Learn to Defend Yourself
On this episode, I had a chat with Shane Iutzi, a Self-Defense Trainer. We had an important discussion about why you need to learn to defend yourself.
About Our Guest - Shane Iutzi, Self-Defense Trainer
Shane and his wife started LifeArmourYYC in 2016 with the hope of bringing real world self-defense training to Calgary. Since that time they have expanded their company to offer Police Prep and DefenceFit programs as well.
Shane spent the last 15 years with Alberta Health Services Protective Services occupying many roles including Provincial Training Manager where he had the honor of training over 100 Peace Officers in Tactical Safety.
He's traveled to the United States on several occasions in recent years to train with different military, law enforcement and martial arts professionals continuing to hone his skills.
In 2018 he partnered with Renegade Training Company as our exclusive home gym.
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Important Discussion Points
Learn to Defend Yourself | Question 1 - From the eyes of a professional, what is the most important thing about self-defense?
Well, just understanding that simplicity is your best friend. The more complicated that you make this stuff, the harder it's going to be in the moment to regurgitate the information and the techniques. So, what we do is we keep it simple. Speed and aggression are always going to be your friend. You know, not overthinking things in the moment, not getting overwhelmed with fear. So, anything that you can do to simplify the interaction and be as aggressive as you possibly can, in the shortest amount of time, will generally get you out of a bad situation.
Before that is situational awareness. Thinking about where you are, who's around. Are you in a safe environment? Do you have escape routes? Do you have friends you can rely on in the moment? And then, being consciously aware of your own safety. Have you actually thought about defending yourself before? And that's what we tell clients when they come to us at first. It's like, you're ahead of the game because you're here getting training. You're consciously thinking about your own personal safety, which is huge. You don't want to be caught in the moment thinking, why me? Because at that point it's too late. So, being consciously aware beforehand, being situationally aware in the moment, and then keeping it simple, if you get into a violent encounter.
Learn to Defend Yourself | Question 2 - You used the term situational awareness. How do you bring that to light when nowadays we love to walk with our head down in our phones?
Yeah, you're right. First of all, it's an overused term that's become completely watered down because a lot of people don't understand what situational awareness is. And, you're right. We're so busy nowadays, our heads are in our phones, we’re distracted by our world and how busy we are. So, a lot of times we have conversations with clients who first come through the door, where we want you to consciously think about your safety throughout the day. But if you can even do it first thing in the morning and have some kind of visual or auditory cue that reminds you throughout the day to be safe. So, whether that's you saying something to yourself internally, you hold on to something, or you have something on your clothing that reminds you of your personal safety throughout the day, that will help you stay consciously aware of your own safety.
Because, you're right. We're distracted all of the time.
Learn to Defend Yourself | Question 3 - You said that we have it inherently in us. So, are you referring to our fight or flight mentality?
A little bit, yeah. A little bit. So, deep down inside every one of us there is a need to protect. There's certain things that, when your sympathetic nervous system is triggered, that your body will do to protect you. So, for instance, I have a two-year-old son at home and when he was really young, if we dropped something on the floor and it made a loud noise or he heard something loud, his hands and his arms would come up to protect his face. I didn't teach him that. I wish I could say I did. But those are just things that the body will do to react to an incoming stimulus or a loud noise.
Learn to Defend Yourself | Question 4 - Because you mentioned your son, let's stay there for a second. Boys are taught to be "brave". How do you nurture that instinct that he has to protect himself without the burden of the notion that "boys need to be brave"?
I think there needs to be a larger conversation around masculinity with future generations. And my wife and I have had this conversation. We want to be careful with that, right? I don't want to teach my son how to fight, but obviously I think a certain set of skills, if he got into a situation where he needed to defend himself would be important. But the same would be said if I had a girl. I wouldn't teach different things to a different gender. Here's the set of skills that I think you need to have if you find yourself in a bad situation, but you don't go looking for it. And this is not about fighting. We tell clients this all the time. If you want to learn to fight, there's multiple avenues for you to learn how to fight. What we're doing is we're trying to avoid danger and conflict. But if you find yourself in those situations, we want you to create a window or an opportunity of escape. Not stand around and fight with somebody, because that's not what self-defense is about. You didn't go looking for it, you didn't ask for it, but you found yourself in this bad situation.
