Both students and instructors can learn a lot from the video and the message that "the very classes that I thought were teaching me self defense, left me unable to defend myself."
Instructors use a variety of techniques to teach self defense, forms (kata / hyung), one step sparring, ho sin sul, stretching, exercises, sparring, board breaking, and bag work. No 'one' of these teaches the whole of martial arts; you need them all.
Let's dissect Ms. Kander's message - because, she may be right. I was not in her school and so I will not comment on what did or did not happen, but I have witnessed enough instructors to know that everything she said could be exactly as she said it.
Some students are taught; "do not punch to the head." My students are taught to punch and kick to the head, but not to make contact. Not only is it important to repetitiously attack the head, it is equally important to see strikes coming to your head - in other words head-strikes are important for both the attacker and the defender.
Head strikes are important - as is good control. Students must (not only) strike to the head, they must also have the control to stop short when working with a partner, i.e. not make contact, but to follow-through when striking a board or a bag.
So students, by all means attack the face, the neck, and the groin, go for Ms. Kander's "good stuff."
When our students are taught ho sin sul (extraction techniques) they are taught to continue each technique until the attacker is subdued and "taps out" - a physical and audible signal that the attacker "gives up."
It is critical that you force your partner to tap out, otherwise you will teach yourself to let go too soon; thus putting yourself at risk.
Here's the bottom line; you only get out of your training what you put into it. If you only (ever) practice "pretending" to hit something, you will get very good at pretending.
A word to parents:
As you watch your little ninjas get paired up with older, bigger students, or even (forbid) adults, understand that this is an important aspect of their training.
Ms. Kander indicated that as a young green belt she was always paired up with 12 year old girls - an unlikely real-world attacker. You WANT the instructor to match your little one with a bigger, stronger partner. Then you want your little one to defend themselves - this is why they are there.
Of course; pay attention. Teachers make mistakes, partners overreact, and sometimes your child will simply fail to execute. Hug them, love them, and encourage them to try again. The training hall is a safe environment in which to fail, learn, and grow.
The original complete video: YouTube link
Diana Kander's website: Link