Engineered Ignorance in the Self-Defense Industry

I first heard the term ‘Engineered Ignorance’ in a documentary entitled: Shoshana Zuboff on surveillance capitalism | VPRO Documentary (you can watch it here). Shoshana, an American author and scholar, describes how giant tech companies mine our data for nefarious uses, while keeping us in the dark about what is really going on behind the scenes. They do this by distracting us with social credit such as like buttons, all the while giving us the illusion that we have privacy on these platforms (when in fact we don’t).

Which got me thinking about my own industry, that could be loosely defined as the ‘Self-Defense Machine’.

I acknowledge that I am part of this ‘Machine’ and admittedly just like my counter parts in my industry, I make a considerable amount of my living from selling my expertise. However in doing so, and especially over the past several years with the rise of social media platforms, and on demand video services like YouTube, coupled with inexpensive access to putting out instructional videos via online courses – I have seen an increase in ‘phoney experts’. Some of these people I know personally, who come from great homes, perfect upbringing, and have never had to deploy their self-defense programs or systems in real life.

An Attempt to Keep You Ignorant

The question to ask is, is their an intentional attempt by instructors in the self-defense industry to keep students ignorant?

I think just like giant tech companies such as Google, who have under the guise of supposed privacy mined data that was previously seen as junk, to track and predict our future ‘spending’ trends — some Self-Defense experts knowingly manipulate the average person on the streets ignorance of real world interpersonal violence strategies and tactics for their own personal gain. As such they sell flash, quick fixes, certainties, and fear, all in an attempt to misdirecting you the consumer away from what you really should be learning, or challenging them on what you have been taught.

The reality is, what is more important in self-preservation readiness, is in fact not the obvious, but the least talked about, least taught aspects of the interpersonal conflict domain. For example: situational awareness, body posture when moving in the world, how present someone is, and avoidance strategies. All of these are the least focused parts of most self-defense training programs, somewhat like the ‘junk data’ that can predict your future consumer spending trends — but which in fact, in reality, is a far greater prediction of self-preservation readiness and survival than one more Jason Bourne class.

Getting Away With It

How do these self-defense experts get away with this? They do this by neatly packaging what we all want to hear, in our ever ‘I want it now,’ and instant ‘drive-thru’ society. Some of these misleading claims include things like size and strength dont matter, learn how to defend yourself in one weekend, 10-deadly strikes to stop any opponent, or preying off our fears reported in the news, like the increase of knife attacks, or school shootings. Are these threats out there, of course they are, but the people peddling their self-defense courses to you have more than likely never deployed it themselves in the domain they are claiming to teach you to defend against. For example, is there anyone out there who has survived multiple knife attacks teaching you how to do the same? Or how about someone who has survived a school shooting teaching on the subject? I am certain you will find few and far between!

You wouldn’t think so but there is a myriad of ways to get around teaching people the reality of interpersonal conflict. For example, you can make sure no one spars against a resisting, uncooperative opponent. You can make sure as the instructor that you always demonstrate against knowns. In other words, you set up the environment in such a way that when you are teaching, that you already know what your chosen pretend bad guy is going to do and in return you have well rehearsed scripted responses. You can make what you do look fast, flashy, bringing it closer to what Hollywood portrays as ‘real fighting’ (because for most average people in the West, never meeting any real interpersonal conflict, that’s the only version of a fight they know). Of course, you can offer some kind of certificate at the end too. You cane make false claims that size and strength don’t matter (even Jiu-Jitsu people are culprits of this), and engineer the environment in such a way that everyone looks like they are making it work. Most importantly, as the instructor you make sure you never get put on the spot and asked to actually show what you just taught in real time, against an uncooperative, resisting opponent.

Exposing the Fakes

In this sense, it actually isn’t that difficult to expose the fakes in the self-defense industry. Simply challenging them to show what they just taught on the spot for real would sort that out. Ask them to show you how that will work when you don’t hold your punch out there and you come at them with everything you got, without defining a starting point. Even better, take three things they taught you against certain attacks, and then come at them with those attacks but in no particular order. Almost always, what they just taught begins to fall apart once you introduce some chaos into the mix. Just like in any chaotic system, which a fight is, along with human beings – the more you try to predict what will happen next – the further you move away from the prediction.

Most of these self-defense experts would be horrified, afraid, and get off YouTube if any of the above happened. They would be exposed for the fakes they are. But here is the thing, they are counting on the fact that you have been educated to bow to authority figures (Read the Lucifer Effect for more on this, specifically the Stanford Prison Experiment).

They are counting on the fact, that you likely come form a middle to upper class safe neighbourhood in the Western societal stratosphere, so you have never actually had to fight for a real a day in your entire life.

They are counting on the fact that you have been blinded by what Hollywood portrays as real fighting, a mix of prediction, with super cool moves, that not only John Wick can pull off, but you too supposedly can do so in a weekend.

Are There Good Instructors Out There?

Are there good self-defense experts out there?

Of course there are.

Is it a waste of time doing a weekend training program? Not necessarily, if the instructors is honest, defines the boundaries, and impresses upon you the importance of what you need to do, should you want to continue to learn how to really defend yourself in the future. Unfortunately there are no-shortcuts here. No one can learn how to really defend themselves in a weekend, a week or a month. Depending on what you are being exposed too, you could spend a year in a place where you have been told everything what you want to hear, but non of what you really need to know. Bottom line, you could be nowhere further in your quest for self-preservation efficiency 12-months down the line. I bet most people aren’t.

Again are there good self-preservation instructors out there?

Of course!

These are guys and girls who have fought in the trenches so to speak. You know they are real, because they never make any ridiculous promises or claims to you. They will tell you straight to your face, size and strength make a difference. There are no shortcuts, other than consistent, long-term training. That even the best laid plans go south. That a real fight will never look like you trained for it in the academy. That you cannot cover all the possibilities that could occur in a fight, so learning more predicted responses will mean little in reality. That at times, you may find yourself fighting from a losing position, and no amount of techniques is going to help you in that moment except for your survive mindset. Here, mindset is more important, and always will be, than physical skill sets.

The Bottom Line

But the bottom line of this article is to point out that many self-defense instructors employ tactics that take advantage of your Engineered Ignorance about the realities of interpersonal violence. They are counting on the fact that you likely have no real reference on what constitutes ‘real’ or ‘fake’ self-defense training to begin with.

These instructors have engineered the training experience so that they never have to prove at least to a satisfactory degree, that what they are teaching will work. They hide the truth of not really being able to fight themselves, with flashy moves, prediction, unrealistic claims of success, never putting themselves on the line in public to fail, and of course, hand out some certificates.


All in all, as a person wanting to learn how to defend yourself, many self-defense instructors are counting on you not knowing anything about real world interpersonal conflict, short of what Hollywood portrays.
The have Ingineered and capitalised on your ignorance. They don’t want you to know the reality, the truth, because if you did, they would have to change literally everything about what they teach. Mot least of which, get off their high horses, stop claiming to be experts in something they are not, and deflate their massive egos back to ground zero!



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