If you are looking for information about the general term ‘self defense’ as most common people use it, then this is a good place to start before you end up in the legal blender. At our school I use the accrony, R.A.C.E. to describe what you neeed to know for self defense. Reconstucted, R.A.C.E. stands for ‘Responsibility, Awareness, Commitment, Escape.’
Let’s take a brief look at what I mean by this.
Responsibility means taking the time to understand and learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones through a series of actions and decisions that avoid; when possible, dangerous circumstances, and that provide you with the tools to deal with them when they cannot be avoided. What this means in a nutshell, is know where you are going and avoid dangerous environments. Know who you are going with and avoid being with stupid people who thrive on nonsense and trouble. Know what type of danger is inherent in the behaviors that you are demonstrating and make better choice when possible. I once read this idea summed up as, ‘avoid going stupid places and doing stupid things with stupid people.’ I don’t recall the source off hand, as I have been studying inside of this area for over two-decades. If anyone know the origin of this quote, please post it in the comments below.
Awareness means knowing where you are and practicing active observation. Active observation in a nutshell is just paying attention to the people and objects in your environment. Notice odd behaviors from other people and trust your gut when someone or something makes you uncomfortable. Make a mental note of where all exits are located in public places. Hint: in most business there are back exits, usually behind doors that are labeled ‘Employees Only’ if all H.E. double hockey sticks breaks loose and you can safely make it to the back doors of a business, that is often a good escape strategy. Also, being an active observer makes you less of a ‘soft target’. Most criminals are cowards with no training. If they cannot take you by suprise or catch you off guard, they will move on to an easier target. It takes discipline to be a martial artist, or a sport fighter – discipline that most criminals do not have. Is that true for every criminal? No. Is it for most? Yes. We have to play the best odds to our favor when we talk about keeping ourselves safe, and not become overly paranoid.
Commitment means doing whatever is necessary to keep yourself safe. As former police officer, maximum security corrections officer and developer of the C.O.B.R.A. Self Defense System Chris Sutton puts it, ‘You are the most important person in the world.’ What this means is that people need to see themselves as the most important person in the world when it comes to their safety. It means that you have other people who rely on you- possibly your children, possibly your spouse, possibly your parents. In a time of crisis you must think of yourself first. How else can you protect your loved ones if you are swept away from this world by a violent predator. They are less important than you. If you would not commit murder, robbery, or rape, you can safely know that you are more important than the scum of the earth that would. But you have to be the most important person in your world, otherwise it is easy to justify letting someone, even a bad guy, do bad things to you. You must be ready to eye gouge, twist and pull on unpleasant body parts, bite, scratch, and used imporvised weapons if you are attacked. You must be committed. Commitment also means getting the necessary training before it is too late for you and your loved ones.
Escape means exactly what it says, and actually should be your first line of defense. You should always seek a way to get away from the threat. It’s best if you can do so even before the threat starts. It’s okay if you can do it when you notice things going the wrong direction. It is essential when you are caught in the middle of a violent encounter. As soon as you can safely (key word:safely) get away, you should. This is also one of the areas where ‘self defense’ gets debated in courts. If you could have gotten away from the threat rather than stay and continue to fight your threat, you may not be justified in your actions by a jury. What can that mean? Well, it can mean potentially a lifetime behind bars. But again, you should escape as soon as it is safe to do so. Unfortunately, ‘safely escape’ is very subjective and you must use your best judegement as to what it means during a violent encounter.
That is self defense in a nutshell. Everyone needs self defense. Violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, at anytime. As a matter of fact, attackers pick the place, the time and method of attack. You can only prepare ahead of time because you probably won’t be very good at developing a plan when under such stress and pressure of the events as they unfold.
Now on the other hand we have Martial Arts.
What are martial arts? Well, that is a huge questions. In it’s most general terms a martial art is a method of combat designed to elminate an attacker with the most effective means possible. However, some see it quite different. To some, they see it as a lifesyle. To others, a hobby. Many see it as a sport, or a system of self cultivation. Some people even see it as a sort of magic. Some people train in martial arts for years with little to no consideration to whether or not it will work to keep themselves safe in an altercation. At our school we see it as the most effective means to end a confrontation. Inside of that description, you can see that ‘self defense’ is a key ingredient, but not the focus of our training. We also regard it as a lifestyle for the few who will take it up as such, and we overall see it as a way to improve the quality of our day to day lives through the cultivation of balance, sensitivity, timing, coordination, and relaxation. As Grandmaster Moy Yat once famously said, ‘Ving Tsun is so good you can even use it for fighting.’ In a nutshell that is how we approach it; however, the first goal has to be to develop the skill to eliminate a threat as soon as possible and this refers to the physical domain of action taken to shut down violent action initiate by someone else.
If you are looking for a self defense school, or a martial arts school that actually considers the reality of self defense, then we are the place for you.