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Is your Self-Defense Training a “Junk Food Diet?”

Several years back I was having lunch with a friend and associate of mine. We discussed what the priorities are when it comes to self-defense and talked about listing those priorities in “Food Pyramid” form, so to speak. I wanted to take a minute to go over what I think the priorities of self-defense are.

First we need to discuss what self-defense is. The definition is “the defense of one’s person or interests, especially through the use of physical force, which is permitted in certain cases as an answer to a charge of violent crime.” I would take it one step further and say that self-defense is self-preservation in ALL forms, not just using physical force. This will be discussed in the pyramid (see image.)

Just like the food pyramid guide, the most important things to focus on are on the bottom and the further up the pyramid we go, the less important they become and should only be used sparingly. The junk food is at the top. Now, I want to clarify that this is not a perfect representation, because in this particular case I believe you SHOULD train in ALL elements listed in my pyramid, just with varying amounts of time on each category. And actions completed in the top sections can affect the lower sections as I will discuss shortly. This is by no means an all encompassing list and there will be further blog posts on each category. Let’s start from the bottom up and discuss.

Mental Health and Mindset

For me, this is where it all starts. These two things are related but not exactly the same. If our minds aren’t right then we aren’t protecting ourselves. I am not referring to physical violence against us, just our well being as a whole. Now, in my opinion, training in martial arts is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. It builds confidence, gets you in shape, develops awareness, and really just gets your endorphins going. So that would be an example of the top sections affecting the bottom sections of the pyramid making them BOTH important. I would also include awareness and de-escalation under this category. Preventing and avoiding the fight is always our number one priority. Another important attribute is the mindset to fight and be willing to hurt someone else. Without this, you can have all the training in the world, but none of it will matter if you aren’t willing to use it. But, of course, mindsets alone don’t win fights… which brings us to our next section.

Fitness and Nutrition

Taking care of your physical body is a must when it comes to self-defense. Disease and illness kill more people than physical violence. See the stats on the CDC Website. You need to make sure your fitness and nutrition is dialed in. Again, training in martial arts will help with this. One of the reasons I love fighting and fight training is that you need to have all of the attributes of an athlete; strength, stamina, mobility, and speed. Anyone who has fought understands the need for good conditioning, however, it’s often overlooked in the firearms community. Adrenaline and stress make your body physically tired. In violent altercation, whether it be hand to hand or with the use of a firearm, physical fitness is crucial. So now that we’ve laid the foundation for self-defense, let’s get into the actual skills.

Striking and Grappling

This is the meat and potatoes of fighting and self-defense. The martial arts community starts to get a little divided on this but let’s not get into that here. You need to have solid striking techniques and grappling abilities. Sparring and free rolling is a MUST. Systems like Muay Thai, BJJ, and Wrestling are AMAZING for learning these crucial and foundational skills. It’s my opinion that many self-defense schools grossly overlook this and focus too much time on trying to learn slick “self-defense techniques” and not enough time learning how to strike and grapple effectively. There is a place for self-defense techniques in my opinion but I think the point is often missed when being taught, or they are useless when your striking and grappling foundation isn’t on point. I feel another blog post coming on this subject. Moving on.

Defending Weapons

In this category I would also add more specific and complex fighting scenarios. For example… multiple attackers, fighting in cars, on planes, buses, hallways, stairwells, etc. All of which we do in Krav Maga. Defending weapons is a HUGE part of Krav Maga. I think it’s extremely valuable to know, however you can’t overlook all of the lower factors before going to this. All too often I have beginners coming in who want to learn how to defend guns, knives, bats, etc, before learning the foundation. That stuff is fun and it looks cool, however, if you are ONLY focusing on these things without learning everything else, you’re only eating the “junk food” so to speak. So much can go wrong with weapons and there is very little room for error. Your mindset, fitness, striking, and grappling need to be on point for anything we teach to work. To clarify when I say junk food, I am not saying these techniques are only for fun and irrelevant. They are very relevant and they work, you just can’t have your whole training regiment based on this.

Using Weapons

I was torn on where to put this one. With the right skills and mindset, this may be all you need, and in many cases more effective and appropriate than going hands on with someone. However, I chose to place it at the top for the following reason. Many folks who carry a firearm are overconfident in their ability to access said weapon and then use it effectively. Not every situation calls for “simply pulling out your gun and shooting someone.” I hear this all the time from people who carry guns but don’t train. It’s a huge issue.

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