So, the same could resonate with my son or any other adolescents, because we do get some kids who come in. Their parents bring them in or whatever. And there's a lot of bullying that unfortunately happens in school these days, whether it's psychological or physical. But it's important for them to understand that this is not about fighting. It's not about you becoming the bully. This is a set of skills for you should you need to use it.
You do have to be careful with males because there's a certain level of testosterone and aggression that’s kind of built in. So, just for him to understand psychologically why it's important to defend yourself or defend someone else when you know it's wrong. So that difference between right and wrong and building into him good morals and a good conscious navigation system.
Learn to Defend Yourself | Question 5 - So, you treat self-defense like a skill. Just like any other skill, you may or may not use it all the time. But, in the event that you need to, it’s there.
Yeah, we teach it like first aid and CPR. Nobody ever wants to have to use first aid and CPR, but we all want to know it just in case. Self-defense isn't any different. With first aid and CPR, you're not a doctor, you're not a nurse, you're not a paramedic. You're trying to weather the storm of whatever that is in the moment until help arrives or you can retreat from that situation. Self-defense isn't any different. The interesting thing about self-defense is that it doesn't have an area code. It doesn't know what gender you are or any of those things. So, whether you're traveling, you're alone, you're a male, you're a female, you're whatever ethnicity you are, or sexual orientation, we don't care and neither does it.
Violence doesn't care what your background is. It just presents itself and you're either ready for it or you're not.
Learn to Defend Yourself | Question 6 - What are some examples of everyday situations where it's good to be a little bit situationally aware?
We have conversations with clients and just the general public all the time where they're going through their daily life, and I mean daily life like going to work, riding elevators, getting in and out of vehicles, being in their home by themselves. And these are not scary situations you find in movies. These are everyday parts of life where their instincts have triggered maybe several times a day thinking “am I safe, is there something wrong, what's going on here?”. So yeah, you're right. It's back to that stigma or the gimmicky part of self-defense. It doesn't matter who you are, what part of the city you live in, what your occupation is.
Bad things happen to good people unfortunately.
I'm a little bit more privy to that information just in my line of work and based on who my friends are. And, it's not about making people afraid or preaching fear. But sometimes, you could just be going to work or going to the grocery store or you know [fill in the blanks] and something bad happens to you. Just because of the circumstances, the situation, is there an increase in percentage of you finding yourself in a bad situation based on certain things? Sure. So, I always ask clients, what do you do for an occupation? And, it's not because I'm trying to put them in a box, but let's say for instance you work alone as a homecare nurse or you're a realtor and you're showing homes to strangers basically. Does that potentially increase your percentage of being in a bad situation? Sure. That's just the reality of the situation. It doesn't have to happen in darkly lit parkade or down an alley, because I think most people inherently have enough situational awareness where they would stop and go, I don't think I should proceed.
Learn to Defend Yourself | Question 7 - If I am the victim and my back is against the wall. Is there a verbal component to that?
Yeah. There's two thought processes behind verbalization. Obviously, you could be creating an audience and bringing people to the situation that could help you, for sure. There's also the component of exhalation of air during striking and things like that, you generate more power. And we want you to tap into that animalistic side. So, a lot of times people don't remember what they did or what they said during times of stress and anxiety especially in a violent encounter. But we don't want you to be silent. We want you to be verbal. We want you to be vocal. It will channel more aggression, but again it may potentially bring a bystander in to help you. Don't count on it, because not everybody will help you. Hopefully they will.
But there's a huge component to being verbal during any kind of situation.
Learn to Defend Yourself | Question 8 - Let's go back to kids. How do you draw that line between letting kids know that bad things can happen without crossing that line and just making them afraid of everything.
