self-defense-1Martial arts training is great for building fitness, self-confidence and peace of mind. Finding competent training, however, is like taking your automobile to any automechanic shop. Some are better than others. Some do more damage than good.

For instance, I trained in martial arts for a year and was taught to “pull my punches.” One night, I was confronted by a couple of mean drunks. When I tried using a back fist-punch combination, I reflexively pulled my punches. I was then slammed down on the ground and pummelled. (Seven years later, with better training, I was able to put down two opponents.)

The military taught me the value of planned attack and defense. Attacks are usually in the form of ambushes or raids, which are designed to have the advantage of greater numbers, weapons, position and/or the element of surprise. Modern armies and criminals do not “square off” for a fair fight. The winner was usually better prepared than the loser.

Military defense is a system of constant awareness, position and counter-attack. In self-defense, most systems teach only counter-attacks (such as escaping from choke holds). A good defense involves recognizing the approaching danger (eg. aggressive conversation), better position (eg. good exit) and already having plan. A strong defensive position is often avoided by the enemy. In turn, a confident, wary person is often avoided by a criminal.

After working as a youth counsellor for sex offenders, store detective and United Nations Protection Force, I have found certain patterns in criminal personalities and their methods. While, physical conditioning and martial arts training will help you survive an attack, self defense training will put you in a position of avoiding the attack in the first place.

We are not talking about a fair fight. An attack on your person or your property brings with it trauma and financial hardship to yourself and loved ones. The effects can last a lifetime. This is why it is so important to build defensive skills including: awareness, assertiveness, environment, lifestyles and even relationships.