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By John Smith posted July 20, 2016

Can you tell me more about the Defensive module?

The first Practical Defensive Arts Training (PDAT) module focuses on defense, reducing the chances that you will get hurt.

Practical defense starts with avoidance. There are some violent people in the world. If we don't get close to such people, if we don't interact with such people, they are not very likely to hurt us. Where we go, what we do, and how we act, can increase or decrease our chances of interacting with such people. Practical defense starts with doing everything possible to reduce our chances of interacting with such people. PDAT uses a variety of drills to help develop situational awareness, so you will have a better chance of spotting and avoiding dangerous situations.

Unfortunately, we can't always avoid dangerous situations. Sometimes a dangeorous situation develops so quickly that we have little or no chance to avoid it. For those situations, PDAT includes drills to help you become aware of the types of situations in which someone may choose to hurt you. We then explore how you might change their mind, ways you might get your attacker to decide the he or she doesn't want to hurt you after all. 

For example, if you are in a verbal confrontation with someone, you may see that they are getting increasingly angry. At some point, when they reach a certain level of anger, they are likely to physically attack. In such a situation, your goal should be simple--avoid getting them angry enough to attack you. You want to de-escalate the confrontation, not escalate it to the point of violence. Other things shouldn't matter. You shouldn't care about who was "right" and who was "wrong". You shouldn't care about "winning" the argument. You shouldn't care about proving that you can't be pushed around. You should only care about getting home without getting hurt.

Or, for another simple case, assume you are walking into a convenience store and you see a man with a gun running towards you, as you enter the door. To that man, you are an obstacle. He may or may not want to shoot you, but you increase that risk if you stay in his way. In that situation, you have one goal--get out of his way so he has no real reason to shoot you.

Or, let's say that you are walking home one nght and a man with a gun comes around the corner and demands your purse or your wallet. He hasn't shot you yet, so he probably doesn't really want to shoot you. Your primary goal at that point should be to NOT give him any reason to shoot you. You don't want to make any sudden moves that might startle him into shooting you. In most cases, you would just want to slowly give him your wallet or purse, and hope he goes away. Your default response to situations should be to do the thing that makes it least likely that you will be injured or killed.

But, in PDAT, we don't just focus on situations with criminals or "bad people". Some of the drills focus on interactions with police officers, helping participants understand the responses and actions that a policeman might view as threatening. This training helps people understand how a police officer views the situation, so the students make better choices when interacting with police. One of the most popular drills in this series has students role play a traffic stop, with one student playing the role of policeman and another playing the role of the driver. We structure the situation so that both policeman and driver are placed under some tension. And we let them try various responses and experience the result. The goal of that drill isn't to teach people how to be police officers. The goal is to help people understand the situation from the viewpoint of a police officer, so if they are stopped by an officer in the future, they don't make inappropriate choices that could get them killed.

In PDAT, we role play a variety of such situations to develop your ability to assess the situation and make the best possible choice. We can't cover all situations which you might encounter, but you will experience a variety of situations to increase you chances of making good decisions in most any situation.

In each situation, the motivation of the person and the risk that you face may be different, but your goal remains the same--not getting hurt. In all situations, we want you to make the choice that is mostly likely to get you home without injury.

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts to avoid and de-escalate, you may find yourself in a situation where someone tries to hurt you. You may have little or no warning of an impending attack. You might just walk around a corner and find someone lunging at you with a stick or a knife.

Once a situation becomes physical, your focus becomes surviving that attack. It's too late to avoid, it's too late to de-escalate. Your focus must switch to survival. Most such attacks last only seconds or minutes, so your goal at that point is to live through those next few minutes. 

In PDAT, you will learn the most effective basic defensive response for a physical attack. You will practice that response against a wide range of attacks, from all directions. As you get better at protecting yourself, we will modify and extend the drills to increase your defensive abilities. And, with a bit of practice, you will become much harder to attack.

How long does it take to train in Practical Defensive Arts?

Each student decides how long he or she should train in PDAT. Students train for as many sessions as they feel are appropriate for their needs and their interest.

PDAT is designed so that you will benefit from the training no matter how many sessions you attend. At the end of every session, you should find that you have a greater ability to protect yourself, than you did at the start of that session. And you can continue the training as long as you find it to be useful, interesting, and enjoyable.

Some students train for just a few sessions, but most complete the first Defensive module, which consists of eight to ten hours of training focusing on avoidance, de-escalation, and defense. The Defensive module is often taught as a series of one hour sessions, often one or two nights per week for eight to ten sessions.

Does Practical Defensive Arts train students in defense from weapons?

Practical Defensive Arts differs from traditional martial arts training in that it covers some "advanced topics" very early on. For example, in PDAT, we cover basic defense from a knife, gun, and stick in the first Defensive module. This may surprise some traditional instructors as defense against weapons is not easy, and is typically reserved for advanced students.