Yeah, it's hard. We haven't quite gotten there because our son's not quite at that age. He's pretty much with us all the time. But any of the clients that we've had, I have really open conversations with their parents. And what I find is that the more open the parent is with the child, the more malleable they are in training. They come with a better sense of what they want to accomplish in the training. And I ask parents this all the time. How do you have these conversations? How do you bring your child to training and not scare them? And a lot of the responses I get are that it's a scary world.
We don't sugarcoat things. We want our kids to be safe, so we're just up front and honest with them. And they find that the reaction from their child is that they're not scared, they're prepared and there's a huge difference there, right? So, having those open conversations with them doesn't scare them, that's the feedback that we're getting. So, I think for most parents, sitting down having an honest conversation that there are bad people in the world that will take advantage of you when you're younger, when you're older, when they feel you're vulnerable.
Those are just important conversations to have and, again, the feedback that we're getting is that it's not scaring kids. It's just making them more prepared. They're open, they're asking questions which is always good if a child is asking you questions. So yeah, I don't think there is the scary conversation happening.
I think it's just more of a preparation thing.
Learn to Defend Yourself | Question 9 - Is it just me or is don't talk to strangers just the best practical advice whether you're a kid or an adult?
As a kid for sure, yeah. I think the biggest thing for parents and kids is routine and pre-planning so as soon as there's something outside of that child's routine, they immediately know that this is, something's off, right? And not all strangers have bad intentions, but a child should never find that out the wrong way or the right way. Just assume that you know an adult has the ability to take advantage of you and you don't want to put yourself into a bad situation. So, you could say the same thing for adults. So, what often happens is adults don't trust their instincts because of societal rules or norms these days. We don't want to offend anybody. So, we get on to elevators with people that we, when the doors open, we're thinking, oh I don't think I should get on the elevator. But we do it anyways because that person might be offended.
Perfect example of that is several years back I was walking down the sidewalk and there was a lone female on the same side of the street walking towards me. And she ended up crossing the street maybe 20 or 25 feet in front of me. And my initial reaction was to get offended, in my head. And that sat with me for 20, 30 minutes and then I suddenly realized, wait a second. No, that's what you should do.
If there's something about me that you don't like, the look of me or you're getting some kind of strange feeling. Maybe that wasn't that, maybe she just crossed the street for whatever reason. But, the way I interpreted it was that she didn't like something about me. And that's exactly what you should do. If the elevator doors open and there's some guy or girl on there that makes you uncomfortable, don't get on the elevator. If you're going to your car, if you're going anywhere really and something inside you is saying this is bad, I should not proceed, then you should listen to those instincts.
Learn to Defend Yourself | Question 10 - You said that the majority of your clientele are women. I believe or I assume that the reason that men don't pursue self-defense is a little bit of that bravado. I don't want to appear weak, I don't want to seem weak to my peers. Do you think that's why?
Oh 100%. I have conversations with males around the stuff all the time. And, two things. So, it's either that stigma, that bravado, what are my friends gonna think? Or the flip side of that is, oh I would just know what to do.
You have no idea what you would do until you find yourself in that situation. Now some males have gone through a bunch of stuff where yeah, physically, emotionally, mentally they would be better prepared. But a lot don't. They just assume that they would turn into Chuck Norris in the moment, which is not realistic, right? But, yeah. I had a recent male client who was very open about his situation. He got attacked in a bar, didn't want to learn how to fight, but wanted to learn how to defend himself. And again, I'm very conscientious of that line. We will not take clients that are just looking to go start fights and stuff like that. So, there's a vetting process for that. But he was, he was very open with me about the situation but also that he was hesitant to seek out training because of what people around him would think. So, he hadn't told anyone. They were all very aware that he got attacked but he had not divulged to them that he was seeking self-defense training.
That's his prerogative. I didn't try to change his mind. That stigma is very much alive and well, but it's two sides. It's I don't want to be seen as weak, which is ludicrous, and I would just know what to do inherently in a bad situation, which is also false.