Self protection is a phrase that is often used, but what does it actually mean and what is it’s ultimate aim? Well, self protection is a phrase that was initiated by Peter Consterdine, co-founder of the British Combat Association and it’s daughter organisation, the World Combat Association. Loosely speaking, it combines “hard” physical skills of striking, kicking, grappling, etc; with the “soft” skills of de-escalation and dissuasion, using assertive behaviour. The hard skills are usually referred to as self-defence and are the actual skills of violence; whereas the soft skills are non-violent and sometimes referred to as conflict management.
Obviously the soft skills can lead to the best results as violence can be avoided. Even if you win a fight, you might still get hurt and/or might end up in trouble with the law; so a non-violent method is always better legally and morally (even if it may be less satisfying 😃)!
So I think it fair to say that the ultimate aim of self protection is to get out of a confrontation without any violence, without anybody (especially you) getting hurt. These soft skills should be drilled as well, it’s no use just knowing what they are, they should be practised. Actual violence is the reserve position for when soft skills don’t work. This is very different from wanting to be a superior fighter who can take on all comers (like Bruce Lee)! In fairness, being a good fighter will increase your confidence and the way you project yourself, which in turn make it less likely that you’ll be picked on in the first place. Soft skills don’t always work so you might have to resort to violence, so it definitely helps to be good at it. But somebody who wants to be the best fighter and to be able to beat all challengers isn’t really interested in self protection.
I did have an incident myself many years ago when I was younger and more foolish. Driving through some local lanes I went around a bend and another car pulled out of a side road in front of me forcing me to brake sharply. I’m normally a very calm and patient person, but at that time I had a lot of problems in my life and was in a bad mood. So, uncharacteristically for me, I gave a long hard blast of my horn at him. To my surprise, he stopped his car in the middle of the lane, blocking my passage and got out of his car. I got out of mine as I was concerned that he might damage my car.
“Whats your problem then”? he demanded.
“You just pulled out in front of me” I replied.
“That’s blind turning and if you weren’t going so fast down a lane there wouldn’t be a problem”!
Damn it! He was right. I was at fault for driving to fast!
But then it got silly. “What you going to do about then”?
His head thrusts forward feigning a head-butt! More abuse and threats follow!
I decided that I really didn’t to fight him, partly as I had actually been in the wrong and also I was on my way to work. It doesn’t look good turning up at the office bruised and bloodied from a fight. And if I did win, his car was still blocking my path and there could be legal ramifications. So it simply wasn’t worth it.
At that time, I hadn’t even heard the phrase self protection or reality based martial arts. So I just didn’t reply. I stood silently returning his stare, but not responding to his abuse or threats. After a while, he got fed with it. So he got back into his car, threw a few parting expletives at me and drove off!
No fight. Result!
Now I do admit that this situation was partly of my own making, but if I’d let my ego get in the way the whole thing could have got out of control. He probably drove thinking that I was scared and that he’d given me a piece of his mind, putting me in my place; but so what. Let him think that. What he goes away thinking about the encounter is none of my business. What is my business is what I go away thinking about the encounter. And here’s a point that people often miss; I HAVE A CHOICE! I can choose to feel weak and emasculated having let him get away with talking to me like that. Or I can choose to view it as a success that I handled it with nobody getting hurt, no legal implications and no embarrassment at work!
Ok, now we get a bit more into a more grey area. A while ago, a female friend and student had a situation where a much larger, stronger, younger male family member got very verbally abusive and she found the whole situation very intimidating. Furthermore, afterwards she felt that she had failed as she’d let this person intimidate her and not done much to stick up for herself.
Whilst it is a horrible and belittling experience having somebody shouting at you and behaving in a threatening manner, and then letting them get away with it; if you come out physically unhurt then you have still been successful from a purely self protection perspective. You have avoided a physically violent encounter.
Please notice, I said “from a purely self protection perspective”. That said, nobody should have to endure that kind of intimidation, especially on a regular basis. If you are getting intimidated by somebody on a regular basis at home, work, or some other place where you frequent; then you should seek help from the relevant authorities. Even if its a family member, call the police. If it’s at work, inform management. And get some training in Reality Based Martial Arts as many traditional martial arts don’t always deal with conflict management. If you train somewhere that does not teach any conflict management, then I suggest that you contact the British Combat Association or the World Combat Association as they have good courses on the subject from time to time!