The defence of one’s person or interests, especially through the use of physical force, which is permitted in certain cases as an answer to a charge of violent crime. (https://www.dictionary.com)

When I first introduce people to self defence I am either met with enthusiasm or two common responses. The most frequent response I get from people is “Why do I need to know self defence?” only second to “I can handle myself.” So, let’s address the first response, the why? Not only is it your right but also your duty towards yourself. You only have one life, why not know how to protect yourself? Security is one of the fundamental human needs and self defence forms part of it.

Once this is made clear the next objection in that line is “I don’t have hand eye coordination” or “I struggle to learn movements”. The answer here is a simple one. A good self defence instructor will be able to teach you how to use your natural movements to defend yourself. Yes, self defence is all about natural movement. High flying kicks and complicated grappling movements are reserved for people in combat sports or entertainment. As a lifelong student of combat arts I can recommend combat sports for self defence, as a basis to learn movements and understand what your body is capable of. Unfortunately with the majority of arts leaning more towards sports the actual self defence aspect of the art is diluted into a point scoring system.

The main question: How effective is martial arts or combat sports as a self defence tool. Answer: This depends on your instructor. Mc Dojo and “glory hog” instructors only want your money and end up teaching you exactly what you feel comfortable with.

Note: Self defence is not a competition, show of skills or activity to soothe one’s ego. Self defence is a very raw “fight” to escape an attack with your life and physical wellbeing intact.

The “fight” referred to in my previous statement relates to an attack on you and the struggle within you to make the right decisions during a very stressful situation. Part of self defence training is learning how to weigh your options in a violent situation. Questions like “do I run, fight or follow instructions?” are but some of the skills you learn. Before you follow any advice remember that a violent situation is very unpredictable and almost always turns out differently than you might have thought. Now let’s take on the second most popular response.

“I can handle myself.” That’s good news, so what do you do when you wake up in the middle of the night and 3 masked people are pinning you down in your own bed. No.., let’s take an easy example. One random person confronts you in the street and you can handle yourself. What do you do, let’s weigh the options. You see no weapon so you decide to tell the person off. The person then pulls out a knife and stabs at you. You have no pre trained response to a knife attack and used the wrong defensive movement, now you are in trouble… This situation can have many variables like a different weapon, more people hiding nearby, hate crime intent… and the list goes on. See, you just don’t know when, how or if you will be attacked. Heck, I have done this for a long time and I am not even fully prepared for a violent attack 100% of the time.

Most of what you do during a violent situation comes automatic, which means application of a pre trained response or idea. A pre trained response is either something you have seen, read or even training you have received. During an attack only highly experienced practitioners can pre determine possible movement. -Do not be mistaken, this takes years to master and happens in a split second-

Let’s do a quick recap of the above.

  • Self defence is a basic human need categorized under Safety
  • Self defence is based on natural movement
  • Most combat sports are for entertainment purpose
  • Your combat sport needs to teach self defence application (all arts have it, ask your instructor)
  • You don’t really know how you will respond to a violent situation
  • You are facing your attacker and yourself (own mind) during a violent attack
  • Only through training can you determine the correct response
  • Violence is unpredictable and almost always turns out different than your initial thoughts

So, why self defence?

Self defence is more than just twisting a wrist or a knee to the gut. During self defence training you learn what you can and cannot do either mentally and physically. You also learn when to run, fight or follow instructions. You even learn how to walk, talk and listen. Self defence also deals with your mental state and how to face challenges on a daily basis. I am making self defence sound nice and clean but remember that you will also be taught how to seriously injure another person. I am not going to make this article to graphic but you will get the chills when you hear stories of violent crime victims and what they needed to do in order to escape with their lives. Yes, the actual training and participation is fun and games but the real life application can be quite dark.

Now for some homework:This is a need to know for every human. Read as much as you can on the Flight, Fight and Freeze response. I will do a follow up article covering the subject.

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