Tough or Smart – What’s Your Most Powerful Self-Defense Weapon: Mind or Body?

There are as many approaches to self-defense as there are reasons why people study it.

What are YOUR reasons and what approach are YOU using? How confident are you that your efforts will produce the results what you want?

What is it about self-defense that interests you?

You must be looking for something or you wouldn’t be reading this, right?

Some people learn self-defense to defend themselves from the violent actions of others! Duh!!!) They want to satisfy the essential need for security and control.

Others are after self-confidence and an improved self-image.

Then there are those who don’t care much about “fighting” at all. They’re just looking for an enjoyable, functional and “cool” 😉 way to get into great shape.

Maybe you’re after “ALL OF THE ABOVE.” (like me 😉 Well then keep reading friend… because I’ve got some thoughts to throw at ya…

===== Two Approaches To Self-Defense =====

There are two broad categories of self-defense information. Whether they spell it out or not, all self-defense books, articles, classes and seminars are based on one or both of two “themes”… a MENTAL APPROACH or a PHYSICAL APPROACH.

The “Physical Approach” is based on “EFFICIENCY.” It pursues physical skill development as a self-defense solution. It involves learning punches, kicks, grappling and defensive techniques. Although avoiding a physical altercation is given “passing attention,” EXACTLY how to do that is often glazed over or not addressed at all.

Whether you enroll in a martial arts class, sign up for a self-defense seminar or join a boxing club, the focus is to teach you how to physically perform “fight-related” techniques.

“Fitness-based” training, such as Tae Bo, Cardio Kickboxing and Boxercise also fall in this category.

The assumption here is that your BODY is your weapon and the harder you train and the better you get at performing self-defense techniques, the safer and more capable you will be to defend yourself.

The “Mental Approach” is based on “Effectiveness.” It is focused on “PersonalSafety” theories, concepts and strategies.

This theory-based approach involves gaining an understanding of predatory situations; how they happen, how they can be anticipated and recognized, how they can be avoided and how to respond if you encounter one.

Your BRAIN is considered your most powerful self-defense weapon, and this training (hypothetically) makes you “SMARTER” and more capable of wise decisions in the stress and chaos of threatening situations.

“Efficiency and Effectiveness” What’s the Difference?

Perhaps the point I am trying to make will be clearer if we come to a common understanding of exactly what I mean by these two terms. Before you read on… think for a moment and come up with your own definition of these terms… Done? Here’s mine…


Efficiency Is Doing Things Right

Effectiveness Is Doing The Right Things


Can you see the difference? I hope so, because it’s HUUUUUUUUUUUUGE!!!! Here’s how those terms relate to self-defense training.

===== The Physical Approach To Self-Defense ======

The Physical Approach involves learning and practicing physical skills “efficiently.” The faster, more coordinated, more powerful your striking, kicking, grappling and defensive techniques are, the more “successful” you consider yourself.

There are many self-defense courses that deal exclusively with learning techniques, with and without training partners, as a TOTAL solution for all your self-defense problems.

Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not criticizing this approach in any way. I teach physical skills classes and seminars myself.

Learning physical skills can dramatically improve your odds of surviving and escaping a violent situation. It can even reduce the probability of being confronted or attacked.

If done properly, on a regular basis (which I highly recommend), self-defense conditioning and skills training like sparring or hitting a heavy bag, will provide a ton of physical, mental and emotional benefits.

BUT is the exclusive practice of techniques a sufficient “self-defense solution?”

===== Benefits Of The Physical Approach =====

Physical skills training is a GREAT way to get in shape and stay there. If properly done, ongoing self-defense training is a fun and functional, full-body workout.

The self-confidence, fitness, and athletic qualities gained through regular self-defense training will have a positive influence on your “victim profile” (behavior and body language) that you project to a potential predator. It can decrease the probability of being targeted. (Dirt bags don’t pick fights with people they perceive are likely and capable to fight back)

Unlike “single-exposure” self-defense training (where you learn a technique once and never practice it again,) ONGOING self-defense training is proactive.

Regular self-defense training “rewards” you in many ways, even if you NEVER have to defend yourself.

Regular self-defense training “defends and protects” you against more probable and legitimate “threats” to your life, your health and well-being. You are at more risk from poor lifestyle habits and a lack of exercise than you are from a mugger or rapist.

===== Drawbacks to a Physical Only Approach =====

If you limit your self-defense efforts exclusively to physical skills training, you also limit your response options in a volatile situation. You are limited to a “Fight/Don’t Fight” decision. There are more ways to resolve a volatile situations than that (there are 5 actually). Doing the “wrong thing” well (like fighting when you don’t have to) can get you injured, arrested or sued.

Regular self-defense training makes you feel great. You’ll feel confident, energetic and fit. (so how is that a drawback?) Don’t make the mistake of over estimating your potential of defeating an attacker and end up over your head in an encounter with someone who is tougher, meaner and more malicious than you are.

