by Beth Block
As humans, our reactions slow down immensely in emergency situations. Therefore, as martial artists we repeatedly practice the same self-defense techniques for years, even decades, to prepare for the event of a real attack.
As instructors, we know that our students’ responses in an emergency will be flight, freeze or fight. This is hardwired into humankind’s DNA as the “survival instinct.” The goal of repetitive training is to shorten students’ reaction time when attacked and to provide them with the tools to allow muscle memory to take over in self-defense mode.
Now, let me ask you some questions. Is physical confrontation the only type of emergency you or your students will face? Is that all you’re preparing your staff and students for? Or, are you preparing them for any type of battle that may occur?
Are we looking to develop self-discipline? Meaning, the ability to shorten the flight or freeze reaction? Are we seeking to develop common sense? That is, the ability to keep a cool head in the face of extreme circumstances?
If you and your studio are focused on a universal preparation for facing emergencies — a trained reaction to emergency situations — that’s excellent. We, as leaders, are responsible for instilling that muscle memory into our team and leading by example.
I ask these questions for good reason. Life itself thrusts many unexpected emergencies upon all of us, and many types beyond just self-defense situations. The type I’m focusing on in this column is a medical emergency, and it happened in a studio.
Recently, one of our fellow school owners ran his students through a standard testing cycle. One evening, the test consisted strictly of a group of adults of all ranks. Participants ranged from those taking their first test all the way through advanced black belts.
The test began with a very typical warm-up: push-ups, sit-ups, squats. The number required depended on each student’s rank. So, while the black belts were still doing their warm-up exercises, the under-black belt group was given hand techniques to practice.
A middle-ranked older gentlemen had finished his warm-up exercises and was performing the hand techniques. He suddenly stopped, looking ill, and stepped off the floor.
The chief instructor approached and asked him if he was okay. “I don’t feel good,” he replied.
The gentlemen went outside and stood there for a few minutes. The instructor kept an eye on him through the window. A few minutes later, when the instructor went outside, the man was clutching his chest with one hand.
The instructor again asked him, “Are you okay?”
“No,” he answered, “my chest hurts like heck.”
“Do you want me to call 911?” the instructor asked.
The man responded, “No.”
“Are you okay to drive to the emergency room?” asked the instructor.
“No,” he answered.
The instructor then asked, “Do you want me to take you to the emergency room?”
“Yes,” the man said.
The instructor put the man in his car and drove him to the emergency room (ER). On the way, the instructor called 911. Upon arrival at the ER, the instructor helped his student inside, but, quite unexpectedly, was asked to leave the premises by an ER worker. He reportedly pushed the instructor out, stating that they wouldn’t tell him anything about his student’s condition, and to just leave.
Unfortunately, the man died later that night in the hospital.
This instructor did quite well handling this emergency. The only misstep was putting the man in the car instead of calling 911. In the grand scheme of emergencies, this one could have gone much more horribly wrong for the owner. The student, for example, could have suffered a heart attack on the floor.
I realized there’s an important lesson in this tragic story that’s essential for our industry’s school owners and instructors to learn. We must make sure all members of our team don’t even have to think in the face of an emergency. We should be trained so heavily that muscle memory takes over.
So, I’m sharing with each of you the very simple medical emergency protocol I prepared after this situation. There are three things to be done in the face of a medical emergency: 1) Assess the injury. 2) If a Band-Aid will fix the problem, provide the Band-Aid. 3. If it requires more than a Band-Aid, call 911. If the student (or his or her parent) refuses 911 contact, have a second unrelated adult witness that refusal.
Bottom line: Implement and train for emergency procedures.
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