Confessions of a Martial Arts Instructor – Jeff Burger

I hate teaching self-defense.

I love the martial arts, all of them. I spent about thirty-five years running around the world trying to learn everything that I could from anybody willing to teach.

It all started with wanting to learn to defend myself.  Now, I have been teaching over twenty-five years and love it. I love the science, the mechanics, the physical and mental challenges, the artfulness, the cultures, and being a part of other people’s growth….

But I have to admit, I hate teaching self-defense.


It is just too vast of a topic.

Ambushes, sucker punches, verbal Judo/de-escalation, dealing with fear and pain, awareness, freezing,  punching, kicking, escape from holds, ground work, difference in weight, size, strength, multiple opponents, weapons … and so much more, and that is not even getting into the legal stuff that changes from state to state, country to country.

Think of how much we still don’t know about our own planet. Now imagine that every martial art is its own planet.  As vast as that is, the Boxing planet has a beginning and end, the Judo planet has a beginning and end, and so on, and so on.

Self-defense is a universe.

Depending on your art, you may spend decades trying to master one or more of those self-defense topics and never reach perfection.

The icing on this giant cake of endless work towards an unachievable goal, is that people will expect you to teach them how to defend themselves in any situation in a short period of training time (maybe even one seminar) by just showing them some “moves”.

However as a martial arts instructor, I feel obligated to teach self-defense.

How do I approach it? Well, I start by making people sad. I am honest and break the bad news about how much there is to learn.  Even if they did learn it all (which I haven’t in thirty-five years) their safety is still not guaranteed.

If they haven’t walked out and still want to hear what I have to offer, I start by prioritizing topics. I skim the cream and grab the most essential information from the most important categories.

From there, we go forever deeper.


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