Twitter Q & A Volume 1: Self Defense and Children

by Johnny Pain

This post is written to provide answers to some questions I recently received on Twitter regarding the subject of self defense. I will be writing these Q and A posts in an ongoing manner, so if you have questions you would like to see answered in depth, send them to me on twitter (@thejohnnypain).

The first question, or questions rather, come from two of my followers, @willaimsbk, and @MattAdler5. Their questions were similar so I decided to combine them and answer as one.

The first question was “How do I teach my kids about self defense without making them a bully?” and the second was simply “What should I be teaching my kids?”

I’ll be perfectly honest with both of you, teaching children, at least small children, is not what I do. What information is taught to your kids is your decision one hundred percent. I do not allow children under 18 to attend seminars, and have only trained a few select teenagers (with their parents permission) who were less than that age. I will however give some insight on the situation from both my perspective as a parent, and as an instructor.

For most, the days of the schoolyard “fair one” are over. Fighting in schools is not nearly as cut and dry simple as it used to be. While it used to be commonplace for kids to “be kids” and get into a good scrape at recess, it’s simply not viewed the same way in today’s sue-happy, society.

Many schools around the country (US) have instituted a “zero-tolerance” policy that says that children can be expelled from school for fighting. It’s important to note that these measures are not taken to prevent kids from fighting or being bullied, but rather to protect the administration, municipality, and state from lawsuits.

That said; bullying, and social conflicts are still a part of a school-age child’s life. With such a child, I would place a strong emphasis on how to use social skills to avoid conflict, and lastly how to end the conflict as quickly as possible if it cannot be avoided. While I don’t advocate using the tool of violence if it is not warranted by threat of imminent bodily harm, I certainly don’t advocate anyone taking a beating because they did not want to risk being punished, or hurting the other person.

I think that for a child of this age, who is likely to be involved with social conflict, either through the school system, or otherwise, an education in the basics of targeting, spinal reflex, and body mechanics form a solid base. I would educate the child on what striking targets and manners would be potentially lethal so as to avoid their accidental use of such methods, but would emphasize that there are no guarantees any time you put your hands on another human being in the same way that I do when addressing adults who want to learn how to use the asocial tool of violence to solve social problems. Likewise, I would omit much of the skeletal destruction, and throwing principles from their curriculum as these are obviously much more likely to produce serious injury.

I should add that it is also important to educate your children as to what can be expected in the aftermath of an incident with a bully, particularly in a school setting. Making sure that your children refuse to sign anything without you present, or otherwise “consent” to being interviewed, writing or speaking their account of the events, or anything else related will save your ass (and wallet) in court should the situation reach that point. It is also a very wise idea to have a lawyer on retainer who can examine any documents the paper trail friendly school system might want signed, and give you guidance before and after any sort of situation comes to pass. This can be bought for a few hundred dollars, and is worth its weight in gold if needed (you should have this already for yourself).

Beyond the base of instruction that allows the child to deal with the “social” conflicts that they are likely to encounter as a school student, it becomes a personal decision how much, and at what age, you want your child to know about how to incapacitate another person. I think that there needs to be a balance assessment of sorts in your mind to determine when he or she is ready. Obviously you would want your child to not ever misuse the information, or use it for personal gain of some sort, but at the same time you would want them to have the knowledge in the event that someone was trying to abduct them or impose their will on them in any other manner that was dangerous and inappropriate. I think that this decision has more to do with an assessment of the individual child’s morals, values, and overall demeanor, and it is definitely one that needs to be made by the parent(s).

I liken the decision to teach children to be able to incapacitate another human to giving them their own firearm and teaching them how to use it. I feel that it is absolutely critical that children know how to navigate today’s dangerous world, and therefore place a ton of emphasis on educating mine (both 5 years old) to be aware of their surroundings, know how to call 911, and the obligatory “never talk to strangers” mantra. I feel that a kid should be thoroughly educated on the type of situations that they are likely to encounter, so as to minimize the risk of them being in the type of situation where knowing how to incapacitate a grown man would even become relevant.

I personally have not begun formally training either of my children to injure other humans if necessary, though I have been laying the groundwork for future lessons from the start. For instance my five-year-old boy can point to his liver, spleen, solar plexus, and kidneys, and can name the balls on the inside and outside of his ankles (the medial and lateral malleolus respectively). Additionally he can tell you that you never hit somebody in the throat when you’re playing, and that of the Ninja Turtles, Leonardo has the most dangerous weapons (even though Raphael is his favorite).

Likewise my soon to be five year old daughter can dial 911, and take pictures and video from an iPhone, and has been told to do so if “something bad” is ever happening. As a result of growing up in my house, both are fascinated with guns, and love to “fight” with me regularly. I playfully deny them structure, take their space, and give them solid enough shots to the outside of their thighs (lateral femoral cutaneous nerve) and other somewhat benign targets to provide them feedback (all of these being principles of what I teach to adults). They laugh and have a blast. Meanwhile when they roughhouse with each other, you can see elements of movements that they emulate of mine present in their play, much like you see lion cubs doing in the wild. It’s a great thing to see as a parent.

