For many of us, the reason we take adult martial arts classes is to prepare ourselves for situations in which we have to defend ourselves physically. We train for hours on theories, applications, strategies and tactics. We learn a thousand ways to counter every possible attack, we practice blocking, trapping, grappling, striking, and throwing. We discuss ways to be aware of our surroundings in order to avoid attack, ways to present a confident face to avoid being a victim, and ways to deter attackers using everything from our voice to our shotgun. We train to be prepared.
But, there is more to self defense than just getting out of the situation. There are many factors to consider beyond simply what the best possible take down might be.
Before we even think about striking back at an aggressor — and preferably long before we even face that aggressor — we should consider the legal ramifications of what we are doing. There are many laws regarding what constitutes self defense and what does not. Did you verbally provoke the physical response by entering into a heated argument? Did you move forward to enter into the striking range even if it was the opponent who initiated the first strike? Did you continue to fight after the attacker ceased forward momentum? Did the event occur in school? A positive answer to any of these questions may work against you if you use a self defense excuse with authorities.
Laws in many states and municipalities are very specific and yet in other areas they are extremely vague and open to interpretation. Do the research for yourself, speak with law enforcement professionals, school principals, and lawyers about what your rights are. If you ever find the need to defend yourself, consider all of these things first; once combat begins there is no rule but survival! When all is said and done, always be the first to report the incident to the appropriate authorities.
As many of our military veterans can tell you, the war does not end when the battle is over. There are many emotional issues associated with traumatic situations. Are you emotionally prepared to continue fighting, even if it means taking a life? This is something you need to ponder well before you need to find out. Adjust your training to conform to your personal beliefs. If you are unwilling to take a life, then adapt your training to include more evasion, submissions, joint dislocations, etc. No matter what, be prepared to go beyond your comfort zone. IF you are morally against taking a life, your outlook may change drastically when you find yourself fighting for the life of a child or loved one.
Assemble a team to help you deal with the internal consequences of combat. People on your team should include a physician to assess for physical trauma and document all injuries (including a rape kit… rape is never the victim’s fault, and getting immediate medical attention is a necessary first step toward dealing with everything else), a counselor to help you deal with emotional trauma, a lawyer to help you deal with the legal impact that just may continue for years afterward, perhaps a spiritual adviser to help reconcile what you have done with what you believe.
Be prepared for the feelings of paranoia that may arise as you try to resume your life, be aware of victim’s guilt: while it is never the victim’s fault, very often we internalize the situation and think “If only I hadn’t walked down that street.” Or, if things turned out favorably, beware the flaring of the ego that may spur you toward attempting more dangerous superhero antics.
We train to be prepared, but as you can see, there is far more to consider than simply physical conditioning. Just as our personal life experience is a microcosm of all that occurs in the greater human experience, our time spent in the gym, dojo, or kwoon must be a microcosm of the entirety of what we will experience in a self defense situation. If we want to be lucky, and make it through this journey in one piece, we must remember that luck is simply a convergence of preparation and opportunity. Opportunity is always out there waiting, for good or for ill, but the completeness of our preparation is always and solely up to us.
Will you be prepared?
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