We cover basic defense from weapons early in the training for several reasons:

1. People who attack other people with weapons, don't know or care if their victim has advanced martial arts training. Even beginners get attacked with guns and knives.

2. Students are are more likely to make good choices when faced with a weapon if they have tried defending against a weapon and understand the risks and difficulties.

The basic weapon defense drills in PDAT are designed to help students fully understand the dangers, so they make the best possible choices if they ever face an attacker with a weapon.

We don't introduce beginners to weapon defense because it is easy. We introduce beginners to weapon defense because it is hard, and we want them to understand how hard it really is, so they try very hard to avoid a confrontation with an armed attacker.

In some of the PDAT drills, students face an attacker holding a plastic gun that shoots soft foam "bullets". They try various responses such as running away, charging the person, or stepping in to take control of the gun. Through these drills, participants discover that there is a "far" distance where they have some chance of running away, particularly if they don't run in a straight line away from the attacker. They find that there is a "close" distance, where there is a small, but real chance, that they may be able to take control of the gun if they become convinced they are going to get shot anyway. And, they discover that very dangerous "middle" distance, where they are too close to run and too far to take control of the gun, so have no viable option aside from doing whatever the person with the gun wants them to do.

The goal is, that even years later, if they face a person armed with a gun or a knife, that they will be able to realistically evaluate the risk and will make the best possible choice, hopefully a choice that helps them survive that encounter.

In PDAT, we don't pretend to teach people how to do the impossible. We train them in the most effective and practical techniques available. We help them understand the options and the risks. And we do our best to prepare them to make the best possible decisions if and when they are faced with a dangrous situation. 

How does PDAA Training Relate to "Run, Hide, Fight"?

"Run, Hide, Fight" is the basic Homeland Security recommendation for active shooter events. For those groups and organizations that would like to offer "Run, Hide, Fight" training, PDAA offers a one to two hour interactive training session designed to help people understand how to effectively "Run, Hide, Fight". This interactive training is more interesting ,and far more effective, than sitting through a lecture or online learning module.

The problem with "Run, Hide, Fight" is that it doesn't help much with other situations, which most people are far more likely to encounter. It doesn't help people deal with aggressive individuals, doesn't cover de-escalation, doesn't get into details such as to how/when/where to run, and doesn't cover defense from common attacks or response to common criminal events like purse/bag snatching, mugging, and home invasion. 

Is Practical Defensive Arts based on another martial art?

Some aspects of PDAT are based on other martial arts. Other aspects are unique to PDAT. In general, PDAT incorporates a wide variety of unique training drills that focus on response and adaptability as opposed to mindless repetition of a technique in exactly the same way every time. PDAT defensive techniques focus on mobility and shielding as opposed to traditional power blocking techniques. Many of the kicks, punches, and strikes are similar to those found in Karate and Taekwon-Do, but with greater emphasis on practicality, counter attacks after initial defense, and use of techniques appropriate for the skill level fo the student. The throws and falls are similar to those found in martial arts such as Judo.

Can I become an instructor?

Yes! Any person who has completed the Defensive module can participate in an Instructor Training Seminar to learn to teach the Defensive module. Additional Instructor Training Seminars cover teaching of intermediate and advanced modules. Contact your instructor for information about Instructor Training Seminars in your area.

We recently held an  Instructor Training Seminar in Marquette, MI, are currently training instructors in Savannah, Ga, and will be offering additional instructor training sessions in other locations.

Click here for more information about becoming a PDAA Instructor.

A note to people with previous martial arts experience...

If you have previous martial arts experience, one of the biggest differences you may notice between PDAT and traditional martial arts is that PDAT is not a “static” training system. PDAT is a dynamic, open system that encourages incorporation of new techniques and development of new training drills. As a system, PDAT is designed to change, adapt, and grow. We don't want it to remain the same--we want it to get better.

In PDAT, we don't use a technique or a drill because that's “what we've always done.” We choose techniques and drills because they are the best alternatives we have found to date. But when we find a better technique or a better training drill, we incorporate them into the system.

In a traditional martial art, an instructor might say, “This is the way you must do this technique.” And that is it—no discussion of alternatives or improvements is encouraged or allowed.

In contrast, one of the hallmarks of PDAT is comparison of possible responses and techniques. For example, an instructor might show a student one way to perform a technique. The instructor might then show the student a different way to preform the same technique and have the student compare and contrast the two methods. 

Through this approach, students don't just learn specific techniques—they learn how to test and evaluate possible techniques to to find the best possible option. Every student becomes a thoughtful participant in the overall system. Most students find this approach to be more interesting and enjoyable than traditional martial arts training, where students are typically told “do it this way and don't ask any questions.”

