Self defense is not for a few special people. It’s for everyone. Like reading and writing, driving or working, self defense is a life skill that you can call on whenever you need it.
Being able to assert yourself when you are under pressure is valuable for everyone. It is something you learn. By experience we learn that there is a time to team up and a time to take the initiative. There is a time to work things out and a time to stand up for yourself. To be able to recognize the appropriate thing to do does not come automatically. To be able to act effectively on what you know to be right does not just happen.
We need to be prepared. In the heat of the moment it is too late to prepare.
But what do we prepare for?
Many people are preparing for ‘the end of the world as we know it.’ Known in prepper parlance by its initials TEOTWAWKI.
People feel anxiety about the way things are. That is reasonable. But a general feeling of unease is not a prescription for action. It’s good to have a supply of food and water, batteries and medicine, whatever you will need if there is a sudden shock to the system. Covering contingencies is good.
But while we are preparing for the unknowable, let’s also prepare for the inevitable.
What about the world as it is, the world as we know it, right now? How well are we coping with that? That may be the more urgent question.
By adapting to a world that is unhealthy we become unhealthy. Our bodies sit at the computer, in the car, on the couch, at the desk and become soft and lack skill. We consume toxins, for fun or without noticing.
Our minds are tuned to fractured bits of stories, ideas and images, as we learn to make out way through the flurries and storms of media we are manipulated, conned, charmed, assaulted, and little by little become passive receptors of experience. Gradually that habit makes us less than we could be. In the guise of connecting we become more withdrawn and alienated. In the guise of finding out what is going on we become clueless. Wanting to be deep we become shallow, more impulsive, and less likely to act with purpose.
If you have been to a survival school or been through any stressful selection or training, you may already know about this, but if you haven’t there is a comment in the current US Air Force SERE manual that you may find relevant.
SERE is an acronym. It stands for Survival Evasion Resistance Escape. SERE training is given to people who may or will be operating in hostile territory and risk being captured or killed. The course teaches what to expect, how to adapt, and what to do. It is extremely stressful. At section heading “4.9.2. Threats to Maintaining Life” the introductory comment is:
“Two of the gravest threats to maintaining life are concessions to comfort and apathy. Both threats represent attitudes that must be avoided.”
These are threats that we face; forces that leach away our strength and slowly compromise our freedom and dignity. They are pervasive.
How to fix that?
One way is to train the body and mind to work together, to focus on an objective, to persist through the difficulties to achieve it, and to put the rewards of this consistent action – the strength of body and mind and of character that we have cultivated – into the service of the people who need us.
We train ourselves to bring our body, our mind, our will, our whole life, to bear on whatever goals we set, and whatever surprises appear.
Not all martial arts are the same. Not all martial arts offer real self-defense, or serve as real life skill training.
So be clear about what you want, and make sure that is what you are getting.
While we prepare for contingencies – storms or disorder or disaster – we ought to consider the inevitable as well. Are we prepared right now to respond to stress and to happiness, to enjoy our lives and to take care of others?
The martial art we practice and teach offers a great path for every person who wants to follow it. It does not take great athletic ability, talent, aggressiveness, or any other special quality. It takes an aspiration to prepare now for the challenges which we all will face and which everyone we know, everyone we love, and everyone who may look to us for help, will inevitably face, and who will in many cases, never see it coming.
Post by J. Michael Brooks
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