We recently conducted a small self-defense workshop for women. Participants are usually surprised that we begin (and sometimes end) talking about the mental aspects of protecting oneself—the awareness. We like to convey the idea that self-protection, contrary to what others have expressed to us, is not about being someone’s bodyguard, though I like to think of it in terms of being your own bodyguard. We refer to self-protection as the umbrella under which the mental skills (awareness) and physical skills (self-defense) fall. Although I think of the fighting skills we teach as more self-offense (because we really like pre-emptive strikes when the situation warrants them), self-defense is a general term that most people will accept without any hesitation. I can get really up-tight about the semantics, of course, but I really want people to understand the ideas. I liked what Brian Willis said recently about teaching: help people learn NOT techniques, but rather principles and concepts. I believe this is a good rule of thumb for conducting one-time workshops for people you know are not going to be your hard-core, train-every-week practitioners. A practitioner, like me, who is going to be training and teaching for life, is going to get very excited about the minutia. Nevertheless, I always go back to the basics, too, and I cannot over-emphasize the basics. Basics will work under duress. It is that simple.
We talked about awareness concepts, and we listened to many questions and a lot of commentary about everyone’s own experiences. There never seems to be a shortage of stories about crime. Crime touches almost everyone, which is why I am continually surprised at people’s denial about it, or their resistance to acquiring some worthwhile skills that could possibly save lives; they are life-affirming skills. I harp on it all the time, but self-protection is truly everyone’s personal responsibility. What if law enforcement arrives too late? I like the added insurance in case I am completely on my own. I digress! We talked about the color code system for situational awareness and threat recognition. We discussed some of the cues criminals look for when targeting their victims (based on interesting case study), and gave some reference material for further study.
Towards the end, we looked at confrontation management, weapons (improvised and otherwise) and a few defense techniques. Confrontation management does not always mean fighting, of course. It can mean verbal communication, running, to safety, etc. We worked on a few defenses against wrist grabs, chokes, and discussed the B.E.A.T. target model: going for the brains, eyes, abs and testicles. It is nice to know pressure points and the myriad of ways we can inflict pain and damage on an aggressor, but it is simple stupid to remember these four targets!
Everyone went home with some food for thought, which is the whole point. We cannot stress enough to anyone we teach that the decision to win begins now, before the event. It is so important to impress that upon students! The violent confrontation is not inevitable for everyone, but I would rather be mentally prepared all the same. Better to imagine success, and make critical decisions in the calm than during the storm. My gratitude goes out to all the women who participated, and to Paula and Robin, our hosts.