The Ai-kitchen

An Aikido blog. There could also be food. Maybe.

CRGI Instructor Development Course

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One of the advantages of practising martial arts is that when, like yesterday, I wake up in the morning and my ribs hurt, I know why. And I’m happy about it.

This has been a really busy week, good weekend though. When I started writing this yesterday, I was sitting in a cafe, looking at the palm trees across the road through rain pouring down outside while the sun is shining. Now I’m back in the same cafe, this place is sort of my second office, anything productive I can do from here and almost all of my studying is done here.

I have some things I’d like to write about, but first as promised my review of the CRGI Self Defence Instructor Development course.

Some background first. CRGI stands for Conflict Research Group International, which is a group of people with a variety of experience with different aspects of violence who came together and set up some online resources for solid information.

This course was the first of its kind, taught by Rory Miller & Garry Smith. The subject was an overview on how to do self defence instruction and do it well. Even for people not teaching self defence but pure martial arts, a lot of the material would have been quite applicable. The course ran for two days, mostly in a classroom style set-up.

The group of attendees was small, mostly experienced instructors, in some cases 30+ of training. I was attending with my fiancée, and we were amongst the least experienced folks there. Decent mix of backgrounds, mostly form the RBSD side or Jiu-jitsu. Unsurprisingly, we were the only Aikido practitioners present.

The admin was nicely done and signing up was uncomplicated. Gary was nice enough to recommend a close hotel, and it was easily possible to get to the location on foot. All very conveniently arranged.

The first day started with an introduction of framework of what self defence and the related training are and are not. Already some very useful information and ways of looking at it here. Coming from a traditional martial arts background there was some discussion of the differences in context and training mindset.

Some discussion of experience thresholds and how people with different amounts of experience see the subject, and how they tend to act as teachers or students. This part definitely made sense in light of people I’ve come across in the past, and provided good context for some viewpoints I had had trouble wrapping my mind around. The last part of the intro was going over some of the mysteries, things that there is currently no solid explanation for. Interesting, and valuable for understanding how isolated incidents and stories may not always be good sources of information.

Part of the rest of the day was spent on background,which was for us a bit of recap. We’ve trained with Rory a couple of times before, so this gave us a chance to retake notes and focus on getting new insights from the material. First was context, the seven things that if we claim to teach self defence, we need to cover. See the book “Facing Violence” for a good overview of them. This is generally a list for instructors, but it seemed to me even more teaching focused this time, and going through the material again was quite useful. I’m bit fuzzy on the order, but I think next was Garry talking about UK self defence law, in the most practically applicable and useful way I’ve come across. Very good overview of the material and what you have to know, illustrated with some stories from Garry’s rather interesting past.

Other things covered here were violence dynamics in some detail, the social/asocial violence divide etc.; then a very quick version of the Logic of Violence seminar set-up; then introduction to principles based teaching, how to break down principles and building blocks. This part is pure gold, and involved some physical stuff to demonstrate the concept, using joint locks as an example. We also got homework, breaking down our own systems in this way. Really interesting especially to hear everybody else’s list. Finally details and impacts of different teaching methods.

Next day – I think -was how to evaluate techniques, especially how to recognise bad ones, identify training & safety flaws and to some degree work around them. How to do an after action debrief so it supports long term improvement. We did an exercise for honest self evaluation as instructors, which was very valuable for highlighting what we do well and where we need to do some work. With that came homework for a definite one year improvement plan (which I’m still working on) Some group discussion on problems that could come up in class and types of problematic students and ways to deal with them in the most productive way.

Discussion on having our paperwork in order and what type of documents we should have. Some stuff here I hadn’t thought of. Reading students, which is huge and really highlighted the difference between looking for martial arts and looking as a self defence instructor. Some of the stuff on recognising people with previous trauma was eye opening if somewhat creepy.

Did designing lesson plans as an exercise and tried to design one for a seminar which was new for me.

The last part before Q&A was on teaching professionals. This was not really relevant for me at this point, but it was very interesting.

Overall the seminar was great, lots of the topics covered are very important, and I think everybody who in any way, implicitly or explicitly claims to teach self defence would benefit greatly from this course. More importantly, their students would benefit. The delivery and organisation of the material was good and the group discussions valuable. The instructors are very approachable and answer questions readily. What could be improved would be the amount of time, this course needs to be longer. There are more topics in this subject, and some of the things, especially on day two, ended up being a little bit rushed. Rory has an after class ritual where you give your one takeaway for that day. Sometimes when I think back to the seminars, my long term takeaway ends up different than I thought. Not this time, my takeaway was that I need to look really hard at the stuff we’re doing in class and continue to make it better. And that’s still it, and for that alone, and providing the tools to do it, the course was absolutely worth it.

Some related links:

Garry’s site & the course ad:


Rory’s blog:                 

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