As they continue to develop, and learn more responsibility, I will evolve their “training” to include lessons on how to handle the bully, as well as what to do if a “bad person” is trying to abduct them or touch them in any sort of bad way. The truth is, a child is capable of doing real damage to a grown man as any father who’s caught an inadvertent groin shot can tell you. Additionally, their cupped little hands are more than capable of rupturing a three hundred pound man’s eardrums, and their fingers can gouge an eye every bit as well as mine can. It’s important however that we distinguish “fighting” with a grown man from injuring a man while escaping. It turns my stomach when I see martial arts schools offer demonstrations which feature a child half a grown man’s size assuming a “fighting stance” and proceeding to flip the man on his ass with a wrist throw or some other nonsense. These sights get parents to sign contracts for lessons with the school, but in reality give the children an obscenely false sense of empowerment and virtually guarantee that they will have their skull caved in or be brutally raped should they ever attempt such limp-dicked maneuvers against a sociopathic adult.

As is the case with any age group or demographic it is important to teach children in a manner that is “mission specific”. This is a term that I use when designing training for various people or organizations. What is the child likely to encounter, and how do you want him or her to be prepared for said situations? It is then important to understand that, like parenting in general, educating your children to survive in a dangerous world is an ongoing process that requires an evolution as the child grows and becomes more responsible.

For now, it is my responsibility to watch over my children (as it always will be), and that includes making decisions for them about what they are ready or not ready for in terms of responsibility and knowledge of skills that can save their lives.

Click Here to register for my three day “Assassin’s Course in Self Defense” seminar at the Greyskull Academy of Combat Sciences this September 13, 14, and 15. 

Johnny Pain is the man behind as well as the East Coast’s notorious Greyskull Barbell Club, the newly launched Greyskull Academy of Combat Sciences, and several other ventures. He is the author of several books on subjects pertaining to strength and conditioning. He can be found comically entertaining questions on his Q and A forum at or can be reached for consultations, training seminars, or speaking engagements at

Also, you can follow him on Twitter: @thejohnnypain



3 Responses

  1. Chibs

    ‘It turns my stomach when I see martial arts schools offer demonstrations which feature a child half a grown man’s size assuming a “fighting stance” and proceeding to flip the man on his ass with a wrist throw or some other nonsense.’

    Hah, funny story: back in 2009 my short-lived dabble in MMA reached its peak in my first, although not officially sanctioned, bout in the netherlands. The venue was a local gym with a boxing ring. I knew my opponents name, gym and our weightclass (welter), but not much more than that. When I met him on Friday for the weigh ins for the fights on Saturday, the guy arrived in a black kimono covered in patches and japanese letters, together with four similarily clad, although less adorned groupies. He sizes me up the whole time and acts ridicously cocksure. Newbie that I am, I eat it up and become more nervous than I even was before. My trainer, who came with me to corner for me, reacts exactly the opposite, saying as we walk back to our shitty hotel: ‘Fuck man, it’s an aikido guy. You’re lucky, this will be a walk in the park for you.’

    I’m unconvinced.

    Next day and one basically sleepless night later, the fight is on. Three 5 minute rounds. Guy refuses to touch gloves. When the bell rings, my gameplan is to punish the guy in the clinch and finish him on the ground, simply because that’s what I did best back then with my limited repetoire.

    I come out quickly and we meet in center. I paw a jab or two to gauge distance. Suddenly, the guy grabs my left wrist with a vice grip, twist his hip and drops to his knee. I make a half step forward, being a bit off balance. I look down at him. He looks up at me. Nothing happenend. He’s still controlling my left wrist, so I put a straight right on his nose. He was completely uncovered and the added downward angle makes the nose break immediatly. I pull him up a bit, switch stance to southpaw and give him a nice shin to the liver. The guy falters, finally lets go of my wrist and drops the floor. I try to give him a hammer fist bye-bye but the referee is already pulling me off, so I hit the floor instead, bruising and almost breaking my pinky finger.

    The whole fight lasted 14 seconds. To make it clear, I’m not some badass super fighter. In my second fight 3 months later, a dutch kickboxer beat the living shit out of me for almost two rounds. It’s just that my gameplan wasn’t ‘1. be Steven Seagal 2. Victory’.

    July 9, 2013 at 7:17 am

  2. Chad

    Great article, I’m actually really impressed with how mature and well thought out your case is for kids and self defense. I’m a huge fan of yours and really enjoy the serious with the fun mixed in; nice job again.

    July 10, 2013 at 12:24 am

    • Thank you Chad,

      The topic is extremely serious to me as I’ve spent the last 16 years of my life studying it as my number one passion. I’m glad you’re enjoying the new content. It’s been a big decision for me to launch in this direction but I think that my audience has been more than responsive and ready to hear it.

      Feel free to forward any questions.

      Thanks again for the support.


      July 10, 2013 at 12:30 am

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