After thousands of Self Defense workshops with professionals, office groups, kids, women only, trauma survivors, weapons guys, LGBT, transgender, old, young, I may have even taught a toddlers self defense class once, then right into sea lions getting out of captivity.
I’ve learned a ton from law enforcement and military as well as other professionals that perhaps have the law on their side or a protocol of how to handle certain situations. There’s often back up available, or some sort of support, and often they’re there to do a job. I don’t approach this work as a security professional or a martial arts professional. I approach it through the lens of an artist. A skinny musician that often finds himself in sketchy places with expensive things at odd hours of the night. I never have fooled myself into thinking that standing around drunk in the wrong part of town with money in my pocket is a good thing… Never will.
Now the warehouse art scene is flourishing. It’s cool to find a “pop up” or take the train to a private show in some industrial collective. We often forget that these neighborhoods can often be unsafe, and although they resemble the creative loft that just sold for 2 million bucks in San Francisco, there’s a big difference between someone who buys jeans that have been styled to look old, and someone who has worn the same jeans every day and they are old. I feel that we are a big part of making ourselves unsafe, and whether it’s ignorance or entitlement, we can start building a toolbox to turn our habits into assets instead of liabilities.
What does self defense mean to you?
Weapons and targets on the body are great to know. Vital areas, efficiency, how to be assertive. However, I learned martial arts as a path to health. Self defense was just a small part, of it. Only learning self defense, or only learning forms would be like eating some flour and calling it cake. We often seem to skip a couple fundamentals of being able to honestly view ourselves, and take an inventory of what we’re bringing into our lives, putting out into the world, and how we’re writing our own stories.
In western medicine, we often focus on fighting disease, as opposed to creating health. Fighting disease is definitely something to pursue, but what do we do when we’re not sick. Do we have habits that promote a healthy environment in the body and in our lives? Or do we have a day to day that works against our health?
Same as in self defense… Are we studying the path to longevity, empowerment, and peace, or just building our toolbox to fight off an attacker, as our health erodes away? What do you do when you’re at peace and not under attack.
What does Health Look like?
What does Hurt look like?
What do you Value?
What do you practice?
What do you eat?
Do you exercise?
What do you do when you’re alone?
How do you feel when you’re alone?
How do you occupy yourself?
How do you Tune IN? Out?
Where are you going with this?
If you want to learn the basics of self defense, I usually suggest starting with:
Eat better, work out and stretch more so you can be fit, stand up straight, avoid your cell phone and texting in public, walk with purpose and without looking like you’re weak, immobile, in pain, unaware, or slow…
There’s the other side of it too that entails physical skills. Whether it’s basic escaping, assertive language, a little poke eye kick balls action, all the way to potential lethal force. Personally, I still feel that basic ignorance to the cause and effect of our habits is more threatening to us
Physical skills and the ability to be more self reliant are not only important. They’re a part of taking responsibility for ones health and well being. Learn to throw a good punch, palm heel, kick balls, break knees, poke eyes, hit the vitals. It’s soooo fun!!! It’s also a reminder of how powerful you are, but don’t get cocky, it’s also a reminder that if a tiny eye poke can stop an attacker much larger than you… you have eyes too. The balance of the martial arts is to witness your effortless power and efficiency beyond what you could imagine, as well as, realize you could be blinded by a 6 year old lovingly tossing a handful of strawberry scented glitter into your eyes. Blindness never smelled so artificial, and you can’t wash that shit off.
So as we check in with our habits and choices, we can start the physical training as a parallel. Mind, Body, Spirit stuff. We can check in and make as many lists as we want, but the physical practice can’t be substituted or neglected. The more physically able we become, the more effective we will be with thinking clearer, and grounding out our choices. What good is theory without practice.
Why would a predator choose you in the first place?
Posture!!! What Does Health/Hurt look like?
Posture awareness is huge, and some simple awareness can not only improve your vibe, it’s good for your health.
You’d be surprised on how many predators choose prey through posture. It’s not the only thing, there are other factors too, but simple things that can be fixed through basic awareness and habits are a good place to start. Just as turning off lights or conserving water can save you money and reduce your footprint on this earth, it’s not gonna make you rich, save the planet, or pay the slave child a living wage for making this computer I’m typing on, but I start small and do what I can.
There are two types I’ll focus on: Posture of health, posture of hurt.
Posture of health is balanced, shoulders in line with the ears, head over the hips, you’re centered. In this posture, you look healthy, you can breathe better, you appear aware and capable.
Posture of hurt is basically, shoulders forward and subtly buckled over. Imagine a stomach ache or someone with a hurt back. This posture is something we now spend a lot of time in. It effects your breathing, your movement, your state of mind. It’s the posture of texting, reading, computer work, even eating. This posture says, “I’m not quite at full efficiency or awareness.” Perhaps your capacity or awareness is compromised in some way, often it’s temporary. Imagine the small deer being ambushed drinking from the stream.
There’s a third one, which is the posture of challenge or threat.
This one is puffing up. Challenging. I learned it as “Phantom Lat Syndrome” due to many skinny guys on the beach would swell up like they had big lat muscles… they didn’t. It’s a posture of posturing, trying to be noticed, take up space, or perhaps they feel threatened. Be careful, when you walk like you’re challenging the world, it might challenge you back. This type of challenge is often for status, ego, or something of the sorts.
Ask yourself: If I was a predator, would I choose to attack, at first sight, the healthy, strong, and capable “prey” or the one who’s unaware with compromised capacity? Now imagine yourself. What do you look like? How do you carry yourself? Notice it in others as well. Not in the “I could take that guy” way, but just look for posture, awareness, grace, balance, health or hurt. Confrontational? Do they want attention? Do they not want attention? Stressed? Preoccupied?
This isn’t judgement, it’s communication, and to a predator, It’s risk-reward assessment. A predator wants something, doesn’t want to get hurt to get it, and would rather not work too hard for it either. Tools to get that could be: weapons, ambush/surprise, groups, distraction, earning trust, isolation of the victim, intimidation, stealing. Maybe a group shows you their guns, befriends you, then uses peer pressure to get you to go into an abandoned warehouse while they ambush you with bats and it was all to distract you while others were breaking into your apartment. It’s fine, they were just looking for weed and a playstation. Don’t advertise your deficiencies. Walk with purpose and good posture.
We are learning a skill to such a high level so that we hopefully never have to use it. Our posture is always communicating to our environment and is often the first thing we notice about each other (posture and clothing.) Save the fisticuffs for your friends (I personally only punch at people I love, I’ll choke you too, and feel free to return the favor.) Save the pride and ego for your breakdancing competition or something that isn’t potentially going to harm you or someone else. Humility is Badass. Posture is not a magic pill but it’s a very simple, doable, and great place to start. So let your silhouette do the talkin’.