"Self Defense" or "Something Else"?

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"Self Defense" or "Something Else"?

Postby Tye Botting » Tue Aug 24, 2004 12:12 pm

I saw this great post by Marc "Animal" MacYoung on the Eskrima digest recently, and I felt strongly that everyone interested in self-defense and martial arts should have a read... Marc makes some extremely good points that too many MAists haven't even thought to consider. Here it is:

From: "Marc Macyoung" <marcmacyoung *at-sign* earthlink.net>
To: <eskrima@martialartsresource.net>
Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2004 10:31:43 -0700
Subject: [Eskrima] self-defense and the art of bouncing

> I like most others have great respect for those who have survived
> countless life threatening encounters, and lived to tell the rest of us
> what its like, and what we could learn from it. But If we go on the
> premise that awareness and avoidance are the first and best lines of self
> defense, then it could be argued that someone who had made a career of
> avoiding violence would be equally qualified to teach the most effective
> self defense techniques.
> So it is with self defense. Someone who carries the scars of a lifetime
> of bouncing off of cars, might not necessarily be the best person to go
> to when wanting to learn how to safely cross the road.

While the idea behind what you say is good, the argument is somewhat
flawed -- especially if someone doesn't understand that there is a
difference between fighting and self-defense (or worse, doesn't want to).
You make a valid point, but it still overlooks the misunderstanding of the
complexities of the problem. Still keeping it simple, let's liken the
differences between self-defense, fighting and professional use of
force/combat to the differences between safety in hiking through bear
territory vs. fighting bears vs. hunting bears. The different levels each
present their own problems, specialized needs and -- most importantly --

Self-defense mindset is really about knowing what equipment you need to be
safe from bears while hiking. It is basic awareness, avoidance, knowledge
and things to do if you unexpectedly come around a bend in the path and see
a bear. Now one of the most important things you can tell people is NOT to
stick their heads into bears dens. So from that standpoint, someone who has
done a really good job of avoiding violence is qualified to teach
self-defense. This is what a bear looks like, this is where it lurks, this
should keep you and bears from meeting, this is what to do if you do meet a

With that in mind, you are right about someone with scars teaching
self-defense. You gotta watch what someone who has been involved in more
than their share of violence is teaching -- cause there is a d**n good
chance that wht they are teaching ISN'T self-defense. I will give you guys a
major point that we stress in all our WSD seminars, self-defense and MA
programs..."Self-defense isn't about winning, it's about not getting hurt."

Keep this in mind because the desire to win or to "teach someone a lesson"
is one of the biggest causes of a situation to escalate out of self-defense
and into a fight. In my book, self-defense is easy to teach to "civilians."
Basically it boils down to this attitude "You are a nice person, you do not
have the skills, equipment mindset and visciousness that it takes to win in
a long term engagement with "bears." Therefore, your best chances for
survival are a) do not provoke them and b) to get out of there" If they
still attack, here are a couple of tricks that you can use to help you
survive long enough to escape. In other words, basic hiking safety that
works with their level.

How do you fight bears? Well now that's a different story altogether. And
here is where we get into all kinds of other complications like pride,
strong emotion and winning. Can it be done. Yes, but you need a radically
different mindset, equipment and skillset than "self-defense."
Unfortunately, WAY too many programs that claim to be teaching self-defense
are actually trying to teach fighting bears. Here is where you get the
argument that someone who hasn't been there can or can't teach. The problem
with most of these arguements is that people don't realize you aren't
talking self-defense anymore. I got an email from a kid the other day who
attested to loving to streetfight. As he said he is in it for the glory and
hopes to die in an alley. Yes, people like this exist. Why do you think
there are fight clubs and soccer hooligans? Thing is there are also gang
members and serial killers out there too. And if you step into this kind of
world, you have to have a totally different mindset to make it out there.
The funny thing about it is is how often people who are actively engaging in
fighting are absolutely convinced that what they are doing is self-defense.
I don't just mean people like that idiot kid, I mean people who have found
themselves in a confrontation with someone that has escalated. Their actions
are actually escalating and/or encouraging the problem, because they aren't
really trying to end it, they often are trying to win and/or come out a

