Moderator: Van Canna
When it comes to training for physical action we must choose the words we use to describe that action very carefully — the more direct and concrete, the better. We need the words to conjure up a clear vision of that action that has you acting decisively.
“Self-defense”, as a descriptor for hand-to-hand combat, is unfortunately vague. It fails because it says nothing about the other guy, or you doing anything to him. It mentions you, and protecting you. Alone. It does not describe any direct action.
This has two effects:
1.It forces you to accept an inferior role in the action narrative, and
2.It changes the way you physically work.
The popular narrative looks no further than the attacker/defender dichotomy. If you’re training for self-defense and doing self-defense, you’re automatically accepting the role of the defender.
In criminal violence, attackers are usually the “bad guys” and defenders the “good guys.” No sane, social person wants to be a bad guy — we all want to be the good guy. We want to have a good reason for doing what we must and be in the right after the fact.
So we’ve picked sides. We venerate the doughty defender and vilify the animal attacker.
Most videos of criminal violence involve an attacker savaging a victim. Since we can’t identify with the attacker we see ourselves as the guy on the ground getting stomped, stabbed, shot… whatever’s happening to him at the moment. We then desperately try to come up with a plan to prevent those things from happening, all the while ignoring what the bad guy’s doing.
There’s a demonstration we do at seminars to illustrate this point:
It’s called… the knife demo.
And we hate it. We hate it because it’s painful and we’ve had people get knocked senseless doing it (note: this is why we only have instructors demonstrate this, not actual class participants doing it). But it gets the point across in a way mere words cannot.
One instructor has a training knife, the other, nothing. The job of the guy with the knife is to stab the other guy as many times as he can. Nothing fancy, no technique to it at all. Just stab and stab and stab.
The other guy has to mount a classic knife defense. Create distance. Get in a protective stance. Block. Control the weapon. Look for opportunities to counter-attack.
We go at it full speed.
The result is that the defender gets stabbed a bunch. No matter what you do, you get punched with that damned training knife over and over, and just when you think you’ve got hold of that arm it slips out and you get punched some more.
When everyone’s winded from stabbing and tired of getting punched with the knife, we get up and do it again.
The guy with the knife just stabs. But this time, the other guy isn’t stuck with the laundry list of defensive tactics — he can do whatever he wants. It always ends up the same. They charge each other and the guy with the knife gets laid out.
The thing about violence is that the person who gets it right first wins.
■When it’s stab vs. the x, y and z of defensive tactics, stab happens first and often.
■When it’s stab vs. injure, well, now we’re on a level field and it’s anybody’s win.
That laundry list of self-defense — distance, protect, block, control — is at odds with what the winners do. The winners focus solely on hurting people. They wade in, ignore defensive posturing, and get to work on the loser.
This is where using the term “self-defense” to describe physical action hampers your ability to get anything useful done. It’s not a problem with firearms, where the physical wallop necessary to disrupt human tissue is contained in the powder charge. You can be hesitant, backing up, out of position — but when you pull that trigger the device will handle the physics for you.
When the work of that bullet has to be done with your bare hands, well, now you need to be decisive, moving in, punching your entire mass through one square inch of the man — doing all the things that will make injury the most likely outcome. Hesitation, distance, working at arms’ length — classic defensive posture — make that outcome less likely.
The person “defending” themselves is always too far away and busy reacting to what the other guy is doing.
The person who just wants to “hurt the man” closes that distance, disregards the other guy’s personal space and makes him react.
And the difference is as simple as word choice.
Words dictate how we think… and how we think directly dictates how we move.
■Don’t “defend yourself” — hurt the man.
■Don’t train for “self-defense” — practice using violence as a survival tool.
Leave self-defense where it’s best suited, in the realm of ideas, where it bookends the act of violence as the moral imperative to not use force needlessly and for legal consideration after the fact.
…For everything else — to describe the needs of violence or training for it — it’s vague, imprecise, and harmful.
