Why You Can’t Defend Yourself

why you can't defend yourself

Why You Can’t Defend Yourself

Quite a few people take martial arts so that they can defend themselves. But even though they might have the technical knowledge on how to defend themselves, most of them will probably fail in a self defense situation. I’m not going to discuss the effectiveness of any particular martial art or technique (I personally believe some martial arts are more applicable for self defense, but in the end it really is the man that makes the martial art), but it is the mind set and tactics that I want to discuss.

Here are some of the reasons why you can’t defend yourself and some suggested remedies.

You don’t think about the costs

Most people do not thoroughly visualize a self defense situation. What is the goal? To escape safely. Ok so what happens if you can’t run away? What exactly are you willing to do in a self defense situation? What are your moral, religious and ethical limitations? What are you legally able to do? How far are you willing to go to protect yourself and your family? What will be the cost to you personally? Recognize that if you can not escape safely and that you choose to defend yourself, that there will be some inevitable costs; you might suffer physical damage, live with the knowledge that you have caused a lot of damage to another person, possibly criminally charged and maybe even civilly sued. These are all possibilities.

If you are in a self defense situation and you hesitate to think about these costs, you will not be mentally engaged with the threat that’s in front of you. This might cause hesitation and result in you losing the fight.

Take the time now to visualize what you would do in a scenario. What are you willing to do to save yourself and your loved ones? What are your legal rights? How do those legal rights match up with your desire to protect your loved ones? Settle these possibly conflicting issues, before you find yourself in a self defense situation.

Your attacker has no respect for you

Ok think about this for a second: would anyone pick a fight with you to lose? Of course not. They are fighting with you because they honestly believe that they can beat you. Otherwise they would run away or not even engage with you in a fight. But stop and think. Why do they think they can best me? Here is a list of possible reasons:

  • They are bigger then you or in the gym everyday
  • They take martial arts
  • They have had A LOT of experience beating up people. Doesn’t matter if they are lesser skilled opponents; it’s still experience and confidence
  • They are carrying a weapon
  • They have friends with them
  • They are emotionally disturbed
  • They are utterly desperate
  • They are blinded by rage
  • They are under the influence of drugs or alcohol

These are some reasons, why they think they can best you. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t make sense. They are confident because of these reasons. They don’t care or respect the fact that you take martial arts, have ten black belts, bench press a house, whatever. Most martial artists don’t recognize this. Sometimes I feel that their ego and pride gets in the way. Keep in mind that most people out there do not know about your martial arts prowess, nor do they care.

If you find yourself in a self defense situation, recognize that this person really thinks that they can best you. If you can not escape safely, then you have to QUICKLY dissuade them that they have made a mistake. You must take that confidence away from them. You must use the military doctrine of SHOCK and AWE.

“Shock and awe (technically known as rapid dominance) is a military doctrine based on the use of overwhelming power, dominant battlespace awareness and maneuvers, and spectacular displays of force to paralyze the enemy’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.”
-Wikipedia

You don’t see that you’re in a fight

Most of us do not know that we are in a fight. Until we get sucker punched, sucker tackled or sucker stabbed. And that’s slightly too late. Most of us are used to seeing a stance. If we see someone put their hands up, round their shoulders, take a stance or lower their level, we now know that we are in a fight.

However the fight has started from the shoving, swearing and posturing. While you are trying to rationalize with a possibly irrational person, this person, this attacker is going through a sequence to get revved up to attack you. You’re going to lose because you have not identified the pre attack indicators. You have not recognized that a person is still dangerous, even thought they are not in a stance. And finally you’re still talking and trying to rationalize with a possibly irrational person.

The solution? Study pre attack indicators. What are the signs that you’re going to be attacked? A good book to read is On Combat, The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace

And the other solution? Read the last point.

Finally here is the last reason why you can’t defend yourself:

You did not listen to your instructor

One of the first physical things your instructor will teach you is stance. What we are going to specifically discuss is your hands. Keep your hands up. This is probably one of the most repeated piece of instruction heard in all martial arts schools.

But how should we put our hands up? Remember the previous point? We might not be sure that we are in a fight. We might still be trying to talk the situation down. If you put your hands up in a fighting stance, it might invite more aggression. That is why most reality based self defense systems recommend a Non Violent Posture or Stance. The short video below illustrates a NVP.

A NVP is a good way to get your hands up, protect the center line and it looks relatively innocent to the attacker and witnesses recording the situation. It is easy to transition to a fighting stance from this NVP. It will be difficult to defend yourself with your hands down, arms crossed, in your pockets or clasped behind your back. Keep your hands up.

These are the main reasons why you can’t defend yourself. Even if you study the martial arts. There is a gap between practicing in the dojo and translating those skills to the street. However with these mental and tactical remedies, you will be on the right path to making any martial art suitable for self defense.