I was just reading Simeon Brody’s article Self Defense for Social Workers on The Social Work Blog. He wrote this after reading about social workers taking self defence training following the Naomi Hill homicide in Nebraska. He points out that a recent UK poll shows that 2/3 of social workers would like self defence training. This comes as no surprise to me and I think that it is a marvellous idea.
Martial arts training saved my ass more than once over the years that I was a cop: the martial arts training that I got on my own, that is. Such training would lead to a lot less violence in police work, as a competent martial artist can control a situation more easily. Not nearly enough effort or money is put into this type of training for cops, but that’s another story. Modern day cops would rely a lot less on force options like tazers if they knew how to use their hands.
Martial arts training would certainly have helped social workers in a lot of different dangerous situations that I’ve heard about over the years. You don’t necessarily need to fight: If you train in hold-release techniques you can greatly improve your chances by simply allowing yourself the opportunity to escape. Hold-release techniques are included in the training that I’ve done for social workers and nurses in the past. But it is only really effective if you practice. Something that you learned on a weekend workshop somewhere isn’t going to help you years later if you never ever practiced the moves after the workshop ended.
You’re not going to solve your safety problem by carrying “force options” like pepper spray in a purse or pocket either. There are three groups of people that pepper spray won’t work on:
(1) Mentally disordered people (who can disconnect from the pain),
(2) Drug addicts (most drugs are pain killers), and
(3) Goal oriented people (“What do you mean you’re taking my kid?!”).
That describes 95% of the people that I dealt with when I worked the Child Abuse Investigation Unit for Vancouver PD (Car 86). And it’s the primary reason why I put my OC spray in my locker and left it there when I was a cop. In addition, if someone starts rushing at you, the only way that you’re going to be able to use it in time is if it is in your hand already. For a cop to get a gun out of a holster and fire a single shot at a person running at them with a knife, that person has to start that run at least 27 feet away. If they’re closer than that, you’ll never do it. That’s why you see ERT entry teams going into clear buildings with guns out, looking over their sights and scanning for a target.
As a social worker you’re not going to get a lot of points with your client greeting them at the door with pepper spray in your hand. Martial arts training, on the other hand, can save you. I’ve had people run at me with knives at close quarters three times in my police career. I was able to disarm and arrest all without injury to either of us because I trained to deal with that scenario.