Breakaway Skills Training

All kinds of “practical skills” training in how to release / extricate from common types of grips, grabs and strangle holds along with techniques for use in the event of an attack have come to be known generally as “Breakaway”. This is a problem – because it gives the impression that all Breakaway Training is the same – when it isn’t by a long shot!


Training requirers (and trainees) should be aware that Breakaway Training content varies (considerably) and the “differences” merit careful examination.

Take care!

Breakaway techniques are essentially for Self Defence – so the nature of the training may not provide for a sympathetic, considerate (i.e. client centered) response. This may make a vital difference if the “attackers” are going to be elderly, confused, mentally ill people – not violent robbers!

Many “Breakaway” Programmes:

  • Require “defenders” to attack (strike) their “assailant” (to distract or disable them)
  • Encourage the raising of aggression against an attacker
  • Are incompatible with the moral and ethical values held by employees working in “caring” professions (Hence, the lack of ‘take-up’ of training offered in many NHS Trusts!)

Most “Breakaway” techniques can be used (deliberately or accidentally) in a hurtful way against an attacker.

Techniques that seem identical can have dramatically different effects!

Most if not all Breakaway techniques are derived from Martial Art. This means they’ve been based on extremely powerful (destructive) movements that have, over centuries, repeatedly proved successful in mortal combat.

The danger of causing serious injury may not be self evident during classroom training practice. This may be because the danger lies outside the scope of the Instructor’s knowledge and not apparent if applied in the way instructed.

Applying a technique in a way that differs even very slightly from the way taught on the course may have consequences that are very different to expectations! (Of course, employees could be being taught the “deadly” way in the first place!)

What realistically can you learn in one day … and expect to remember in a crisis!

Breakaway Programmes usually aim to “increase the capability of trainees” or “provide a suitable introduction to the skills that can be used” in Self Defence situations. This is because they are just simply too short to have any chance of achieving the real objective – i.e. proficiency in Self Defence against common types of attack!

It takes the most dedicated martial artist a minimum of three years hard training to reach a standard that others would recognise as proficiency, yet the duration of many Breakaway courses is only half a day.

Compounding the problem, most trainees never bother to rehearse or practice the techniques they’ve been taught on the course and the complexity of a lot of the “moves” means they are easily and quickly forgotten. On top of that, many ‘Breakaway’ courses don’t actually teach how to protect and defend against the types of workplace assaults that are most likely to occur and instead tend to focus on what the trainer wants to teach.

Breakaway Training – Risk Control Measure or Risk itself?

The National Federation of Personal Safety (NFPS) have conducted their own