When we teach the martial arts to others, we are making a moral decision to pass on powerful knowledge to them, and we have a responsibility to make sure that those we teach take their new knowledge seriously. In our regular martial arts classes, we have a structured way of monitoring our students—to make sure that they are not using their developing skills to bully others or promote some personal agenda. But what about workshops? Does it ever make sense to teach people who are not real martial arts students and who you will probably only see once?
When we teach workshops, we run the risk of giving people just enough knowledge to make them feel overconfident in a bad situation while not giving them enough knowledge to protect themselves. Over the years, I have also sensed that many who come to workshops are there for the entertainment value they provide. They are not there to learn. There are a number of good reasons to turn down offers to do workshops.
For many years, I was reluctant to conduct workshops for the general public, preferring to focus my attention on my regular students. But something happened a few years ago that changed my mind. On February 3, 2004, a young girl in Sarasota, Florida was walking home and took a shortcut through Evie's Car Wash, which was closed at the time. She was approached by a large man who grabbed her arm and dragged her to his car. Carlie Brocia was later found dead, but her abduction made the national news because it had been caught on a security camera. The film of the abduction changed my attitude about workshops.
The man who abducted Carlie had no weapon. He did not strike her. He was able to abduct her because he was large enough to intimidate her and for no other reason. Had she known even one wrist release technique and one strike, she might have had enough confidence to break away and run to safety. I now believe that we should teach workshops, even though we can only accomplish a little. Sometimes that can be enough.
I still have the greatest respect for those who chose not to do workshops, but for me, workshops are now an important part of what I see as my obligation to teach. My regular students will be much better prepared if they have to defend themselves, but I now feel that I can accomplish enough even in an hour to save a life.