Self-defense is a big topic. In fact, if you’re honest about wanting to practice self-defense, the training encompasses most every aspect of your life. That’s the hard part.
Maybe you read the title and were already thinking of brutal knife attacks, group fight dynamics or what happens to the brain under stress. We practice all of those things. We couldn’t call it self-defense if we didn’t. But there is so much more to study.
More than once I’ve had a conversation that went something like this:
“What should I focus on next in my training?”
“What’s your goal?”
“Self-defense! I want to be able to protect myself against anything!”
“Okay. You drove past me on the highway the other day. You were six feet behind the person in front of you. Focusing on being two seconds from the car in front for the next couple of months.”
Usually I can see them start to get angry at this point.
“What’s more likely? A brutal fight at your day job? Or rear-ending someone because you’re following too close? How many dojo sessions will you miss if you’re injured or caught up in a wrongful injury lawsuit?”
“I meant, what should I focus on in my training? Knife attacks, throws, punching harder, or what?”
“Oh. Uh … punching harder I guess.”
There is nothing wrong with training at the dojo because it’s fun, because you want to play with all the historical toys, or just because you want to excel at something physical. But those aren’t really about self-defense. Learning to deal with the most brutal attacks isn’t enough if you are interested in true self-defense. Important, sure. But not enough.
What other areas of life need some self-defense awareness? What’s going on inside? In the example above is it likely that whatever motivates a person to drive six feet behind a car at seventy miles an hour shows up somewhere else in their life too? What other problems does that attitude cause?
The harsh reality is once we let our ego or our fears or some other emotion drive our training we may get really good at the physical skills, but we set ourselves up for all sorts of other problems. We aren’t really defending ourselves anymore. We’re defending ego and emotion. We don’t study ego-defense. But is sure is easy to practice.
Self-defense training is hard work. It is everywhere. And it is ongoing.
What can you work on today, other than the physical skills, to keep yourself and those around you safer? Where do you find yourself getting impatient? When is your ego bubbling up and getting in the way of your progress? What do you find yourself avoiding, out of fear? These are just as important to deal with as an angry knife attack because they are things that may create a problem, keep us from being able to walk away from a problem, or keep us from fully enjoying the gift that is our day.
The harsh reality is, in many ways the inner part of self-defense is even harder to deal with than that angry knife attack. But the payoff is, perhaps, even bigger. So it’s worth the effort.
Otherwise, work on punching harder, I guess.