In good times people don’t think about bad things but as times become more uncertain people think about planning for the possibility that things will get worse. With apparent turmoil in almost every aspect of our lives, people have begun to think about and even prepare for the worst.
With a worsening economy, perceived threats to our freedom, rising religious extremism, a perceived demoralization of our populous, many are led to conclude that a more dangerous future might await us. Right or wrong we as a society seem more aware of the dangerous world we live in and our need to prepare for the worst so as to avoid it. An ounce of prevention type of reaction… As a result self-defense sales of goods and services have soared in recent years. This increase supports the reality that people feel they may need to defend themselves due to ever increasing dangers.
While self-defense activists applaud this trend, there is a significant responsibility for the average student that I don’t feel is being properly communicated. Too many students come in for a short self-defense class and leave pumped and feeling invincible. Or students that purchase a self-defense tool like mace, pepper-spray, a gun or other self-defense tool with little or no training. Notice I called these items “tools” and not weapons, because while we classify them as weapons that classification leads to the students misconception and thereby increases their danger. Most people think of a weapon as something to be afraid of, which it is. But how frightening is a pair of nunchakus in the hands of an amateur? Honestly they are more of a danger to the amateur then they are an aid! Honest, law-abiding people assume that everyone shares their fear of the weapon they wield; whether that is their self-defense skills or karate skills or their self-defense tool makes no matter. How many movies have we seen where the good guy warns the bad guys that he/she know karate? How often are the bad guys even fazed by this fact? The reason, they have accepted that their chosen profession, being a bad guy, comes with the risk of injury. I have seen it with inexperienced police officers, who assuming because they wear a badge that people will respect it and thereby do as told. When they face someone who isn’t impressed with that little shield they carry, their perception of power can and does quickly evaporate. Unfortunately many officers, like the honest, law-abiding citizen, learn the harsh reality of self-defense: vigilance and control.
It is a good thing that people are taking a more proactive approach to self-defense but the instructors must help the students understand that self-defense is a skill that requires practice and a state of mind. Self-defense is not something you learn about and then put on the shelf until you need it. If that is your approach then you have a false confidence. Even the most seasoned and skilled fighter who is out of practice is rusty and thus vulnerable. In the Rocky movies, Rocky doesn’t simply get back in the ring, he trains and prepares himself. The difference is that Rocky knew when he was going to face danger. For the honest, law-abiding citizen that eventuality is very abstract. When I was growing up it was very unusual to meet someone who had *never* been in a fight. Today it is unusual for me to meet a student who has ever been in a fight. While some may feel that is a testament to our advanced civilization, (I have another article coming up about that topic), it leaves most ill prepared to ever face a conflict. Anyone that has been in a fight and been hit, remembers that first hit they took, you really do see stars!!
How do we learn to defend ourselves? Must a student enroll for life to stay sharp? Unfortunately, No. Must a student attain his/her Black Belt to have adequate skills? Unfortunately, No again. The student must understand that taking responsibility for their self-defense carries significant responsibilities as well. The responsible self-defense student will train regularly to become familiar and comfortable with their chosen techniques, style or tool. For most this is the fun part of ‘practicing’ self-defense.
Students can practice their skills all the time, staying aware and looking for the pitfalls that potentially await them. In doing so this heightens their awareness and keeps them ready. But doing this without practice of the physical skills is almost pointless as you will be aware of your dangers but unable to deal with them. That is like owning a gun but keeping it in a locked safe in the basement, not much good if you are in your room upstairs when you need it. Without practice you will find yourself in an ‘if only’ moment of dread.
This begs the question of adequate practice, what is it and how can it help you prepare? That is a hard question and can vary from person to person. My simplest answer is, you want to practice in an environment that is constantly challenging you to do better, that means it shouldn’t feel comfortably safe, but it should be comfortably safe… I hold to the precept that students should take at least one refresher course once a year as long as they are practicing with a friend or loved-one throughout the year.
Without practice you will be ill prepared despite the most elaborate preparations. Remember that physical practice is only about half of the battle, you have to be mentally prepared to defend yourself. Practicing coupled with vigilance in your awareness of your surroundings will help to calm your mind in the event of a real need to defend yourself. Vigilance and control are the keys to self-defense, vigilance in your practice and awareness, control of your body and mind. Self-defense is something everyone should be involved in, young and old alike, it leads to respectful confidence (as opposed to false confidence) and a peace of mind that you no matter the outcome you have done your best. No man is truly old until he knows regret, don’t regret your lack of preparation, learn to defend yourself today!
After all you don’t want this to be you when your loved one’s are depending on you…do you?