Don’t think that your weekly cardio-kickboxing class has turned you into a “trained killer!”

Even the “best” fighter will be dropped like a bag of dirt if he or she doesn’t develop appropriate awareness and avoidance skills and is caught off guard. Physical skills don’t protect you from unanticipated acts of violence.

===== The Mental Approach To Self-Defense =====

The Mental Approach addresses the “big picture” of predatory situations. In my self-defense system for example, there are “SEVEN” separate and interrelated aspects of a comprehensive personal safety or self-defense system.

The intent of this mental approach is to make you “smarter” and more capable of avoiding, diffusing and responding EFFECTIVELY by doing the RIGHT THINGS in a volatile situation. By the “RIGHT THINGS,” I’m referring to the most effective response strategies to successfully resolve a threatening or volatile situation.

Fighting back with physical self-defense techniques is only part of staying safe.

===== Benefits Of The Mental Approach =====

An accurate understanding of the dynamics of predatory situations increases the odds of anticipating, avoiding, recognizing and responding to them. The “best” result to a violent encounter is not when you manage to fight your way out of it. It’s when it doesn’t happen in the first place!

Not all volatile situations can be solved by fighting. Effectiveness in a self-defense situation allows you to assess and evaluate the circumstances and select the most effective response strategy to implement to gain or regain control.

A sense of control that accompanies proper mental training decreases the stress and fear associated with volatile or predatory situations. And that increased sense of control and self-confidence can reduce the potential of being victimized.

===== Drawbacks To A Mental Only Approach =====

An “information-only” approach does not significantly change the body language that you project to a potential assailant. Although some self-defense instructors imply that you can “fake” non-victim body language by walking briskly, standing straight, and “pretending to be confident.” That will only go so far. Pretending to be coordinated, strong and physically fit is easier said than done.

Knowing the best response option in a given situation, be it running away or fighting back, is of little value if you can’t successfully pull it off. If you haven’t developed your skills and fitness levels by ongoing self-defense practice, how likely are you to out-run or out-fight an assailant?

===== One OR The Other Is Incomplete =====

You’ve probably figured out by now that ONE OR THE OTHER of these two approaches is an incomplete approach to being able to defend yourself. An optimal strategy is to combine and balance your ability to make smart, effective decisions with the ability to carry those decisions through to a successful conclusion. BOTH mental AND physical elements are required for optimal self-defense success.

Be effective first, then be efficient. A medical equivalent might be to “Diagnose First The Perscribe.” To successfully resolve a volatile situation, you need sound judgement to decide on the best course of action AND the physical skills and ability to implement your game plan.

The degree to which you pursue each approach has a lot to do with your capabilities, limitations and the goals you have in relation to your study of self-defense.

If you are smaller, weaker, older for example, your emphasis should lean more toward personal safety strategies and be supplemented with physical skills training. If your self-defense goals are simply to avoid victimization and to stay out of trouble, then learn everything you can about the dynamics of volatile situations.

On the other hand, maybe you are fit, athletic and skillful. Perhaps you already train regularly and feel capable of “holding your own” if you have to defend yourself. If thats the case, here are a couple pieces of advice to consider:

There’s always someone tougher and meaner than you are! Even highly skilled fighters and martial artists need awareness and avoidance skills. Physical techniuqes are of little value if you are set up, sucker punched, or ambushed. NOBODY wins a fight. You may defeat your adversary and “still” be injured yourself. Also, just because you didn’t instigate the confrontation doesn’t mean that you won’t find yourself being criminally charged or civilly sued for defending yourself.

The point I’m trying to make is that the BEST approach to self-defense training is to learn to do the right thing by learning everything you can about the dynamics of predatory situations AND engage in regular self-defense training so that you can “do things right” by developing the skills and conditioning to carry out a desired self-defense strategy.

===== Two Approaches? Two Resources! =====

The questions I get by email and in person, can be divided into two clear categories… “What-Should-I-Do-If…questions” and “How-Do-I…questions.” Or in otherwords effectiveness and efficiency.

It is because of these different but complimentary aspects of self-defense that I’ve decided to “split” the focus of my web sites so I can address each in greater detail.

I’m in the process of restructuring of my web sites to assist you in finding the information you are looking for. will continue to be “home base” for my self-defense articles and newsletter. The site will maintain a “Get Smart Focus” by dealing with the Big Picture of personal safety concepts and will address all seven components of self-defense:

=> Self-Defense Psychology

=> Self-Defense Intelligence

=> Victim Selection

=> Predatory Recognition

=> Self-Defense Response Options

=> Prevention and Avoidance

=> Self-Defense Training Methods

My new site, takes the “Get Tough Focus” of the seventh component: Self-Defense Training Methods to the next level. It provides specific “how-to-train” resources and advice for people who want to incorporate ongoing self-defense training for a variety of reasons.

Randy LaHaie

Protective Strategies

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