I've been training in martial arts since the 1980s and consistently since the '90s. I am a 2nd-degree black belt in Kenpo Karate.
Self defense has become important to many people as the need to deal with the dangers of our world has created an attraction to learning methods for self protection and self preservation. Therefore, men, women and children have been drawn to classes in self-defense and in these classes they are taught how to deal with predators, bullies and other aggressive assailants so that they will be prepared to effectively manage unexpected violence.
Here we will discuss specifically why it is important to learn self-defense.
As already mentioned, one of the reasons we feel the need to learn self-defense is because violence occurs unexpectedly and can very easily catch us off-guard. The world is now heavily populated and it is hard to manage violence, unlike the old tribal days in which, essentially, the extended family kind of naturally kept things in order. These days, you don't often know who you are dealing with on the street or anywhere that isn't home or with family and friends, so sometimes you are liable to run into the wrong person at the wrong time at the wrong place, so to speak. When I first started learning martial arts, back in the 80s when I was only 11 years old, my mother had signed me up for classes because I'd been attacked on the street by 3 teenage boys; they literally knocked me out and when I came to and started home, one of them was still harassing me until an adult intervened. The incident obviously shook me up and, even as a child, changed my outlook on how to approach the world and what to pay attention to out in the streets. I trust my instincts, I can tell you that. I saw that attack coming yards away, before those boys approached me, but I hadn't trusted my instincts and fell right into their hands.
So, as with everything, whether we are talking about going on a camping trip or taking the kids to the park, it's always good to be prepared in as many ways as possible; you want to pack what is necessary for a trip, in case of emergencies or whatever might happen. In this way, by being prepared, you turn the unexpected, the unpredictable, into something manageable.
And that, essentially, is the philosophy of self-defense: You are prepared for those unpredictable emergencies; like someone attacking you on the street, someone invading your home, someone grabbing you to kidnap you or brutalize you. You want some essential tools to deal with such dangers; like how to put your thumb in someone's eye or how, when and where to knee them in the groin. Some rudimentary knowledge of position and how to use your natural weapons from your own body can work wonders. And if you train such techniques enough they are liable to kick in naturally when needed most.
When you train in self defense, you become more aware. You become aware of position, your own body and how to use it, how to move in relation to others, considering distance and other factors. To learn, you must really pay attention.
In addition, you become distinctly aware of your environment, even when you are just out and about on the town. You look around, more aware of avoiding dangers and keeping track of what is happening around you, who is around you and what you and others are doing. As I said earlier, my experience with assault as a child and subsequent training in martial arts sort of informed my view of how to approach the world; when I'm out I pay attention to who is around me and what they are doing and prepare accordingly if necessary. Countless times I've been followed and did something along the lines of grip a coke bottle I was carrying in a shopping bag. Beyond that I understand and think about what I can do to an assailant: Just as much as I think about what they can do to me. The best thing is that I know I can do it, do the things necessary to protect myself, because I've had training that has burned defensive techniques into muscle memory and the neural-pathways of my brain.
There have also been times when someone has grappled with me or taken a swing at me and my senses were so heightened, my reflexes so in tune that I dodged the attack or otherwise avoided it. One time on the street I'd run into a drunken acquaintance, and this was just after I'd gotten out of a sparring class so my body was really in tune to moving promptly. My friend was pretty drunk and joked around but actually took a swing at me (you know how drunks are). I ducked the punch and had my hands up and ready. He laughed and moved on, fortunately, so the incident never turned into anything ugly; but it's a good example of how your awareness is heightened and in tune with body and brain and the environment. Another time, a friend decided he wanted to grapple with me (I guess for fun) and I threw him into the sofa; he grumbled about me using Karate on him, but nevertheless left me alone after that.
This heightened awareness is good in terms of safety, but also in terms of a whole host of things in your life. It is always good to be able to focus and pay attention. It makes it possible to learn and understand more and do things correctly, especially when it is essential to do so.
As you learn to defend yourself and your body and mind are in tune to it, you are more capable both physically and mentally and you begin to carry yourself in a more confident manner. This carries over into other aspects of your life, because it essentially gives you a keen sense of self-worth and even accountability.
In training you are forced to keep your back straight, your head up and to be aware of everything. This is essentially how you carry yourself even outside of the dojo, I know I always have after years of training.
Beyond that, the training itself involves problem solving, how to think about techniques and how they work, thinking several moves ahead; and this is how you end up approaching life when you train; you start to develop skills to approach problems by looking at outcomes, considering many possibilities and then applying this foresight to do the right thing. Even when I'm doing something as simple as driving my car, I'm constantly looking at all the possibilities that are happening; like what the other drivers are doing, what they might do, what are the possible actions they might take and what it is that I can do; certainly I've avoided many accidents this way and have taken many short-cuts. While all drivers I'm sure do this, this type of swift problem solving is heightened, I think, among martial artists and permeates their lives.
In training, you must be humble to learn, so you need discipline to really work at learning and progressing at anything; I've applied this principle in my own schooling and at work.
I've seen many students change from martial arts training; many insecure people become confident, some of them realizing their determination pays off as they become more skilled and reach higher ranks in their art. I've seen quiet children become outgoing and have seen the overly-energetic ones calmed and become patient.
Reasons Why You Should Practice Self Defense
Violence could happen at any moment to anyone.
You become more aware of yourself, others and your surroundings.
You feel more capable and you feel better physically and mentally and this builds your confidence.
To me, learning how to defense yourself is the ultimate in learning self-reliance and being responsible and accountable. To know how to protect your own life and the lives of those you love - or anyone you feel needs protection - is an incredible responsibility and is liable to be necessary. Unfortunately it could come down to just you and someone trying to seriously harm you or your spouse and children, and you should want to be prepared for that moment. Taking responsibility for such things is important in our modern world in which preserving your own life and the lives of those you love and care for is one more thing we should train for and be prepared for because it is essential.
Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on November 16, 2018:
Self-defense is indeed essential whether you're a man or a woman. I imagine there are few things more satisfying than giving a potential mugger or attacker a physical punishing when they try to assault you. Where I live is quite safe but you're absolutely right; bad things can happen anytime, anywhere.
I've been reluctant in the past to join any kind of self-defense class (or anything associated with exercise) out of embarrassment of looking silly. This article is an inspiration to put those uncomfortable feelings aside and start pursuing some basic self-defense skills anyway... just in case.
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on June 19, 2018:
You're right, Audrey, it's kind of a crazy world and a bit unpredictable. I think it pays to at least be very aware of that and also your surroundings. Thanks!
Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on June 19, 2018:
Our world is so crazy with violence happening everywhere. We all could use lessons in self-defense. Seems like I'm always "looking over my shoulder" these days. Very good article!
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on July 02, 2017:
Thanks, Rachelle. Glad I was able to share this with you and that you are going to look into learning self-defense.
Rachelle Williams from Tempe, AZ on July 01, 2017:
Well, as a woman in my late 40s who literally just started working out less than a month ago, I have realized how "weak" I am. It makes me think about how hard it would be to defend myself or my family if the need should ever arise. After reading your article, I'm going to seriously look into local self defense courses. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I agree, indeed, self defense is "essential."