You can spend years practicing a martial art and still not be prepared to defend yourself in a dangerous situation with an attacker.
Does that mean you should just resign yourself to letting it happen? Absolutely not.
Self defense is much more than punching and kicking (which are flashy and fun to do), but some of the most important parts of keeping yourself safe get the least attention.
Everything leading up to it and after
As the saying goes, “It takes two to tango.” You play a role in every single dynamic you experience. You may not realize it, but you’re actively involved every single time.
Otherwise, it wouldn’t be happening to you!
But, if you look at the math, most people don’t experience personal violence. And that’s a good thing. If you don’t live a lifestyle that tends to attract violent individuals, your likelihood goes down.
Infrequent doesn’t mean never, though.
Many people are convinced that they’re never going to be attacked, and if/when it happens to them their whole world collapses.
Recognizing that violence has been, is, and will always be a part of human life, you begin to become more resilient. A big component of who and who is not affected by PTSD has to do with whether or not the event is explainable. If it’s completely outside their realm of what they ever imagined possible, their mind will fixate on the experience and replay it over and over in a bid to gain an understanding of what it all means.
Acceptance of the possibility of encountering a violent person is the first step towards keeping yourself safe by doing everything possible to avoid the situation in the first place.
Once you’re aware of potential, you can begin preparing.
Note: This is not fighting. Self defense is a legally defined term dealing with the boundaries of acceptable behavior given the context. You must always stay within reasonable uses of force. You can’t hide behind “I was defending myself!” and snap some guy’s neck for yelling at you for taking his parking spot.
So think about the moments before and after a violent encounter. You have to keep yourself safe there, too. If you ignore the warning signs, you’re walking into trouble. If you overreact in the moment, you’re going to suffer the legal consequences. Definitely not a safe path either way you think about it.
How do you avoid going too far? Recognize the boundaries. Before you pop off, you absolutely must be in real physical danger. Not the threat of it. Not being uncomfortable. Not feeling threatened. Not feeling like your masculinity is in question, or you’re being insulted in front of your friends. That’s your ego getting damaged; not your face.
You actually have to be under direct physical assault.
You also have to make damn well sure that you’re not stoking the fire, so to speak. If you let your ego get the better of you, you’re going to wind up saying something that will only provoke your soon-to-be cellmate into going from using words to taking action.
And once it starts, it’s tough to stop. With adrenaline pumping and rage blinding your more logical self, you can easily go too far. At that point you’re no longer defending yourself, but attacking the other person and that’s a ‘go straight to jail’ card, my friend.
This is why your pride, ego, and emotions like anger, fear, and anxiety are the most dangerous part of the whole mix.
And you can control all of it.
That’s why learning this stuff is absolutely essential; you must learn how to control yourself so you’re not caught by these easy-to-avoid situations that could potentially wreck your entire life, permanently.
It’s also why learning how to identify the potential for a bad situation as early as possible will give you more time to protect yourself by finding a way out of the situation without making it worse.