When you think of what self defense is, what do you see?
I see nothing.
Okay, maybe that’s a little too harsh, too fast…
If I try really hard to cut through the ambiguous fog of those phrases, I can almost see someone getting attacked, desperately trying to get away, maybe getting backed into a corner. Flailing like a terrified animal.
At worst I see someone curled up in a ball on the ground.
That’s what “self defense” means to me. And that’s why I won’t teach, practice or do it.
I’m only ever interested in hurting people.
The term “self defense” has no operational value. It does not paint of picture of me doing anything of consequence. It suggests passivity, being acted upon by someone else, moving second and hoping for the best. It does not mean getting anything done.
This really hit home while I was doing some reading on combat handgunning. I grew tired of the constant, politically correct phraseology of “self defense,” “self protection,” and “home defense.” One actually has to dig deep to find any reference to killing people with bullets. And here I always assumed that’s what guns were for: a tool to enable a person to kill another without undue effort or training.
Of course, that’s the elephant in the middle of the room that we dance around by using sanitized code words. Why can’t we just call it like it is?
Because every use of violence is a crime.
If someone breaks into your home in the middle of the night and comes after you and your family—threatening or outright harming you or others—and you shoot/stab/beat him to death, you have committed, at the very least, manslaughter.
It is then up to the District Attorney to look at the circumstances surrounding the case and decide whether it was okay for you to commit that crime. This is where the legal definition of self defense comes in.
Unless you’re studying for the bar, the term is meaningless.
Slapping “self defense” on physical training for combat or for firearms use is just society’s way of really, really hoping you’ll wait your turn and go second like polite, civilized folk do…
…and not go around terrorizing or hunting people.
Just to be clear: In purely legal terms, I will only use my training when my life or the lives of others are in danger, just as I would only find it necessary to shoot somebody under identical circumstances.
While this is the very definition of legal self defense, I would not use that term to describe my practice.
When I go to the range or the countryside I practice marksmanship because that’s how you kill someone with a gun. When I hit the mats I practice hurting (and, yes, killing) people with fists, boots, sticks and knives.
“Self defense” and its wishy-washy, go-second connotations do not figure into the physical execution. While it may describe the situation under which such behavior may be deemed acceptable by the legal system, it is a poor descriptor of the act itself:
“Self defense” is a marketing term, because it’s what we’ve all been told is acceptable. Nobody searches for “how to use violence” because it’s assumed that only the “bad guys” use violence—the rest of us are stuck with self defense.
It is far more effective for training to peel all the padding off the hard corners and make the accepted generalities specific. Instead of a hopeful “for serious self defense, go for the eyes,” we get specific on the mechanical process of gouging an eyeball out of a skull. How to get it done, how to get it right, the resulting injury and associated disability, and how to practice to make that injury the most likely outcome.
While I would advocate that you only use the information we train in serious life-or-death situations (textbook self defense scenarios), you should find the term itself to be insufficient to describe your actual training and practice.
I don’t teach self defense. I teach how to hurt people.
And therein lies our issue of contention: Violence—hurting people—is precisely what the winners are famous for doing. I want to practice winning in violent conflict, not training for second place.
Second place, as we all know, is first loser, and in life-or-death violence the losers are usually dead.