The Foundation of Self-Defense

This article was originally published at InnerSelf.com in November 2000.

By Scott Shaw

It is imperative when choosing to master the science of modern self-defense that you are able to separate yourself from the formalities of everyday life when you are engaged in battle. Confrontation is not kind, nor is it just. It is for this reason that you must never consciously seek out battle — at any level. If it finds you, however, you must enter into personal self-defense at the most appropriate level.

If you hesitate when defending yourself, even for a second, you allow your adversary the potential to destroy you. Thus, in battle fight -- in life be kind.

Self-Defense 101
At the foundation of any method of effective self-defense is your own ability to read a situation, decide upon the appropriate action, and then implement successful techniques in order to keep yourself free from injury. In martial arts schools and self-defense courses, you are taught methods of how to encounter the various types of physical attack that may befall you: be they a punch, a body grab, or a weapons assault. It is far better, however, for you to never be forced into physical confrontation at all, for this is your only assured method of never becoming injured. To achieve this, the most basic level of self-defense, you must learn how to read physical and environmental situations and then take appropriate defensive action before a physical altercation ever finds you.

Perhaps the most disconcerting factor of this level of self-defense, especially for those who have been previously attacked, is that there is no one who can teach you a method that will keep you safe from all physical confrontations. This is in no small part due to the fact that each person who would accost you possesses a different look, a different body language, and an undisclosed reasoning for why that person would wish to instigate a physical encounter in the first place. Certainly, there are types who you may come upon who, "Look evil,” who speak to you with an intimidating tone, or who act in a specific manner that signals you to move away. In these situations, the decision to walk or run away is obvious. It is the less obvious individuals who pose the biggest problem as you may not know exactly why you want to steer clear of them.

There are countless theories — and the word. “Theory.” is used because that's exactly all that they are — about how you should behave if someone with ill intentions comes upon you. Some of these theories tell you to remain calm, in a non-aggressive mode, that you should speak passively to the person; others tell you to be assertive and attempt to back the opponent down. Still others say you should scream or run.

When you are accosted, no theory will work. This is because each attacker is completely different and motivated by his or her own set of irrational standards. As is the case with all areas of self-defense, you must confront every situation as it is presented to you, and react at your most effective possible level.

There are some standard, commonsense rules for conduct that can hopefully keep you free from confrontation. For example, lock your doors and windows, avoid dark isolated locations, don't place yourself in dangerous environments where hostility is imminent. If accosted, leave the location immediately before the altercation has the ability to escalate. If an attacker comes up to you in a public place, call for the help of others, and so on. 

All of these rules can only be applied, however, prior to a physical confrontation actually taking place or when you are located in an environment where other people are present. The sad fact is that most attackers will not come upon you in public situations. They will wait until you are alone. In these situations, your absolute, full-focused, self-defense is necessary. You cannot think or be concerned about the injurious effect you are having upon your attacker, as he or she is certainly not concerned with your well-being or you would not have been accosted in the first place. For this reason, you must master, and be willing to utilize, to the best of your ability, the most effective self-defense methods available.

Fear
Fear is one of the most detrimental emotions you can possess, not only in making yourself an effective self-defense technician, but in terms of the quality of your overall life as well. People carry fear with them. They wear it like a badge. All who encounter them know they are afraid. Thus, they attract those who would take advantage of weaker individuals.

Fear is one of the most common deterrents to conscious self-defense, for if you are scared you can't function with precise mental reasoning. As such, you will make erratic decisions — attempting to escape from your fear as opposed to encountering your current reality in the most efficient manner possible.

Fear is based in the unknown: a different race, an uncharted geographical location, or a situation you have not previously encountered. Fear is propagated by society, your family, and your friends, who have all warned you to be afraid of a specific group of people or particular locations. By possessing this mentality you never allow yourself to understand that each individual is his or her own person, each sector of a city has its own beauty and attributes.

Fear can be consciously overcome by realizing that what you are scared of is not the reality that you are currently living. Fear is something off in the distance — something that has not and may never actually occur. By encountering your fears with this formula, you will no longer be dominated by this emotion. You can encounter new people and witness them for who they truly are, and view an undiscovered environment and observe its intrinsic beauty and uniqueness.

If you are forced into a physical confrontation you must consciously let go of fear, for fear in battle does you absolutely no good. In fact, in battle, show no fear. An assailant who sees that you are not afraid may choose to leave the altercation altogether, as the assailant will understand that you will not be easily overpowered.

To forego fear, encounter all human beings, new environments, and unfamiliar situations with wonder and respect. Never bring to them unfounded and predetermined suppositions. From this, you will possess no fear and you will be able to live your life with a new level of perfection.

Victim Mentality
Being a victim is a state of mind. It is what you do with the experience of loss, which in turn determines whether or not you become a lifelong victim. A victim is an individual who has lost an altercation and, because of this the person is dominated by that experience for the rest of his or her life. Everywhere this person goes, he or she is scared — expecting a similar negative experience to occur. The victim mentally brings the same situations into the life experience -- over and over.

The person who is not a victim may have lost battles in the past, but realizes that life is a step-by-step process. Though he or she may not have liked the experience of losing, this individual has learned what could be learned from it. The non-victim has become stronger, and has moved on with life, becoming a better and more whole individual.

Winning and Losing
You cannot win all altercations. Winning or losing is a state of mind. If you learn from your seeming loss, your are, in fact, a winner -- as you have become a stronger, more complete individual. From the opposite perspective, if we have won many confrontations and are constantly seeking to prove ourselves in battle, there will eventually be somebody who will beat us. Thus, the conscious self-defense technician never seeks out battle. If battle is forced upon us, we proceed in the most conscious and effective manner possible. Then we leave the experience behind us, not attempting to gain ego gratification from this seeming victory.





This is an excerpt from Scott Shaw’s book,

The Tao of Self-Defense






Copyright © 2000 — All Rights Reserved.
No part of this article may be used without the expressed permission of Scott Shaw or his Representatives.