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3 Essential Self-Defense Concepts

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Sifu B is a former US Marine, with almost 40 years of martial art training. He is ranked in 4 styles.

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Self-Defense Is More Than Fighting

Self-defense is not a competition. It is not a game. Violence in real life is not like what you see in the movies or on video games. Real people get hurt and even lose their lives. Self-defense training does not start with how to fight. If you attend a self-defense class that does not mention these three things, then you should walk out. The goal of self-defense is to live. You want to escape the conflict without any harm to yourself and preferably without having to involve the authorities.

We will draw from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War to illustrate three essential self-defense concepts you must know but few teach.

1. Avoidance

“A war not fought is a war not lost.” -Sun Tzu

The best away to stay alive, not get hurt, and not have to hurt others is to avoid conflict. Now, I am not talking about being a coward. I am not talking about surrendering or allowing yourself to be a victim. I am talking about having the awareness to avoid dangerous situations. If you are walking at night, stay where there is light. If there is a group of shady looking characters, avoid them. Do not take short-cuts down dark alleys.

Do not assume everything will be fine. We should have a more cautious and even pessimistic view. While the majority of people are good and peaceful, we have to acknowledge there are bad people who want to do bad things. Since we do not know who they are, we should be cautious. This does not mean we are paranoid and think people are out to get us. Rather, we are realists.

Along with situational awareness, we should consider how we feel. If something does not feel right, walk away. Sometimes our minds perceive things that are not always apparent to our conscious thinking. Be aware of these impressions and play it safe. If you are wrong, then you lose nothing. If you are right and you do not avoid the situation, then you knowingly put yourself in danger.

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2. De-escalation

“For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” – Sun Tzu

If you are truly interested in staying safe and out of trouble, then de-escalation is your path. To de-escalate is the opposite of escalation. Escalation means to take things to another level. He insults me, I curse him. He curses me, I yell louder. He yells back, I push him. You get the idea. These common, childish antics should have no place in the adult world, but this is how most fights intensify.

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We all know the guy who is always looking for a fight. Any minor infraction—real or imagined—and he is ready to rip off his shirt and get in someone’s face. This is the exact opposite.

“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

You're walking down the street and some jerk decides to ram his shoulder into yours. You have a few options. You can say, “Hey pal, watch it!”; you can ignore it and keep walking; or you can say, “My bad, sorry, etc.”

If he turns to you and says, “Watch it!," you have the same three options. Escalate, ignore, or de-escalate. A simple apology will often resolve the conflict. He will get his fragile ego stroked and you will not have have to spend the next four hours in the police station explaining why you used his face to re-arrange the gravel.

3. Run

“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.” – Sun Tzu

If your enemy is stronger, unstable, or armed, then run. Run to safety. Run to where people are. Fighting should be a last resort.

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Bonus Concept: Kill Your Ego

"The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom."- Sun Tzu

A fragile ego is always seeking validation. If a man has to prove he is tough, then he is obviously not tough. There are times when we have no choice. There are times when we should engage in force, but our little ego and pride should not be the deciding factor.

Only fight when there are no other options. Put your ego aside, grow up, and use these three techniques whenever possible.

© 2022 Sifu B

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