When people with significant experience in other martial arts join us at PDAT, we don't ask them to leave behind all the things they have learned. We want them to bring those skills and that experience with them. We want them to utilize the best drills and techniques from their previous training in their PDAT classes. And, we want them to share their best techniques and training drills with PDAT instructors, helping to improve, expand, and enhance PDAT.

How is Practical Defensive Arts Organized?

The Practical Defensive Arts Association (PDAA) is the parent organization for PDAT training. PDAA has created and owns the drills, patterns, and curriculum. PDAA trains instructors, provides instructor support, and certifies instructors as having completed training to teach specific PDAT modules.

Only instructors trained and certified by the PDAA are authorized to teach PDAT and use the PDAT name and logo in connection with their classes. Certified PDAT instructors, as well as organizations and martial arts schools with certfiied PDAT instructors, offer PDAT training in their area. 

Introducing the Advisory Board

The Practical Defensive Arts Advisory Board consists of martial artists, with broad and varied experience, who review techniques and drills for possible inclusion in PDAT. they pre-test the drills, suggest enhancements, and determine which drills that will become part of the "core" modules and which will be added as optional exercises. The Advisory Board is also instrumental in creation and updating the Student test requirements and Instructor Training and Certification.

Dan Oja

Savannah, Ga/Marquette, MI

Dan started training martial arts with Marquette Taekwon-Do in 1972 and has taught martial arts for most of his life. His initial training was at Marquette Taekwon-Do where he trained under his mentor, Bruce Remington, then with Master James B. C. Yu, and finally with Grand Master Charles C. E. "Chuck" Sereff.

Dan was the Chief Instructor at Marquette Taekwon-Do for over twenty years. He tested with the International Taekwon-Do Federation and United States Taekwon-Do Federation up through his 5th Degree Blackbelt, which he received in April of 1991. (ITF certificate A-5-50). At various times, Dan was also the USTF Michigan State Director and the USTF Region 5 Director. In addition to traditional martial arts, Dan taught defensive tactics for law enforcement and taught a variety of self-defense classes.

In recent years, Dan focused his efforts on development of the "responsive" training drills, which eventually became the core of Practical Defensive Arts.

During his professional career, Dan has been very active in education, with a focus on development of educational content and development of computer programs to create and deliver educational content. He is the co-author of a very large number of college computer textbooks. (Search "Parsons Oja" at for a partial list.) He has also developed numerous  programs for creation of interactive digital textbooks and delivery of educational content to remote schools in countries such as India, Pakistan, and Kenya.

Jack Eibler

Marquette, MI

Jack Eibler began training with Marquette Taekwon-Do in 1978, although he began his martial arts training some years earlier, while a student at Wayne State University.

Jack tested with the USTF and ITF through the rank of 4th Degree, which he was awarded in April of 1991.

Jack has been an integral part of Marquette Taekwon-Do; teaching, assisting, and advising generations of students. 

Jack has also played a significant role in the development of Practical Defensive Arts. He has helped review and refine the drills and has made many very useful suggestions that improved the system. For example, the police interaction drills from the Defensive module were developed based on suggestions from Jack Eibler.

James Portale

Marquette, MI

James has nearly 30 years of martial arts and self defense experience.  His background includes a third degree black belt in Taekwon-Do, training in Muay Thai kickboxing, and private security experience.

James's well-rounded background brings great experience to the teaching of Practical Defensive Arts.

William Kurth

Albuquerque, NM

Bill Kurth began his Tae Kwon Do training at the Choi’s Institute of Tae Kwon Do in Madison Heights Michigan in 1976. In 1978 Bill began his training with the Marquette Tae Kwon Do Club under Dan Oja while he was a student at Northern Michigan University where he attained his 1st Degree Black Belt in 1980. Relocating to Albuquerque NM Bill associated with Kim’s Tae Kwon Do School studying under Grand Master HC Kim who promoted him to his 2nd Dan in 1986 where he continued to train and teach for some years.

Bill is a career law enforcement officer holding positions from Patrolman to Police Chief over the course of a 30-year time period. He has been recognized in both state and federal courts of law as an Expert Witness in police policy and the use of force. As a sworn member of the Albuquerque Police Department’s Tactical Section Bill either participated in, supervised or commanded approximately 500 tactical operations including actual hostage rescue operations.

2003 Bill went to work for the federal government as a Law Enforcement Subject Matter Expert providing training to local, state, and federal agencies as well as elements of the United States Military.

Bill has federal and state certifications as a Law Enforcement Trainer, Fire Arms Instructor, and as a Federal Exercise Controller. He holds several certifications from the FBI, the United States Secret Service, and the Department of Energy where he provided training in the safeguard and movement of nuclear assets to both Federal Agents and military personnel.