There are several styles of self-defense and many books and videos that teach self-defense techniques; however, people often overlook the first step in self-defense.
One of the most important things you must do when training in self-defense is condition your mind to react quickly and efficiently in dangerous situations. Knowing the right techniques and punches will not help you if you freeze up or are otherwise unable to use defense techniques. In addition, by enhancing your confidence and intuition through mental conditioning, you will be more likely to avoid dangerous situations before they occur.
Most criminals look for people who appear to be easy targets.
Observe yourself. Think about how you have responded in circumstances throughout your life. Think about how you feel and how that influences your behavior. Do you come across as confident or timid? Are you aware of your surroundings when you are out in public? Are you unaware much of the time, distracted by your cell phone, the errands you are running, the to do list you are working on, or personal issues in your life?
How do you react to people you do not know? Women, especially, are taught from a very young age to be polite and behave. While politeness and basic manners benefit the individual in many social areas, there are times when politeness needs to be thrown out the window. Set clear personal safety boundaries and do not let inner or outer pressure to be polite change these boundaries.
How do you react when a stranger approaches you asking for a cigarette or the time? How does it make you feel? What if they take a step closer and say they cannot hear you? What if they are in a car asking for directions? Then they claim they cannot hear you and they ask you to please come closer (a common ploy).
What if you do not answer or say no and they say:
“Hey, no need to be so rude.”
You have every right to assertive in order to protect yourself. Following your intuition is much more important than being polite. Following your intuition may just save your life.
How to re-condition yourself:
Learn to be loud when necessary. Practice reacting with noise and movement rather than paralysis.
One reason vocalizing is used in martial arts is that it is distracting and intimidating to the opponent. Another reason is that it literally adds power to the punch. The right kind of yelling is very energizing. You should learn how to be loud in an instant. Find some place where you won’t alarm neighbors and practice yelling. Make it strong powerful and let it come from the gut.
Many people have reservations about drawing attention to a situation and so their first reaction is to remain quiet. Also, when people are taken by surprise, they often experience a kind of paralysis. If someone intends to harm you, you need to draw attention to what is happening. You can make it less likely that you will freeze up and be unable to call for help if you practice scenarios ahead of time. Visualize any scenario and practice a primal, ear-splitting, fierce yell. Any kind of scream will do, but practice the angry yell as well. Learn to make a big scene.
The purpose of the yelling and screaming is to:
1. Draw attention to the situation
2. Distract the perpetrator.
One second is a long time during an assault. Even if you distract the perpetrator for only one second, that one second can mean the difference between escape versus injury or death.
In real-life self defense situations you want to avoid the situations, period.
Body language will help you avoid many dangerous situations, but this is not just a matter of squaring your shoulders and putting on an air of confidence. Learn to radiate alertness, not fear. Set clear boundaries ahead of time. If someone crosses those boundaries, act. It will be extra helpful if you practice this with close friends who will give you feedback.
Most large communities offer self-defense classes. I recommend attending these classes. Invite friends to attend with you. Build confidence, learn self-defense techniques, and have fun together at the same time. It could be the most important fun you ever have in your life.
Anyone can learn how to exude more confidence.
Have you ever wondered how movie stars are able to exude such confidence? While some stars are born with an extroverted personality, this is not always the case. A large part of that social presence comes from training. You may be surprised to learn that a significant section of many acting classes is devoted to drawing people out of their social comfort zones. Actors learn to yell, to cry, to be very silly, to be a tree, to improvise, to be a fish, to be a cat, anything else, and they learn to do this in front of people they have just met.
In one of my most memorable acting classes, we were instructed to run around the room touching other students on the shoulder. The moment we made contact, we were to look the person in the eye and yell out the first thing that came to mind, loudly. You can imagine how it must have looked, all these adults running around a room yelling at each other.
The benefit of such an exercise is clear. It breaks through the walls of what is and is not proper to do or be in a public situation. Actors must be very versatile and be able to perform in a variety of situations in front of complete strangers. This kind of conditioning is helpful for self-defense as well. When anyone approaches you in a manner that makes you feel uneasy, that is not the time to worry about how you will look if you ‘make a scene’ in public.
The more shy or reserved you are, the more you need to train yourself to break through the walls. Quick action in threatening situations must become automatic. If you are naturally shy, I urge you to spend even more time re-conditioning your mind and body to respond proactively in any situation.
All dangerous situations are unique, but the moment anyone crosses your personal safety boundaries you must be able to act and act fast. There will not be time to analyze the situation; if you prepare yourself ahead of time, you have won half the battle. Mental conditioning will lessen your chances of becoming a sad statistic.