The major problem with this approach is that whatever level you are willing
to "stoop to" might not be same one that he is willing to go. Fighting is
not something that you can engage in and then say "hey, this is too intense.
I don't want to play anymore" Bottomline, the need to win, motivates a
large number of violent people to the point of killing someone in order to
win. People get pig headed about winning. And what they fail to realize is
that if you choose to engage with someone, you really have to be careful
about being driven to "win" -- for a number of reasons. Not the least of
which is that you have basically just said to a like-minded person "let's
play." You have unwittingly agreed to a game that you don't know the rules
or the limits of. A game you might not survive, because no matter how much
you think you have stacked the deck by knowing some kind of martial arts,
he's stacked the deck too. This is why so many "fighters" die like flies. It
is a stupid and dangerous game. Where not only is everyone cheating, but
they are often busy seeking recognition. Sometimes by advertising how tough
they are, other times by trying to "teach someone a lesson."

Seeking recognition is a dangerous approach, one that often leads to
fighting. And using your example, the guy who has many scars, teaching what
he calls "self-defense" the line out of the Magnificant Seven come to mind.
"He is tough, look at all of those scars" "The man we want is the one who
gave him those scars"

Finally we come to bear hunting. Since I don't hunt for pleasure, I look at
hunting as a need. Either you need it for food or you need to put down a
dangerous animal. There is nothing fair about this kind of hunting. It's
purpose is to do a job. The deck is so stacked that the victim doesn't have
a chance. And there is all kinds of tactics, tricks, equipment, skills and
most definately NOT a civilian mindset. If you're not approaching this idea
from the standpoint that the s*cker is down and out immediately, then you
are going to get nailed, because bears are too d**n dangerous to be sloppy
when you hunt them.

Now comes the bad news, this hunting attitude is usually held by two main
groups, cops and robbers. The cop to get the criminal who is hunting people
and the criminal who preys on people. The reason that awareness and
avoidance is so important is that John Q Public just doesn't have what it
takes to survive being targeted by a serious hunter. That's because the
hunter is already in that mindset and everything is set up to pull the
trigger. That is why it is so effective, to survive you need to be able to
make a quantum leap and immediately deploy massive firepower. That is just
too big of a shift for most people to make.

Do you guys honestly think that you would be able to go from 0 - 120 mph if
you came around a blind corner and had someone try to drive a knife in your
chest? And do it without getting a s*cking chest wound? I did it. But at
the time I was deeply immersed in the "Life" so I was always at tac-alert
anyway. Would I be able to do it now that I am older, mellower and more
civilized? I don't know. I kind of doubt it. But that is the hunter
mindset. It ain't no game and you don't let your quarry have the slightest

Now the last two categories fighting/hunting, I don't think that any one
person or system covers all the complications that you will find there. In
fact, when you get there you tend to have to look for "parts" of the
equation. I don't expect a lawyer to be able to tell me how to snap
someone's neck. But when it comes to the legal repercussions of that action,
I suren' hell am going to take his word over that of a guru in some
unbeatable fighting system. What's more, I definately don't care that the
attorney has "never been there" The information that he provides is critical
for me developing a sucessful strategy. Sucess being defined in coming out
ahead on many different fronts.

I think the main problem that we face when approaching this subject is that
too many people want it to be just about one thing. "All I need to know I
learned from my guru" Well kids, I hate to tell you this, but this ain't
kintergarden. This is real life. And real life is complicated" and
multi-leveled. What's worse, it requires work. That means beyond just
nodding your head and saying, "yeah, it is complicated and then going back
to a kintegarden outlook. And I would have to say that the first step in
figuring out what you need is to really take a look around you and see what
level you normally exist at and what you realistically need to keep from
getting eaten by a bear. THEN start looking for a program that suits your

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Tye Botting
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Postby Tye Botting » Tue Aug 24, 2004 12:14 pm

Replies from the old boards...


Re: "Self-Defense" or "Something Else"?
Reply #1 Posted at Thu Mar 25 16:28:48 2004 IP199.216.246.56 What a fantastic article. It sums up many of the things I teach during Women Self Defense classes.

