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I am a Marine myself and between extensive combat experience, close quarter, and hand to hand, I am well versed in a variety of disciplines. For me this comes naturally.

Now that being said, I am having a hard time figuring out what to teach my wife and daughter. What is overkill versus necessary to defend effectively without going overboard?

My wife is 5'4" and weighs 100 lbs soaking wet and my daughter is 5'7" and 100 lbs soaking wet. So I am looking for suggestions as to how to approach their training without inevitably treating them like Marines and turning them off because I am "too rough" or "too demanding" or "expecting too much"? I want them to have the best but I know it may not be a reasonable expectation, so I am content to having them learn what provides them the most comprehensive and yet relatively easy to learn while effective techniques.

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"how to approach their training without inevitably treating them like the countless Marines I have trained" - you are making the assumption that you are the right trainer for them. You may be better off just sending them to someone else to train (and be prepared for the possibility that they may not train for long before losing interest). –  slugster Nov 7 '13 at 12:33
@slugster - That comment deserves to be an answer, if for no other reason than the assertion that he may not be the best trainer for them. –  JohnP Nov 7 '13 at 14:30
@JohnP, I have been clear that my perspective on combat makes me terrible for training them, that's why I don't want to become the reason they are turned off and looking for outside help. –  GµårÐïåñ Nov 7 '13 at 20:39
@GµårÐïåñ Good on you. I remember when my wife was in the beginner classes I was teaching at the time, it wasn't the best mix :) –  JohnP Nov 7 '13 at 20:45
@GµårÐïåñ You may have misinterpreted what I meant - it's got nothing to do with how good you are or your level of knowledge, it's that those close to you won't necessarily learn or apply themselves well when you train them. I've got this with my kids - they learn little things from me when we play fight, but formalised training is out of the question because to them I am Daddy rather than Sensei. This means I need to let someone else train them, then just correct the things that are wrong and give them occasional extra tuition. –  slugster Nov 7 '13 at 20:56
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6 Answers

I am afraid you are looking for a unicorn and you do not even know what a unicorn is.

There's a world of difference between giving your daughter enough training to "survive" a date and her surviving walking back to base after crossing Mogadishu. No Nonsense Self-Defense is a good place to start looking at these issues but is by no mean exhaustive. As for myself, I would suggest a few things.

First: What are your aims? Keeping them safe is unrealistic since it is so broad. Look at statistic of crime where you live. This will tell you what the most common things they might have to worry about. There is no need to train them for something that has no chance of happening.

Second: What do they want? Is this your mind set that want to keep them safe because you are so used to violence? Do they see the same world as you?... Ask them what they want. This will tell you what they want to learn. GµårÐïåñ has since said that his family is driving this. This is a good thing.

Third: Now, pick a system of self defence or a martial art or dancing or advanced driving... Whatever you pick, there will be good things and bad things. There are no ultimate system. just stacking the desk in your favour.

For example, in the USA, you are eight times more likely to be killed by law enforcements than terrorists. Thus a law degree might be more effective than a martial art. In the USA, you are as well about 150 times more likely to be killed in a road accident than in a terrorist attack. Thus a driving course is vastly more effective at keeping you safe than an anti-terrorist course. Now, if you live in Mogadishu, things might be different...

Edit after comments: In answer to

My immediate goals are: deal with a perp that has a knife, gun, or just physical force. Not necessary stay and fight it all the way but disable and disarm long enough to get out of dodge without being pursued.

I see where you are coming from and please read the rest as helpful, supportive suggestions as it is how it is meant. Self defence for you relies on surviving physical assaults. It's your job as a Marine to fight. Civilian self defence is about not being in a position to survive a physical assault. Those are totally opposite things. They are utterly different skills and you do not need to know anything about combat to be good at self defence.

As for being hard asses, any good teacher can do that, no matter the art. Look at this answer and question.

