I've been asking groups of people, “What is self-defense?' for 25 years now. I've heard many replies over the years, and many have included knowing how to punch, kick, and a whole slew of other ways to injure and maim an attacker. I've always agreed that learning physical principles, strategies and tactics to physically stop a person from hurting you and debilitating him and making sure he is no long a threat is only part of it.
Now I've read people saying that “self-defense” is a legal term and nothing to do with the physical fighting techniques a person learns to actually debilitate an attacker to enable the person to escape to safety. And I'm guessing some of this notion comes from the writings and teachings of a friend of mine, Marc MacYoung. (It's been 24 years since the first time we stood on stage together teaching principles to keep people safe.) While I understand that position, and it is true that “self-defense” is a legal term usually denoting the justifiable use of force as an affirmative defense, criticizing people for using it the way it is most commonly used as a means of fighting back against an attacker is not what I want to do here.
I want to look at the term, and then look at the term Self-Protection. When looking at both terms, I think I am more of a self-protection instructor than a self-defense instructor. That doesn't mean I am changing what I've been teaching for year, just maybe I need to call it something different. Because I've always answered that question of “What is self-defense” in my live classes with an answer that includes much more than blocking, striking, kicking, etc. I teach much more than that. I think too man “self-defense instructors” only teach the physical skills of fighting. Their definition of self-defense is those physical skills. And I guess that is okay, but it is not what I do. I teach self-protection, which includes the physical self-defense skills others teach, but also includes much more.
Some of these self-protection principles, strategies, and skills are considered “soft skills” as opposed to the “hard skills” of striking, kicking, etc. These skills are not as “sexy,” but in reality are so much more important. It's much cooler to think of yourself as Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, or Keanu Reeves in John Wick after learning some physical fighting or firearms techniques. Some people even post on social media about how they “wish” a bad guy would try something with them so they can show off their skills. In reality, the soft skills of awareness and observation that lead to avoidance of violence are much more useful and practical, and more sure of keeping yourself safe. And that is what self-protection is all about.
And it goes way beyond being physically jumped, beaten and possibly killed. The principles of self-protection I teach will keep you safe from such dangers, but go way beyond that. I want you to put your seat-belt on and don't drive distracted or impaired. Way more people will be killed because of ignoring those than will be killed by bad guys jumping out from behind the bushes. While I want you to know where the exits are in your restaurant in case an active shooter comes in and you have to escape (Your first defense if possible), I also want you to know what you are eating and how it affects your heath because way more people will die this year from diseases caused by poor diet and lack of exercise than will be killed by firearms.
The principles, strategies, and tactics I teach regarding self-protection are designed to keep you safe and be prepared if an emergency situation happens. I want you to be healthy and enjoy life safely. Don't live in paranoia, but be confident and prepared. Practice the safe habits I teach and there is a high probability that you will not need the physical techniques and emergency responses I also teach. But you will be confident because you have a plan and have those skills just in case. So shift your mindset to Self-Protection and enjoy life safely!