Home > Karate, Martial Arts, Self -Defense, Women's Self-Defense > Common Sense Self-Defense Lesson IV: Perception

Common Sense Self-Defense Lesson IV: Perception


Have you seriously considered what you would do if you were faced with a very real threat of violence? I’m not talking about a sparring match in a competition or working on pre-set self-defense moves in the dojo. I’m speaking of a real life encounter with someone who wishes to do bodily harm to you or a loved one.

There are many martial arts instructors out there who claim to teach “real world” self-defense techniques. It might surprise their students to know that the majority of these people have never faced a serious assault. They have never been in a life-or-death situation. Yet they sell what they do as a system that will serve to protect you in just such a circumstance.

It’s fine for someone to teach a style and teach that style for an art, physical fitness, a sport, or even self-defense. For someone to teach his style, and himself, as the ultimate self- defense system and they have never been in a situation where they had to use what they know or face injury or even death is asinine. I saw a guy at a demo one time who was showing some self-defense techniques to the audience. He was going on about how he, and his techniques, could kill a person. I was shocked considerig this guy’s dojo teaches no-contact sparring. Perhaps he was right and the techniques could indeed incapacitate or kill an attacker. Yet, in my mind and from my real world experiences, I couldn’t help but wonder if the individual had the capacity to carry out the scenario he was talking about. As far as I knew the guy, although a good guy, was a regular guy with a regular job who worked around regular people. He probably had as much experience dealing with unexpected, uncontrolled, unwelcomed violence as a Sunday School teacher. He still wow’d the audience and probably got a new student or two out of the deal.

You see people perceived him in a certain light. They saw what he portrayed himself as. They saw him for what they had been taught all of their lives what a martial arts instructor was supposed to be. It is the same way with criminals and the thought of an attack. We all perceive these things as we have been taught to believe they should be or how they should happen. When the average person thinks of being assaulted and finding themselves in a true battle for their lives, they immediately flash to what they have seen in the movies and TV. They think of the stories they have heard in their past of epic Good vs Evil conflicts. They see the experienced martial artists doing some dramatic fight scene straight out of a movie and always being victorious. These are the people who usually end up curled up on the ground in the fetal position praying it is over.

I have worked around criminals for over 23 years. As a Correctional Officer, and a Lieutenant for a while, I have witnessed enough and been involved in enough situations to understand the mind-set pretty well. To survive an attack one of the things you must do is rid yourself of all of the pre-conceived notions that you may have. You must understand that in the eyes of a predator you are not a human being. You have been reduced and rationalized in their mind as a resource. You are a tool for them to use to gain what they want. They don’t think like you do. They don’t rationalize like you do. I heard of a convicted serial rapist who thought he was completely justified in what he did. He thought there was nothing at all wrong with the crimes he committed. Why? Because he asked his victims for sex first. It was only if they said no that he attacked and raped them. From this you can get just a hint of what kind of mentality you are dealing with if you are attacked by a criminal.

Your perception of yourself must also be changed. If you have trained the martial arts of any form, you have the tools you need to fight off an attacker…if the situation is right (we’ll get into that in later posts). Your mind must be in the right place though. You must realize that this is REAL. It is not a dojo sparring match. You are not in a tournament competition. Even if you are trained in MMA fighting, this is NOT a competition. There are no rules. There is no fairness. There is no official there to pull your attacker off of you before you suffer serious bodily injury or death. You must accept this and you must be prepared to do anything and everything you are capable of to survive. I tell the adults in my Women’s Self-Defense courses that there is a little switch on the back of their necks. It’s called the Bitch Switch and you must be ready willing and capable of turning that switch on if you are attacked.

Words are easily written. There is no way I can possibly describe with any ease here in writing the gauntlet of emotions that you will experience in this situation or the absolute need you will have to shut them off. I cannot fully describe to you the cold blank look on a person’s face that has resolved in their mind to hurt, maim, or kill you. In the same vein I can’t teach you in writing how to improve you re reaction time. I can’t show you in a few lessons how to train yourself not to “freeze up” when faced with violence. I can give you tips on your mind set and that of your attacker. I can show you what to look for and look out for.

You should know that you can win. You can survive. A lady once told her instructor that she didn’t think she could fight off an attacker larger and stronger than herself. She told him that she had wrestled with her boyfriends and they had always been able to beat her. The instructor told her to picture a 280 pound man standing there with a small cat in his hands. He asked her if she thought the cat could beat the man. She said no. He then asked her what did she think would happen if he threw a bucket of water on them. She said that the man would probably cringe and the cat would go berserk and bite and scratch the guy until it got away. He told her that her boyfiriends had been able to beat her because she actually cared about them and had no initiative to really beat them or get away. He explained that the water was the cat’s initiative. She nodded then looked at him and said,

“But a cat has claws and teeth.”

He smiled and replied,

“You do too.”

So, you see, if you change your perspective, you can win.

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  1. The Pinoy Herbalist
    January 6, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    “You must understand that in the eyes of a predator you are not a human being. You have been reduced and rationalized in their mind as a resource. You are a tool for them to use to gain what they want.”

    This is one of many important points you have made. In the classes I teach this is one of the first aspects students must understand, otherwise any self-defense they learn will hesitate and be ineffective. Perspective is so important.

  2. January 16, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Great post. I’ve rarely seen a self defense instructor explore the psychology of an attacker as vividly as you have here. Wise and empowering advice, especially for women.
    Peace & grace,
    ~Miro

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