Re-framing self defense

Psychology is a grossly over looked area of self -defense, if you look at the typical school that teaches any sort of combat art. The physical is the direct aim, already starting from the worst case scenario, meaning that someone is already choking you, punching you and so on. While we must start somewhere, I for one do not believe that this is the best approach. For me, as a martial arts instructor who has worked with nearly ever adaptive need, taught self-defense clinics to major colleges in my city, worked with retired military veterans, some law enforcement and even organizations such as DHHS. The one revelation that has kept coming to my mind year after year, is that real self-defense starts from the inside out.
Believe me, I know that this is extremely counter to what we are taught to in most schools today, because we just want to learn to kick ass. But honestly, we are not getting a very holistic approach. The most I’ve heard regarding awareness, is to simply “be aware” or have a 360 degree awareness at all times… Which is impossible to do. Telling someone to be aware is merely a way to cover a base, and doesn’t actually teach a student anything. What exactly are they being aware of? What are they looking at for? Do students actually know how handle and cope with emotional stimulus and stress?
Another reason that the psychology of self-defense goes untouched, is the narratives that coaches and or instructors provide. Some schools have weekend self-defense clinics, which are awesome and there can totally be some valuable elements taught. But the truth is, that one class isn’t all you need. It’s not going to make you a bad ass. If you are serious about self-defense, you must practice it the same way you want to get better at writing or math. One class, or once a month is not sufficient. There isn’t one technique that everyone must know and then your good. It doesn’t work that way. It never will. The other reality is this, most schools today do not specify to how fast and even complex a violent encounter is. Criminals simply do not care what you know, how long you’ve been training or anything of the sort. And so think that our modern training is going to prepare us in all areas is silly. Don’t miss understand me, MMA is a great base to learn self-defense, yet if we don’t know how to spot a threat, de-escalate a situation before it even starts, controlling our ego and emotions all we have is mere violence. Again, some martial arts schools only make this area worse, for example Krav t-shirts that say “touch me, and your first lessons free.” The saying truly gives off the vibe, as though you could take some Krav classes and kick anyone’s ass. Some of the BJJ community doesn’t help either, just the other day I saw a meme of a blackbelt, with his thumbs inside his belt looking all stoic. The Meme read “I’ve been doing BJJ 40 years. I fear no man.”.
I think that’s a bunch of nonsense. Any real person, is going to have a fear spike when a violent encounter takes place. Whatever the context may be. I’m fairly certain, that if you’re getting out of your car (with your kids in it) and the A typical person presses a knife to your throat. The likely hood of you having a sense of fear in that moment is extremely real. You might be fearing more for your offspring, and rightfully so. Perhaps this savage wants more than your car and money. Ever think about that? It’s in this context, that we must be able to rise above the ways of emotion and stress. How do we accomplish this? By training. I know that this might be hard to do, in some gyms that are more family oriented. Yet it doesn’t mean that in our self -defense training, we can’t train in a manner that prepares us for the real world.
We can practice training with heightened heart rate, being caught off guard and off balance. This is how life is, this is what it means to be human.
The self defense industry, is in serious need of an over haul. As mentioned earlier, if you’re serious about your own self-protection and even the safety of your loved ones. It’s up to you to start acting like it. It’s up to you to start training as though it actually matters. As coaches, instructors and the like. To start teaching and communicating to our tribes that it matters.

One thought on “Re-framing self defense

  1. Reading through this article it seems mostly to be about if training out there is sufficient to to not only teach students to fight back but to psychologically prepare them for a real fight (self-defense). That is a great question. The idea most schools have (or should have) is to show the students the moves, have them practice all of the moves and then teach them sparring. That should develop some muscle memory as well as give the students a taste of real conflict. Very true one class is not enough. And it is very true you cannot really teach what some schools call fighting spirit. A student either develops it or not along the way. I’ve often puzzled what some students seem to take to training and others while might advance – you would not want them fighting beside you in an attack. I enjoyed the article.

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