Overlooked Self-Defense Elements 2: Avoidance

This is part two of a series of articles where I look at the elements needed for a self-defense or self-protection course to be of real use. In a previous article I listed the required elements as follows:

  • Awareness
  • Avoidance
  • Pre fight indicators (pre-fight rituals)
  • De-escalation
  • Adrenaline effects
  • And last, actual physical skills


Men are brought up under the influence of a special stigma that in childhood terms is called “chicken”. To be labeled a chicken or a coward or a puss is nearly the worst thing that a teenage boy or young man can imagine. Men are supposed to be men. We are taught implicitly that it is an act of cowardice to back down from a fight.

And it is also taught, implicitly as well, that the ultimate cowardice is to not go where the fight is supposed to happen.

When we follow this line of reasoning through to conclusion, it does not hold up.

When we are speaking in pure self-defense and self-protection terms, it is not at all a form of self-defense, preservation or protection to go where the fight is going to be when we know ahead of time that the fight will happen if we go there. It is imperative that we teach our youth the folly of this thinking. Too often the young men will do something for no other reason than the thought that people will talk bad about them if they don’t.

I teach my students that people are going to talk about you anyway. If you go to the fight and lose, they will talk about it, and if you go to the fight and win, the people who don’t like you are still going to talk bad about you. The fight and the outcome are irrelevant to the people who already do not like you. There is absolutely no chance at all that you will change anyone’s opinion of you by beating up, or getting beaten up by one of their friends.

Again we must visit the “is it worth it” questions and see with critical thinking if the reasoning holds up.

Is it worth it to go to a fight, knowing ahead of time it will happen, and get stabbed in the guts by a knife you never saw, and need a colostomy bag?

What if you go to the fight, and hit the guy, his head hits the floor or the sidewalk, and he dies. You will go to jail for a couple of decades with a murder conviction hanging around your neck for the rest of your life…is it worth it?

Will people still talk bad about you?

You fight the guy and win, and then two weeks later his cousin walks up behind you with a baseball bat and caves your skull in, leaving you in a coma or dead, is it worth it?

Avoiding a fight altogether is a higher form of self-defense and is rarely talked about in the self-defense classes you find in your local dojo. If we are going to answer these questions stating that, indeed – no, fighting is not worth it, then we have our excuse to avoid it, but how can we avoid it.

First, you need to understand that you need not be validated as being the one who is correct by all involved in what should at this stage still be a verbal disagreement. In the heat of an argument, it is highly unlikely that the other side will suddenly see the light and give you the win. It is a very common human trait to start formulating our response while the other party is still speaking. If you do this, understand that they do too, and thus neither one of you is really hearing the other. It is extremely difficult to remember in the middle of the argument, so you must practice the mindset in less difficult situations that your point does not need to be recognized or accepted. If you can manage to do this, you will be miles ahead of most people in terms of self-protection ability. To understand how difficult this is, look at how many marriages end because of one or both people involved prizing winning over the relationship. And this is speaking of people who are supposed to love each other. The difficulty is only magnified when we are speaking of strangers.

If you develop the understanding that you can be right without needing to be declared right, you can avoid most conflict before it ever starts.

All avoidance starts with the concept of putting your own safety above your own image. Far too often people do nothing to avoid a conflict because they wish to save face. Your image of yourself, that idea that you hold of how others see you is completely worthless in terms of self-defense/self-protection. The more inflated your idea of how other people see you, the more trouble it can cause for you.

Imagine a tense situation where you feel that you have to act. The urge to engage in conflict is pushed into your mind by the idea of how other people will see you if you don’t act. Sitting in a calm moment, does this idea make any sense whatsoever?

Every day people allow an inner dialogue to convince them to fight. It is not only teens, but adults as well. When you are able to no longer consider what the group will think of you, again, you will have a huge advantage in terms of self-protection. I must assert here; this is something that is much easier said than done. Deeply embedded in our brain is the idea of being accepted by the group. For a thorough read on the subject, I will refer you to the excellent series of articles written by Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller on the Conflict Communications  website.

With practice you can get it right. Eventually the skills of avoiding conflict will become your base reflex.