Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
I want to spend some time with an important distinction between self-defense and self-preservation. Already, I’ve seen way too many self-defense demonstrations where they depict an attacker holding you up for your money or valuables.
Let’s face fact. Reality is, unless you’re practicing self-defense every day against real people and real targets, when faced with an assailant, the only things going through your mind will be panic.
When you’re in a self-defense class, it’s amazing how easy it is to disarm your opponent. A simple twist of the wrist, a quick turn of your shoulders, and you’re miraculously free. In reality, you need to train your body to react that way under stress. When you’re in a tense moment, you only have seconds to react. Not enough time to try to recall some instructor’s words on how to setup the situation. '... Let's see. He's using a lapel grab on me with his thumbs exposed so should I use the left hand or the right to grip him?...'
Even if you regularly practice Martial Arts or any of the cardio classes like Tae-bo or cardio kickboxing, you still won’t be prepared to face your attacker. In most Martial Arts classes, you practice techniques to the air (against no one) or from a proper stance (which people rarely get a chance to get into prior to combat). Some Martial Arts styles allow you to work with sparring, which will teach you the reaction time and using your techniques outside of stationary stances and forms. Most sparring, however, is what they call “point-sparring”, which means you focus only on attacking certain areas of the body and never to actually hurt your opponent.
In cardio classes, again you are practicing in the air with no real resistance. I can tell you from personal experience of trying my hand at some real full-contact fighting that hitting a person feels vastly different from simply punching in the air. And it HURTS! -- no matter how proper is your fist structure or stance. In addition, the rhythm you “learn” to do the punches and kicks makes you less able to react simply to stimulus. You punch on a beat, not a second before or a second after. In the real world, that second could mean your life. If your opponent disrupts your rhythm, your body's natural reaction would be loss on what to do next.
If someone is holding you up for your valuables, the only thing you need to remember is that it is only material and almost everything can be replaced. However, if that person is threatening you with bodily harm, that opens up a whole new can of worms. That to me is the key difference between self-defense and self-preservation.
For self-preservation, you’d see me kicking, screaming, and fighting however the heck I can to save myself and those I love from bodily harm. I imagine anyone else would do the same. The best solution is not to get into that situation to begin with. But if you find yourself in that position, it might be helpful to remember where you can strike to be the most effective.
Your primary objective is to get free and get away. Nothing else.
This doesn’t require a lot of finesse or skill to execute. It simply needs you to “Hit them where it hurts.” For women, some of these vulnerable zones are in the most natural and perfect spots for us to hit. I’ll cover that in our next article.