Last year I attended Rory Miller instructors’ course (which was brilliant, and not just for instructors, as proven by the fact that I managed to weasel my way into it). For our homework, we were asked to work out the principles of our self-defence system. At the time, I thought I didn’t have a self-defence system (I was totally wrong, but that’s another story). I thereby went off on a tangent and wrote down the principles of the only thing I could think of I’m marginally better at than most of the people I know. The result is The Toolkit. ’tis a sobering reflection upon my life that this far I’ve managed to learn more about getting up when I’ve been knocked down than about avoiding getting knocked down… but there you go.

The original question remains valid, though. What are the principles of my self-defence system? Every time I try to answer the question, I keep coming up with the same two:

  1. What I do should hurt the baddie more than it hurts me.
  2. What I do should decrease my risk of incurring damage compared to not doing it, or doing something else entirely.

I know that it sounds stupid. I know that it makes people laugh. However, the people who laugh the hardest seem to be those who train the most and do the least; those for whom self-defence is a hobby or a self-chosen identity, rather than an applied skill or a job.

Of course a move should hurt the baddie more than me! That’s obvious! But then why is it that so many systems are based on techniques that are statistically proven not to meet this criteria? Of course a tactic should only be chosen when it improves our chances of a safe resolution! What kind of cretin am I? But then why is it that so many people are teaching gun and knife disarms, and nobody’s teaching the “put your bag on the ground, step back, and keep your gob shut” approach? Why is that people are forever giving people advice on legal equalisers, and nobody ever seems to ask about the feasibility of taking a cab instead of walking?

Yes, there are much better principles out there. I could wax lyrical about “power generation” and “biomechanics” and “adaptability” and “performance under stress” and so on. That’s the cool stuff, the stuff people drool over, and also the stuff you can sell. It is good stuff, too: for instance, without good power generation someone my size has no chance against the average person.

Those are good principles, and I’m not knocking them. However, I can’t help thinking that anyone who doesn’t apply these two fundamentals, whether articulated this way or not, is not doing self-defence. If whatever we’re doing isn’t designed for our safety, it may be really groovy, it may look good, and it may make us feel good, but the self-defence label doesn’t fit it too well.


2 thoughts on “Unprincipled.

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