It starts with my heart beating faster. It jumps and stops and goes again and it can’t find its rhythm. My palms get sweaty. The back of my neck also sweats and a thin film of perspiration appears on my upper lip.
Everything seems to be normal but I know that danger is close. I can see it stalking me from the shadows like a cat.
Fear can be a powerful thing. It can be distorting, but it can also give you the edge you need.
Ninjutsu master Masaaki Hatsumi was once asked what would happen if there was a sniper waiting for him to come out of a door so they could shoot him. I suppose the jest of the question was that the old man wouldn’t be able to defend himself.
Hatsumi took a deep breath and gave the interviewer an answer that left the man perplexed with its logic and simplicity.
“I wouldn’t go out that door,” the ninja master said. And that was the end of the conversation.
I wish self defense was that simple for the rest of us. Most of us don’t have those powers of perception. Still, there’s a great lesson to be learned from the old master’s words. A great part of self defense has to do with not being where the danger’s at. That’s a lot harder than it sounds.
I get asked a lot what I think about self defense classes. Do they work? Are they worth it?
My answer is an unequivocal YES, if they’re well taught.
Violence continues to escalate in our urban centers. According to the FBI, one out of every four women will be targeted for sexual assault, and a woman is beaten every nine seconds. Usually, the attacker is somebody they know. The United States Department of Justice documents that eight out of ten women recognize the face of their attacker.
These are staggering numbers. And yet, the Model Mugging Women’s Self-Defense & Empowerment Program of the city of Los Angeles, has documented over one thousand knockouts of men by women in self defense scenarios.
So, to answer the question in a more direct manner: Can a woman or a man successfully defend themselves against an attacker? YES.
And a well taught self defense class can make all the difference.
A class is by no means a guarantee. And I certainly have to highlight the phrase “well taught.” This is key.
If the class is no good it can actually be detrimental.
So, what are some of the elements you should be looking for?
First of all, a good class will spend a lot of time teaching you how to stay out of danger.
You should always keep an eye out for your surroundings. Be aware of who’s behind you, who’s looking your way, who’s showing a keen interest in what you’re doing. I’m not saying be paranoid. I’m saying be mindful. Don’t put headphones on and shut yourself completely from the world.
Avoid solitary areas. Walk with confidence, always appearing sure of where you’re going and how to get there.
The class should put an emphasis on avoiding danger as much as humanly possible. Remember that your goal is to PROTECT YOURSELF AND TO GET OUT OF THE SITUATION SAFE AND SOUND.
Your purpose is not to defeat the opponent, call the police, have a clean fight, score some points, get a submission, none of that stuff.
GET OUT ALIVE. BE SAFE.
You should be prepared to do whatever it takes to accomplish this.
If violence is absolutely necessary, if you can’t escape and you’ve tried everything, then you should go on the offensive. Krav Maga Master James Sherman recently told me, “By taking an active role, you can immediately change the psychology of the attacker.” You should attack both physically and verbally. Scream, kick, scratch, curse, bite. It doesn’t matter, as long as it gets you out of the situation.
Statistics show that 90% of attackers will back down and search for a softer, easier target.
A good self defense class should teach you simple moves that anybody can perform and are easy to remember.
You don’t need to be a martial artist to defend yourself.
Once you go on the attack, do it as if your life depended on it. It does. That commitment is what scares the predator off. Convince yourself you will get out of this situation alive, no matter what.
Remember your goal. If the attacker backs down and allows you an avenue of escape, take it. Don’t hang around to finish the fight. You got what you wanted.
A good self defense class should arm you with techniques you can use when confronted with danger, or better yet, to help you avoid danger all together.
It’ll also make you feel confident and that goes a long way to keeping you safe.
Do some research. Visit some classes and talk to some instructors. Ask around in your community center or your local police station. A good class shouldn’t be that hard to find.
Good luck and stay safe.
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