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Believe me brother I know what you mean by unicorn, hence why I reached out. My goals is for them to never be a victim, to know how to stand their ground with just about anyone they encounter, short of someone like myself being their opponent, in which case they are screwed. This sounds terrible but they want to be like hubby/daddy - badass (their words) and to earn the respect of being a Marine's daughter/wife. They know they will never be solider level but they want to be able to never be a victim or at least give as good as they get, preferably better. –  GµårÐïåñ Nov 7 '13 at 20:42
My immediate goals are: deal with a perp that has a knife, gun, or just physical force. Not necessary stay and fight it all the way but disable and disarm long enough to get out of dodge without being pursued. I have taught them basic effective throat jab, palm to nose/face, inner knees and a few other pressure and weak points but as we all know the size and aggressiveness of the perp will make some of them out of their reach. I am not looker to make them killer ninjas as much as I would love it, just well trained defenders of their self and others. –  GµårÐïåñ Nov 7 '13 at 20:47
Thank you, I appreciate what you added to your answer and I commend your supportive suggestions. –  GµårÐïåñ Nov 10 '13 at 7:46
@GµårÐïåñ: You are most welcome. –  Sardathrion Nov 10 '13 at 20:23
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While the answer can have all kinds of nuances, I suggest Krav Maga (full disclosure I practice it).

My gf is 110lbs wet wearing boots, and takes Krav. She had no background in martial arts, and no real natural skill for it, but after training in KM for some time, she now has the confidence, knowledge, and skillset to adequately protect herself in many situations.

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I actually considered that, I have several friends who practice (I learned mine in joint training operations with Mossad) but you are right, I have seen success with it being used with novices. +1 in consideration to do it. Thanks. –  GµårÐïåñ Nov 7 '13 at 20:50
As an aside, you have my extreme gratitude for your many years of service to our country. –  Alan Nov 8 '13 at 3:30
I thank you for that, as do all those who serve. Speaking for myself, it is my duty and honor to do so. –  GµårÐïåñ Nov 8 '13 at 20:45
Krav Maga is designed to be picked up quickly. If you can find a good teacher, I would suggest it no question. (Just be wary, if every Krav maga instructor who claims to have trained Israeli special forces did so, then there are waay more instructors then soldiers) –  Btuman Nov 21 '13 at 18:18
@Btuman, agreed. Thankfully due to my "past" life for lack of a better word, I know enough REAL soldiers to ask and a few live in the states now, so that certainly helps me. I broached the subject with them to ask if they would be interested in teaching my girls and they were, but they all agreed that our female friend should do it for added benefit of perspective. So we'll see how this works out. –  GµårÐïåñ Nov 21 '13 at 22:33
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Find a school that fulfills the following requirements:

  • spars at least a little hard
  • your wife and daughter enjoy training at
  • is near you

Then be supportive--not hectoring, not demanding--with their training. All else is gravy. The goal here is to give them experience with either wrestling or hitting and being hit, if they want that. It's nice that you're "a beast" but I didn't hear you say anything about what your wife wants, or what your daughter wants. Take care that this is their project, not yours.

If no schools fulfill those requirements, then get them into some form of resistance training (Olympic lifting, kettlebells, CrossFit, dumbbell powerlifts--it doesn't much matter) and once in a while, when they feel like it, have them glove up (or gi up) and work some boxing or wrestling with you, with you embodying gentility and encouragement and them going full force with ferocity.

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I am sorry if I left that out. I included it in the comments above when asked. But they WANT IT, more than anything and they want ME to teach them but I find a little bit into it I get the feeling that I am "not right for this" for lack of a better word, I guess why surgeons don't operate on family, what if I hurt them, what if they get the wrong idea, what if they resent it. I want them pushed to the level THEY are comfortable with and not what I might want them to become, so I am totally supportive and not demanding or even pushing this, its all them. –  GµårÐïåñ Nov 7 '13 at 20:52
So glove up, show them the basics of boxing, wrestling, a proper stand, a little guard work, and make it fun. Have them hit the pads, escape mount a few times, show them where a wrist grab is weak. –  Dave Liepmann Nov 7 '13 at 21:21
Oh I do that :) They have fun ganging up on me and I show them proper stance to defend against multiple targets where to aim their attacks, how to guard against a reversal. What areas to protect, how to advance for a strike without leaving themselves open. Proper delivery of the punches, kicks and so on. Basic escape from grabs, locks and even a sleeper hold. That much I have been working with the, its the aggressive offensive techniques is what I want them to learn and my greatest fear is I will hurt them if I try to teach them. –  GµårÐïåñ Nov 7 '13 at 22:09
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The other answers here are great, but I have a couple more tips to add:

  • Find a well-rounded school. A lot of arts are "do one thing, really, really well" types of schools. (If you know anything about MMA history, you'll know how well that mindset has gone over throughout the years.) Doing one thing really well is great, but street fight situations are nothing like tournaments. Find a school that does at least striking and grappling. Ideally, they should also train in throwing, escaping, and weaponry.

