A Gaping Wound in Self Protection Training for the Care Industry – Peter Jones

Let’s start by stating some facts on self protection law

  1. Boxers, Karate practitioners, Taekwondo people etc must register their hands and feet with the Police as weapons
  2. Martial artists are not allowed use their skills in self defence


Now given that you’re reading Conflict Manager you may well be a serious martial artists well versed in self protection law. My guess is you won’t tolerate bullshit so you will have read the above with your mouth agape, wondering how someone could make these statements. Please allow me to explain.

I should start by explaining my background. I’ve been training in martial arts for over twenty-seven years and have amassed a variety of grades in different arts including some dan grades. These days my emphasis is very much on pragmatic self protection and as a result I’ve developed a very fine bullshit filter. I’m also a specialist nurse in the NHS working in emergency care.

These two disciplines of emergency nursing and martial arts compliment and influence each other, but that’s an article for another day. I also do a little agency work on the side. All of my nursing roles require annual mandatory training and this includes conflict management. For my main job I get an hour every other year. But this particular agency insisted on my doing a full day and had no interest in my credentials or experience. So I did it. Just to “tick the box.”

My suspicion is that they put the training out to tender and gave the contract to the cheapest company.

The day started well. The lady presenting was confidant, articulate, practiced and prepared. We covered the usual things; causes of aggression, types of language, a model for de-escalation and so on.

After lunch we covered law as it relates to self protection. Now, I knew going in that she needed to be careful, on my iPhone is the Kindle app, containing the latest Star Wars novel and the books of Mr Mark Dawes and Mr Leigh Simms. The latter two lack the entertainment value of x-wings engaging TIE fighters or indeed the deep discussions on ethics, actions and The Force, but they are the foremost authorities on self protection and the law and their books are very accessible. I keep them to hand for quick reference for when I’m teaching this material.

Our presenting lady started well in the right place, 1967 Criminal Law Act and all that. She got a little confused over the implications of imbibing alcohol and self protection but we can write that off as irrelevant to nurses on duty (we hope.), but then without warning or relation to anything previous she dropped the bombshell: anyone that does martial arts, Karate, boxing or whatever has to register their hands and feet with the police as weapons. Furthermore, us martial artists can’t use our skills in self protection.

Those that know me know that at times I’m as subtle as being whacked around the head by a lemon, where said lemon has been wrapped around a brick. I lost it.

I would like to think that normally I am an articulate, and I would hope erudite, person I think I simply declared “that’s utter tosh!”

But she persisted. We were clearly disrupting the class at this point so I gave her my business card and invited her to e-mail me the reference to these supposed “laws” and said she was welcome to peruse my iPhone Kindle library.

I wish I could say that I was exaggerating all of this using artistic licence in my writing for effect. But in the immortal words of Han Solo “it’s is true, all of it.” I worry about how many people she’s fed this misinformation too. I genuinely worry that someone might have some workable skills developed over a number of years in the dojo and now have the fear to use them when it matters due to the supposed consequences.

And then we did the practical session. Oh hell! I suspect you wouldn’t believe me if I did explain what she taught us, and again I didn’t hold back my opinions on it. She maintains that the techniques were endorsed by her son who is in the SAS or Royal Marines or Spetsnaz or something. I maintain that they were based around concepts that all sensible instructors dropped years ago. They were devoid of principles. Several times I asked about context. Was our attacker a 19 year-old six-foot-three unit with their brain addled by M-Cat? Or were they a frail 85 year old lady with a screaming urine infection? In my job both are possible. She wouldn’t even answer my question. (As a point of interest, one of my Aikido Sensei was a retired mental health nurse, his answer is to knock out the 85 year old and share a coffee with M-Cat boy. I think he’s joking, but I’m honestly not sure!)

So, what do we learn from this? Well primarily, if you pay with bananas then you’ll get monkeys. A well trained monkey might have been a very effective trainer but unfortunately this particular paid primate wasn’t well trained and was repeating how she’d been trained. Sadly I don’t know what we can do about it, aside from continuing to be the paragons of correct information and effective methods.

For reasons I won’t go into, I feel that there is a chronic wound in the way that (most) front-line NHS staff are training to deal with conflict. On this occasion the wound was gaping wide open.


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