Do whatever it takes to get away, but you shouldn't be in that position in the first place.

'Hunters' look for good victims. Learn how not to be a victim, thus you won't get hunted.

I have been attacked 3 times in reality. Once by 3 men and the other two times by 2. All three times I don't remember doing this technique or that, but I do remember walking, no running, away as fast as I could. You do what you need to do to survive, then retreat as fast as you can. I didn't want to even the score or teach a lesson, just get away. I ended up all three times doing significant damage to several of the attackers. Two of the times I was questioned by police, and let go because I didn't continue the attack after I was out of danger, I got away and phoned the police.

Self defense is a misnomer, I like self preservation.

I will for sure pass this article out at my next WSD class as an important read.

Tye Botting

Re: "Self-Defense" or "Something Else"?
Reply #2 Posted at Sat Mar 27 04:04:12 2004 IP65.0.42.38 Yep, I just had to share that article. Marc MacYoung is a pretty no-nonsense kinda guy and I thought his words said it too well to pass up.


Re: "Self-Defense" or "Something Else"?
Reply #3 Posted at Sun Apr 4 17:00:27 2004 IP68.42.185.195 That is a really great article.

Tangent: Often I see MAist spending a few moments getting prepared to spar/break/perform etc...

Do you think this is a good idea?

Shouldn't we instead strive towards "instant" mind set, or maybe we should always be in that mind set?

Ramblings - but what do you think?

Tye Botting

Re: Re:
Reply #4 Posted at Mon Apr 5 22:48:34 2004 IP204.196.55.102

On Sun Apr 4 17:00:27 2004, thunder1111 wrote: (read quoted post)That is a really great article.

Tangent: Often I see MAist spending a few moments getting prepared to spar/break/perform etc...

Do you think this is a good idea?

Shouldn't we instead strive towards "instant" mind set, or maybe we should always be in that mind set?

Ramblings - but what do you think?

Glad you liked the article! I like your related question, too. The "instant" vs. the "built-up-to" - it's a quandry to be sure, though of course you have to walk before you can run...

I figure as long as you push yourself to run (but not too early!) while doing these kinds of preparatory things, you're on basically the right track. Some things necessarily take this kind of prep time when you first learn them (and continue to do so until you master them). There are other ways to do that as well, to be sure... IMHO, the method works, but rather more slowly.

If not pushed, though, then it doesn't work at all - as you point out, what use is Skill X, if you have to prepare 10 minutes before every time you have to use it?

Now, cut it down to 5 mins, 1 min, a few seconds, an instant, and finally 0, and you can work it. But you'd have to figure that into your training.


Re: "Self-Defense" or "Something Else"?
Reply #5 Posted at Wed Apr 7 13:45:21 2004 IP68.42.185.195 Interesting, I wonder how many people work on shortening their transition.

ANd, I still wonder if there is a point when there is no transition.

Tye Botting

Re: Re:
Reply #6 Posted at Mon Apr 12 03:03:03 2004 IP65.0.42.38

On Wed Apr 7 13:45:21 2004, thunder1111 wrote: (read quoted post)Interesting, I wonder how many people work on shortening their transition.

ANd, I still wonder if there is a point when there is no transition.

More good questions. Can't speak for others, but I know I do. Interestingly, it's carried over to other things, where I've noticed some (I think) profound things. For instance, I also try to shorten my prep time for contest lifts in powerlifting. In doing this, I've noticed that the lifts (particularly deadlift) that have less drawn-out prep time actually go better - i.e. more weight with less effort. To me, this shows that too much prep time is a bad thing. Best for lifting is to be low-level prepped and just let the walking up adrenaline do its thing and go. My guess is that this holds true lots of other ways too. However, I wouldn't have noticed this effect when lifting if I hadn't really pushed the prep work and made it as good as I could for myself - and in fact I couldn't have lifted as much had I not gone through that phase.

Probably always some transition unless you're saturated in combat (we've seen that effect in vets coming home in the 70's...).
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