That’s why I don’t do, practice or teach “self-defense.”
I’ve spent my career figuring out why the winners win in violence and how to teach anyone who’ll listen how to do what they do.
In hand-to-hand violence… defense gets you killed.
…Hurting people gets you home.
The difference starts with mere words.
I understand your point that the term self-defense can be bring up the image of “desperately trying to get away, maybe getting backed into a corner. Flailing like a terrified animal.”
But we would be foolish to disregard the term entirely. The reality is that the one who “goes-first” is the murderer; the one who goes-second stays out of jail.
Richard, you missed the point of this article entirely! The reason that the “one that goes second stays out of jail” IS BECAUSE HE IS DEAD !
Richard, I would like you to memorize the following, and make it your mantra:
” I WOULD RATHER BE JUDGED BY 12 PEOPLE, THAN CARRIED BY 6 PEOPLE.”
You should also note, there have been plenty of court cases where a victim has “struck first” or “fired first” and still went on to prove in court that he would have died if he had waited. The verdict can still be self-defense.
If you ask me, the one who goes first may be the criminal, but if you wait to react you become the victim. If the criminal is a murderer, then the victim is DEAD.
I would rather be fully aware of my surroundings and follow the Color Code of Awareness. As soon as I feel that my life is in danger then I act quickly and decisively. Strike an available target with all the power my bodyweight can generate, rotae through the target to maximize the injury and move on to the next target until I feel the threat is eliminated.
As far as “self-defense” is concerned, that is what my Attorney does. He “defends” my “self” if and when I have to be defended in the legal system. That is why I pay him his retainer and he is my first call.
In one of your articles or e-newsletters, you or Tim discussed the impact of special ops guys trained in counter-terrorism change their behavior when they were training for anti-terrorism, where they were more susceptible to simulated attacks with the latter.
After reading this article and reflecting on the older one, I think a better sanitized term than ‘self-defense’ could be ‘counter-violence training’. You are no longer being acted upon in a constant state of defense, but rather, you are countering a violent attack with the only possible tool to be successful, violence.
Psychologically, for the person that has never experienced violence, this term will likely help him/her make the mental shift from ‘ward him off’ to ‘inflict violence’. It is more socially acceptable for the agressee to act violently toward the aggressor because he is countering violence with the only tool he can use to survive, violence.
I circle around and to repeat, counter-violence training is a better ***sanitized*** term to describe what you do.
However, ‘train to inflict violence’ is a better description, if you don’t mind the elephant in the middle of the room.
It’s also important for people to understand that self defense is an affirmative defense. Basically you are telling the police “I plead guilty, but there were extenuating circumstances”.
It’s also a poisoned well, in that every two pint bar brawler and street thug has claimed “self defense” for a fight.
Chris, I have learned a lot from you and Tim. My background is not in the Martial Arts (although I’ve had some) My guess is that the hardest people for you to convince are the Martial Artists. That’s because you “can’t teach someone something that they think they already know!”
Most martial artists spend 60 % of their time learning to “block.” How do you convince them that blocking doesn’t work, and it only insures that they will remain the victim.
How do you convince someone that you shouldn’t even look at yourself as the “good guy?” How do you convince someone that pre-emptive striking is the right thing to do ?
My old karate instructor, who is now a 10 Degree Black Belt
once told the class ” the ideal way to win a fight is with only blocks. Each block will do some damage, and eventually the “bad guy” will wear himself out.”
I can’t make up something that stupid, but that’s what he said !
I think that you or Tim could give someone a 1 hour private lesson and make them way more deadly then this “Grand Master” who has been involved in the martial arts for over 50 years.
But there is one thing that he can do that you can’t. IF he can get the “bad guy” to stand perfectly still for about 10 seconds, and he gets to take 3 tries, he can hit the “bad guy” with a “death touch” that will make the bad guy magically drop over dead 5 days later,for no apparent reason. All his students aspire to be as good as him
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