Before we move on, let me give one of the usual rants…
If your self defence training only includes physical solutions, then your training is sorely lacking. A complete program should include the ‘pre’ and ‘post’ elements of conflict, such as situational awareness, de-escalation, legal use of force, first aid, dealing with post-traumatic stress, etc. It doesn’t mean that all of those need to be covered to the same extent in every class. Some can be touched on here and there, while others should be a regular part of training. The depth, frequency, etc., are up for debate, but either way they should be addressed (more on this here and here).
But there are other things that are important in the context of self defence. Looking at the phrase from another perspective, it can also mean ‘defending you from yourself’ (credit to a random post on Facebook, can’t remember who posted it!). That’s a really important point!
But what does it mean? Here are a couple of thoughts on the topic:
1. Your own worst enemy - first and foremost, I think it means to learn to manage your ego. We all have one. We have all had experiences that challenged our ego. We have all had experiences where we felt belittled, or embarrassed, or wronged and our ego was hurt. We have all had experiences where our temper flared and we have said or done something that in hindsight, we realised was just stupid.
Being able to manage the ego is no simple task, nor is it an easy one, and it takes a lot of mindfulness and critical reflection of oneself in order to get better at it.
Firstly, you need to understand what types of behaviours or attitudes challenge your ego. This is different for everyone. For some it might be when their authority is challenged. For others it might be when they feel disrespected, or when they perceive an injustice against them.
Understanding what gets under your skin, and recognising it before you make a stupid decision, is where this starts. Recognising your internal voice is critical to doing this. Here’s a great tool for this. Similar to Richard Dimitri’s ‘give it a name’ game that you can read about here. Here’s how this works:
- Make a list of behaviours that upset you. For example, when someone challenges your authority, gets personal, whatever it is.
- Give that behaviour a name. For example, the ‘what are you looking at’ guy, the ‘I’ve been doing this for 20 years’ guy, etc.
- When you face that behaviour, you will find it easier to recognise ‘that guy’ and the behaviour and respond rationally as opposed to react emotionally.
2. Pride and Prejudice – part of taking a good, hard look at yourself mean recognising not only the things that upset you, but also your own biases and prejudices. For example, let’s imagine you got beat up in highschool by a blond guy called Bob. Chances are you might have some aversions towards any other blond Bobs you might meet in your life, whether you recognise it or not. Recognising how our experiences shape us and how they affect the way we view the world can help us avoid making mistakes that could end up landing us in a violent confrontation.
Again, these are not always easy or simple to work out… But it is well worth the effort. It might even be worth asking some close friends and family to give you some feedback on this. Just be prepared to hear things you might not like. But then again, that’s how we grow!
Ultimately, this is about recognising that we are all human and we all have shortcomings. Self defence aside, if this helps you to get rid of some prejudices or biases, then it’s an exercise worth doing.
Analysing these things is important to make sure you can handle aggressive behaviour in a way that will make it easier for you to defuse the situation. The two pints above are all about you. Learning to manage your ego, and learning how to analyse prejudices and biases also helps us recognise these in others.
More importantly, it will truly help you become a better human being. Critically reflecting on our behaviour and learning to control our temper, ego and prejudices makes us kinder, more empathetic and more open-minded.
It makes us better humans.
If everyone was able to do this, I truly believe we’d see a huge positive change in the way people interact with each other.
Self-defence starts with the 'self' – don’t forget that!
Stay safe, stay tuned.