Everybody needs to train in self defense and the sooner the better.

Living in a relatively low-crime area like Southern Maine, it may seem strange to recommend that every single person here get self defense training. However, it’s not really such a strange idea, and it’s an idea that may save lives.

Damian Ross of The Self Defense Company wrote, “not everybody needs martial arts, but everybody needs self defense.”

Mr. Ross draws a distinction between self defense training and martial arts training, it’s an important distinction I’ve written about before. Here’s why I agree:

  1. You cannot predict if and when you might be a target of a violent crime.
    Even if you live a low-risk lifestyle in a low-risk area, you never can be sure when you’ll cross paths with a violent criminal. Home invasions happen in areas, urban, rural, rich and poor. People are mugged going to and from their cars. People  are assaulted by emotionally disturbed strangers, acquaintances, and people they work with.Just because it hasn’t happened to you doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen to you.
  2. The only time self defense training does any good is before you need it.
    It’s kind of a no-brainer, but I’ve had students sign up after a violent encounter. If you asked them if they wished they got self defense training earlier they all would answer “yes”
  3. Proper training helps in a violent encounter.
    I’ve written about the danger of buying too heavily into statistics, but every study I’ve seen, compared with anecdotal evidence shows that self defense training helps. In fact one study showed that women who took an anti-mugging program were less likely to even have someone attempt to mug them. I would probably attribute this to increased awareness along with confidence that comes with training.
  4. Preparing for the worst is a smart thing.
    Nobody would question the intelligence of fire drill training conducted in our public schools, yet fatalities from school fires virtually never happen (unless you go back to the 1950s). Violent crime occurs every 35 seconds in the U.S. and nobody is immune. The best preparation is for people to learn to take care of themselves. We buckle our seat-belts, go to the dentist, change the batteries in the fire alarm, so why not get self defense training?
  5. You are ultimately responsible for your own safety.
    If you are ever attacked by a violent criminal it will likely happen when you are alone. It most likely won’t happen within earshot of a police officer. The attacker will not wait patiently while you call 911, or while you rummage in a bag for pepper spray. Your attacker will not try to mug you from across the street giving you plenty of opportunity to run.
  6. Most criminals are looking for an advantage.
    Crime works along economic rules. Criminals make risk/reward choices about victims. They want to minimize their risk of getting caught or hurt, while maximizing their reward of getting away with their goal. By training you can become “too much trouble” for many criminals. The vast majority of criminals will give up when resisted, and those that don’t you really need to worry about damaging. Violence against other criminals is prevalent because criminals won’t go to the police. Violence against women, children and elders is prevalent because they are seen as easy targets. However, everybody looks like an attractive target to somebody. Studying self defense can be a deterrent to crime, and thus proactive.

So, what’s the objection?

My opinion about the real reason more people don’t train is that it is related to an almost universal human fear. At least 85% of people will measure a phobic psycho-physiological response in the presence of interpersonal human conflict. PTSD is much higher in soldiers who experienced face to face combat than in airmen who dropped bombs in combat. We seem to have a built in mechanism to get along.

Psychologically, it’s been proposed, that when we are attacked (verbally or physically) it can symbolize another human being who doesn’t value our identity. Identity is a complex psychological construct, but we’ll just say that it’s who we think we are at the core. A threat to identity is a threat to not just our life, but who we are at the core.

I believe that a lot of people avoid training in self-defense because they are in denial and are uncomfortable accepting the fact that another human being may threaten their very being. As someone who has had his life threatened by a criminal, it is an uncomfortable thing to accept. However, moving past that and taking responsibility for your own well-being is empowering.

Countering surface objections:

Here are some of the regular things I hear from people when talking about training.

I don’t have time
This is the granddaddy of excuses and it’s BS. You can find time to train. What you’re really saying is that it isn’t a priority. How much TV do you watch in a week? How often do you go out and socialize? How much time do you spend on the computer or playing games. Can you spare an hour or two a week? Of course you can

It’s too expensive
We’re all feeling the effects of the economy these days. There is self defense training everywhere at a number of price points (including free). And, you don’t always get what you pay for – I mostly teach for free. Sometimes schools or police departments offer training at a very low price. Ask yourself this, “What if I were injured in a violent crime tomorrow, what would I have to lose then?”

I don’t have any experience
I get this all the time, and it makes me chuckle a little. Nobody had any experience before they began. The time to begin is now.

I’m out of shape
I have news for you, a violent criminal doesn’t care. You probably need training more than anybody. Real self defense training does not rely solely on athleticism. It helps, for sure, but an attacker is generally not looking for someone in the best shape to scrap with. And, self defense training will provide at least some exercise which everybody needs.

I don’t have years to train
This one is also kind of funny, I don’t have time to be good so I’ll stay lousy. The reality is that real self defense can be learned quickly, while martial arts take a lifetime to master. Our own military hand to hand combat instruction is extremely short but effective for the mission. They don’t have 30 years to prepare troops for combat.

So, wouldn’t now be a great time to begin your training?

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