The Concept of Self-Defense, Part 2

The Concept of Self-Defense, Part 2

In the first part of this article-duology we listed a few factors to consider in the context of self-preservation, which is argued to be the umbrella term of which “self-defense” is merely a part. In this article we will continue by looking at the remaining ones.

Stay Aware

“Stay aware” does not mean “develop clinical paranoia”, but is more in the spirit of “apply course you can go into things like natural guards when standing, covering sensitive areas in a natural way when in close quarters with strangers, sitting in corners, and so on, but unless you’re in a really dangerous area, measures like that may be unnecessary. In any case, here’s James Boyd with some thoughts on the subject:

Awareness is at its most immediate about enabling all senses. Meaning that for example, when walking home alone at night, wearing headphones could be a bad idea. You want to be able to scan your surroundings using your ears, as well as your eyes.

Of course, enabling the senses is merely creating prerequisites for awareness. Awareness also means engaging your senses. For example, wherever you are in public, scan your immediate vicinity occasionally, and subtly. Is anyone talking about you, looking, pointing? Is anyone throwing you angry glances? Again, don’t expect it, or fear it, just keep a sober eye on things, and many situations will be possible to avoid.

Awareness doesn’t have to be this immediate, however, but also includes preparation. What are the most common crimes in your residential area, for example? When you go out somewhere, or even just at your workplace, do you know where the emergency exits are? Backdoors or other escape routes? Fire-extinguishers?

It’s also about being aware of common scenarios. A car lightly bumps the back of your car, you step out, the driver asks “is there any damage?”, you bend over to check, get hit over the head, and a second person steals your car.

A person asks for the time, you raise your arm and take your eyes of the person, at which point your arms are grabbed and the person in front of you attacks you.

Two people argument loudly and aggressively right next to your table. You have nothing to do with the situation, so you mind your own business and ignore them, but all of a sudden you get punched in the face.

You’re withdrawing cash at an ATM, and suddenly someone rushes at you, strikes at your face a few times, and then tears your wallet from your hands.

And of course watch out for the infamous “unmarked van”, which will eat you up if you’re not careful.

These and other scenarios are among the many classics, but they differ depending on who you are, and what environments you frequent. Having a basic knowledge of what is most likely to happen to you makes it easier to know what to prick your ears at, and keep an eye open for.


– Have alarms and smoke-detectors, don’t tell people when you’re going away, having a dog is great, lock the door, keep a light on during the night, have a plan of action during emergencies and practice it with your family so that everybody knows what to do, and so on.

– Get at least a basic knowledge of first aid, from cleaning wounds, positioning an unconscious person and the Heimlich-maneuver, to more difficult situations.

– Stay away from weapons. Don’t carry them and don’t keep them in your home. From what I understand, this may not be in line with everyone’s idea about safety, but in my world weapons will either prove useless because you don’t have time to get to them, or destructive, because they escalate the situation, or may even be used against you by an opponent who didn’t even have a weapon in the first place.

To argue in full for why weapons are not a part of intelligent self-defense would be an entire article on its own, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t even have the energy. Most of what can be said on the subject has been said already, and in the end, it’s up to you. This is just my advice.

If you’re interested, this site offers some debate on the matter.

Health and fitness
– Stay healthy and in good shape, and help your family to do the same. Why doesn’t require much explanation, but on the subject of how to train, there is more to say, and for a simple and thorough discussion on that, check out this podcast by Funk Roberts.

Physical altercation
– If you’re in a fight, for any reason, you’ve already failed, and chances are you’re going to have to pay for it, but with enough study and training you may get a second chance. Generally, this is the by far smallest part of self-preservation, but it may also be the most difficult, which is why it gets so much attention.

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Lars Fidler
Lars Fidler

A student mainly of Hardy Holm's (Chief instructor at Students of Goju Ryu) multifaceted system of self defense, Lars has studied and practiced self defense martial arts since 1997, and taught it regularly since 2007. Lars holds belted ranks and/or experience in other forms of martial arts as well.

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