeks, students may join the regular Defence classes. In these classes, students are introduced to the entire White belt curriculum over the course of approximately five months, focusing on drilling proper technique while continuing to build on critical thinking.
In addition, upon instructor approval, students are also invited to join the Warrior classes. Warrior classes are the “conditioning and chaos” classes at UTKM. This means there is a focus on improving cardio and training your nervous system to handle stress, as well as practicing technique in a physically tired state. Warrior classes end with a round or two (three?) of full contact, reduced power, kickboxing-style sparring. Students quickly learn through direct experience how to handle themselves, face their fears, manage distance, and maintain composure, even though they are still in a highly supervised environment. Given the intensity of these classes and the physical interaction between students, one can quickly appreciate the need for instructor vetting and approval before being allowed to participate.
Cardio is a key component of self-defence, as an unwanted self-defense interaction may require you to hold your ground for an extended period. It takes an average of 2.5 minutes for help to arrive at the next SkyTrain station. Holding someone off for that long while bystanders uselessly look on takes a lot more physical reserves than you think. Can you arm wrestle someone for 150 seconds? How about pushing someone who weighs 180lbs off of you for that long? Now add in getting kicked while in a headlock. Happens more often than you think.
Drilling technique while being physically tired is by design, as it has been proven that self-defence skills are more quickly learned while under duress. An added benefit is that you quickly begin to realize the shortcomings of your skill. Blocking or redirecting an attack isn’t as easy when you’re exhausted and your arms are heavy, and you begin to develop an appreciation for what is important. Working under these condition tests your willingness to keeping going and forces you to fight through the desire to give up; as giving up in a self-defence situation may mean death.
Attending these first three classes – Defence (N), Defence, and Warrior – prepare you eventually for your Yellow Belt test, usually 6-9 months after that first, fateful trial class.
The Yellow Belt test is the first celebrated milestone at UTKM. You’re tested to the point of exhaustion and, if you pass, it is evidence to yourself and to the UTKM community that you’re able to defend yourself reasonably well against a basic set of common attacker scenarios and you didn’t quit.
Beyond Yellow Belt, you are introduced to an increasingly more diverse set of self-defence scenarios and techniques. But it’s the first 9 months that are critical. It’s during this time that you acquire and hone your skills, and develop an appreciation for the level of effort required to actually become proficient in the art of walking in peace.
Written by Danny Y. – UTKM Yellow Belt