Tuesday, June 22

self defense redux

Back again -- following an excursion to the wilds of Central Illinois, for my brother's wedding -- and I find there is still nothing more interesting to talk about than self-defense. I have one more thing to say about this, then I'll shut up about it.

This applies to Bob's comment, and to JC's, and is the reason why I can teach you enough "elite ninja skilz" in two hours to save your life in 99% of the "combat situations" you will ever find yourself in (unless you are a soldier, a law enforcement officer, or a criminal).

It's this: you have to choose in advance.

I had an e-forum conversation some time ago with one of my friends, where he was trying to illustrate the existence of "instinctive morality" by talking about the guy who leaps out into traffic to save the life of a kid he doesn't even know -- because the guy in question doesn't have time to reason out the risk/benefit ratio, he just acts.

This is my answer: sure, at the moment, there's no time to make a conscious choice -- but that guy had already chosen, in advance.

We all do. When we think about that kind of situation, we think about the person we want to be. That's one of the primary powers of the human mind: to anticipate the future, and to make that choice before the situation ever occurs -- because when in actually happens, you don't have time.

So here's where this applies to self-defense: most people who get badly hurt in street-defense situations, get hurt because they freeze. Because they haven't made a prior choice to run or fight, they do nothing. One of the keys to effective self-defense is to give yourself guidelines -- rules of thumb -- that are already in your head.


1) If someone with a knife or a gun wants my wallet, I will fucking well give it to him. THEN I'll run away.

2) If someone tries to drag me into a car, or into an alley, or through a doorway -- no matter what he may be armed with -- I will scream my ass off and fight him with everything I've got, because he's taking me into his comfort zone -- where he has MORE power, and I have LESS. If he's going to kill me, I will make him kill me on the street.

3) If someone who is not a police officer in the discharge of his duty puts a hand on me in an aggressive way, I will hit him as hard as I can.

You get the idea.

The Anonymous comment below is a perfect example. I would like to add to it an experience of my wife's.

During the Christmas shopping season a few years ago, my wife was accosted in the parking lot of a Target store. This being Christmas time, the lot was jammed, and her car was in a remote corner. It was close to midnight, and the lot lights didn't reach that far. She had already opened the door when the man came around from behind the car -- so she was cornered between her car and the car next to her, with the open door at her back. The man was carrying a folded newspaper under his arm, and he came at her quickly, saying "Excuse me, ma'am -- wait. I need to talk to you."

Fortunately, my wife had already made her choice: instead of politely inquiring what he might want to talk with her about -- instead of trying to get into the car and get it started and away before he could smash the window and drag her out -- she dropped into a combat stance and put out her left hand like a traffic cop and shouted at the top of her considerable lungs: "STOP!"

The guy stopped.

She said, "You had better BACK THE FUCK OFF. RIGHT NOW."

He took three steps backward, watching her (I suspect to make sure she wasn't chasing him) then bolted like a cat with its tail on fire.

She had already decided that if she were ever trapped in a situation where she couldn't run, she would fight to the death. That decision saved her life.

These days, she's armed -- with pepper spray, which (as I've said below) is goddamn close to the ideal weapon for self-defense.

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