  • See what schools your fellow soldiers and local police officers attend. In my experience, soldiers and police officers won't attend a school that's not effective, and the police aren't likely to attend something that isn't applicable to their job. This not only helps ensure that the school is teaching techniques that will help in a real-life, but it's also more likely to teach things that aren't martial arts specific, such as situational awareness, how to keep someone pinned without using your hands, how to think about doing things within a given technique that allows you to draw your own weapon, and how to be mindful of the legal implications of a given move. It also gets you familiar with some of the members of your local police force, and can provide other perks like access to firearm training and certifications and shooting ranges.

  • Find a school that isn't heavily focused on tournament competition. I'm not talking about one that doesn't spar, here. I'm talking about the schools where they teach for the tournament. Points and tapouts mean nothing on the street. Visit a class, and you'll likely know whether the school is tournament-oriented or not within a few minutes.

  • Find schools that are like close-knit families. You don't need a black-belt mill, you need focused training and a supportive but challenging atmosphere. There doesn't have to be a lot of black belts at the school for it to be good (and anything that guarantees certain ranks in certain timeframes are probably more focused on other things besides true understanding and learning). I practice in the Bujinkan, and one of the things that I like about it is that it's like a family, even among the different dojos. I'm in central Ohio, and we have a close relationship with the Indianapolis school, and try to support them when we can. That kind of community is often hard to come by. A school doesn't have to be small to have that, either. I've seen larger schools that had the same feel. So don't discount a school on this point, just because it's larger.

  • Find schools that specifically mix training partners. Your wife and daughter only training with each other isn't going to help them any. Training with you will help this, but they need to be familiar with different body types, and they need to learn that they can throw, control, and otherwise defend against people quite a bit larger than them, and they need to learn the differences between how guys with your body type, the lanky guys, and the guys that are your size, but with 20% body fat move.

Some school ideas:

Krav Maga
Jujitsu (not necessarily BJJ)
Jeet Kune Do

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Thank you, lots of good points to consider, will do thank you. –  GµårÐïåñ Nov 8 '13 at 20:46
Just a follow-up to thank you for the help, I have narrowed it down to Krav Maga because an old friend from Israel who is training some MMA fighters we know offered to coach them at the gym since she will already be there and being female gives her some perspective with my girls. Now how quickly or well they pick it up, only time will tell, thanks again. –  GµårÐïåñ Nov 21 '13 at 22:29
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These kinds of questions are subjective, and normally don't make good questions for StackExchange, however it is one of those common questions people really want some kind of answer for...

Having done quite a few martial arts, and having had "taster" experiences of quite a few more, I feel Krav Maga was the most directly focused on self defence as well as teaching a mindset as quick as possible.

It reminds me of various martial arts who run womens self defence courses who distill out quick and effective techniques for the most likely scenarios. Krav just feels like its made this its mission. What I liked, at least the way I trained it, is it incorporated a lot of pressure testing drills. Highly recommended

Another art I thought was quite effective/good at self defence ( at least from the person who taught me ) was Kali/Escrima. Can get quite fancy at a higher level, but a lot of the basics are really quite good, with some excellent stick/knife fighting stuff in there. Also had lots of good pressure testing.

Along with those, I think things like kick boxing and BJJ are quite good supplementary arts as they have competitive aspect to them (disclosure, I do BJJ ). I think competitive aspects help develop confidence, working under pressure, being realistic about what you will ACTUALLY remember in the heat of the moment. BJJ I'd give extra credit because on the ground, it has lots of answers to a lot of situations that people would get stuck in without direct training.

Then my final observation from various news articles I've seen over the years... Many women martial artisra from many arts have successfully defended themselves coming from backgrounds of Judo, TKD, Karate, and others. The recurring theme seemed to be, they were extremely assertive, and once they showed they weren't going to be compliant (through both force and non force), their attackers quickly gave up and took off.

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Thank you, very helpful. I appreciate that since I have practical Krav Maga and Brazilian Jujitsu as well, we are certainly kindred spirits. Again, thank you for the thoughtful sharing of your experience. –  GµårÐïåñ Nov 11 '13 at 1:31
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I'd suggest taking them to a Krav class. I have this dilemma with my own son. I have been teaching for many years but it is extremely hard to train your own family. My first instructor taught his own daughters. One became a world champion but the other hated her dad. I wouldn't want to risk doing the later!

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Excellent suggestion, thank you. I have had a couple others who have voted for that, so the base is growing for that option :) –  GµårÐïåñ Nov 21 '13 at 22:25
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