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What is Your Goal for Self-Defense? – Erik Kondo

Ask multiple people the question “What is the goal of self-defense?” and you are guaranteed to receive a wide variety of answers. These answers usually fall along these lines:

  • “To survive”

  • “To escape”

  • “To not get injured”

  • “To defeat your attacker”

  • “To avoid an attack”

  • “To not be victimized”

All of these answers are correct in a very limited sense, but they do not take into consideration the bigger picture of your life. For example, if your primary goal is some version of not being victimized and avoiding an attack, then you are best served by not leaving your fortified house. You should minimize your social contacts to only a few carefully selected and vetted close friends and family members.

If you don’t want to get injured you should not engage in activities such as driving or riding in a car, skiing, swimming, biking, hiking, and more.

Most likely your primary goal is actually to live a rewarding and fulfilling life in which you also “don’t get victimized and avoid being attacked”. Taken in this context, the goal of self-defense is to “minimize the negative consequences of unwanted aggression and to provide peace of mind.”

The negative consequences of unwanted aggression stem well beyond your physical victimization. For example, it is a highly effective strategy to neutralize someone before he or she attacks you. The greater and more lethal force you apply, the more likely the neutralization will succeed, especially, if you use the element of surprise. The problem with this tactically sound approach is that it may NOT minimize the negative consequences, it may actually increase them.

Some of these negative consequences could be:

  • Incarceration and fines

  • Legal costs and entanglements

  • Public and social shunning

  • Moral and ethical issues

  • Revenge actions and feuds

Another highly effective means of not being attacked is to greatly restrict your movements and activities to only “safe areas”, and to limit your social and business contacts to only a few trusted individuals. While this strategy of self-isolation is likely to keep you safer than a life of travel, adventure, business success, and meeting new people, it doesn’t effectively minimize the negatives consequences of unwanted aggression. In fact, it serves to maximize them. You may never be attacked, yet your quality of life is diminished and your continual fear of victimization doesn’t provide you with peace of mind.

Therefore, in order to choose effective self-defense instruction that serves to enhance your life, you must first choose the correct goal. Is your self-defense goal some version of survival and non-victimization, or is it about helping you to live a rewarding and fulfilling life?

If your goal is the former, then simplistic self-defense instruction of risk reduction combined with physical defense will satisfy your needs. But if you are looking for the latter, then you will need a comprehensive program of self-defense training that takes into consideration the prevention, intervention, and mitigation of interpersonal violence through the use of critical thinking, decision making, and conflict management skills.


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