I’ve been meaning to write something for a while, since the attacks in London, but self defence is such a vast and tricky subject. Many people have written better and more in depth posts. They also have more actual experience. No Nonsense Self Defence is my favourite reference.
Take every precaution, but don’t stop living
I was talking to my Mum the other day and she was telling me about one of her neighbours, a really good swimmer, who swam every day in the sea near them. She gave Mum a huge amount of advice after she got caught by an undercurrent one day and only just made it back to shore. Very scary. She was very shaken up. My brother who is a swimming teacher, freaked out, telling her she mustn’t go swimming on her own or go out of her depth. This is kind of understandable considering the loss my family has had.
The thing is, women hear this frequently, don’t do insert whatever, because this bad thing might happen. The key word here is MIGHT. How many men have heard don’t go out at night alone? I’m sure some have. EVERY woman has heard it. I always find this strange as it is usually young men who are attacked at night when they are alone. Most people are also attacked by someone they know, and for women someone they thought they could trust, often their partner or ex-partner.
So in light of the attacks in London, I am sure that there are many people giving out well meaning but unhelpful advice. One of which being to learn martial arts. It’s not completely bad advice and I would recommend it for everyone, but not for instant self defence. That takes years to master. It does have many other side benefits that you might not think of as self defence.
Real physical self defence is something you can learn in minutes and recall without thinking.
If we listened to all the ‘don’t do’ advice, well we simply wouldn’t do anything. Even this wouldn’t keep us safe. It’s important to stress that we need to live a life worth living. Trying to live life wrapped in cotton wool leaves you numb and feeling trapped.
Which brings me back to the conversation with Mum and the swimming. She had faced her fears and my brother’s disapproval and got back to swimming in the sea, armed with new knowledge. You know living a life worth living. Brilliant. Only to find out this week that her neighbour who gave her that advice, got caught in an undercurrent and didn’t make it. Damn. So of course my brother was adamant she shouldn’t go swimming in the sea at all. It sounds like good advice. I don’t agree. The first lot of advice was great. Know the risks and do as much as possible to keep yourself safe while doing that activity. Because if she followed that advice and just stuck to paddling, she could accidently step on a jellyfish, then people would be telling her she shouldn’t go paddling. Then she could just walk on the beach and get attacked by a dog, maybe then she’d be told not to go out alone. Before you know it we’d be like the women in Saudia Arabia who aren’t allowed to do anything alone. I know it’s an extreme example and not likely to happen like that. Mostly because we have to allow people to do things on their own sometimes, even if they are really dangerous.
On a side note do make sure someone can see you swimming in the sea. Here is a link to RNLI advice.
Obviously there are some things where the outcome is pretty much guaranteed. For example clipping a bulldog clip to any part of your body. It will hurt. No I haven’t tried it, I’m not a thrill-seeking fool or a spy who needs torture training. I did watch some others do it though as a competition, in the pub once.
If you are one of those people who see a great piece of advice or one of those horror stories like the HIV needles in petrol station handles, which recently appeared on my feed. Please, please fact check it first. There are plenty of people out there with the experience to back up any claim. The internet is a wonderful tool, and there are several websites such as Snopes.com who fact check for us. It’s also easy to check if something is satire by looking at about pages. One piece of so called ‘great’ advice that is frequently circulated on pinterest I have previously written about in my Using your Head post.
Self Defence Part 1 – Introduction
This brings me to how my sensei and I teach self defence. We work on the theory that, whatever you do, however many precautions you take, you cannot defend against everything. You are preparing for relatively unknown actions.
You cannot control outcomes or people, only your own conduct.
When we talk about self defence it feels like victim blaming. Most of the time when we are defending against others, we are learning how not to be a target, as the only thing that can stop someone attacking someone else, is them, they are to blame.
Even a highly skilled martial cannot defend against a sucker punch.
They may instinctively react, after years of repetitive training and manage to get themselves out of it, but they also may be defeated simply by the shock and the surprise! After all most of us are nice people and don’t expect others to behave in these ways.
It is a fact that when your heart rate goes up the ability to use complex thinking and fine motor skills deteriorates and you need to rely on simple motor skills instead. Some teachers, such as John Tichen, do scenario training and he has some great information about what happens to people when the shock kicks in. I particularly like this post on kneejerk reactions.
So real self defence is actually self preservation. Concentrating on before. Before you get into a situation that is fight or flight. Before you get to going out or doing. Before you know what the situation is. In a way that is what those well meaning advisors are saying but they are not before enough. Our before starts with knowing yourself.
I am going to stress that our advice might not keep you safe, but it should keep you SAFER.
Posts to follow will cover: