A Peaceful Mind for Self-Defense

Taiji Rebel

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Where does violence begin?

Conflict begins within. It can be within the mind of an individual, or a group. It can also be found within certain environments and not others.

We often attract, or are drawn to, the things we continually concentrate upon.

My buddy Andy lived in Moss Side, an area of Manchester which has been associated with gangs, drugs and violence for a long, long time. I asked him about the trouble there and how he kept himself safe. His response was "like-attracts-like". The troubled folk fought one another. The violence and gang/drug-related issues were pretty much self-contained. On occasion, an unsuspecting and na簿ve member of the public would suffer the consequences of wandering into an unsafe area, but this was due to a distinct lack of awareness on their part.

It is the old story of awareness. Are you aware of your environment? Are you conscious of your own state of mind?

Martial arts are great for fitness, flexibility, friendship and fighting - all of which can be perfect preparation for when things go pear-shaped.

But are they a complete and effective system of self-defense as commonly practiced?

Or do they need additional teachings and trainings to pad them out?
 
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O'Malley

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Awareness of one's environment and de-escalation skills are valuable but they only reduce the risk. Violence can happen even in lower-risk contexts and it very, very often happens to non-violent people.
 
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Taiji Rebel

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Awareness of one's environment and de-escalation skills are valuable but they only reduce the risk. Violence can happen even in lower-risk contexts and it very, very often happens to non-violent people.
They only reduce the risk, but then so does training in a martial or fighting art.

You are correct in saying violence can happen anywhere, but what evidence do you have to suggest it very, very often happens to non-violent people?

And of those people how many were aware of their environment and understood what was happening?

Unless we go ahead and interview each and every one of them, we will only ever be surmising.

Reducing the risk is key - you are correct 100% here. Tell me, does your dojo train in awareness and de-escalation skills?
 

Cynik75

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You are correct in saying violence can happen anywhere, but what evidence do you have to suggest it very, very often happens to non-violent people?
Have you ever read/watch news in TV/internet portals/newspapers etc?
Do you think that robbers choose violent people as victims "Hm this one looks like 20 y.o. Arnols Schwarzenneger, has cauliflower ears, many times broken nose, scars on his knuckles - lets rob him!!!"
 
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Have you ever read/watch news in TV/internet portals/newspapers etc?
Do you think that robbers choose violent people as victims "Hm this one looks like 20 y.o. Arnols Schwarzenneger, has cauliflower ears, many times broken nose, scars on his knuckles - lets rob him!!!"
Gavin De Becker suggests avoiding the news channels and media outlets - have you read his book The Gift of Fear?
 
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Taiji Rebel

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Have you ever read/watch news in TV/internet portals/newspapers etc?
Do you think that robbers choose violent people as victims "Hm this one looks like 20 y.o. Arnols Schwarzenneger, has cauliflower ears, many times broken nose, scars on his knuckles - lets rob him!!!"
Why only robbers?

There are all kinds of people being subjected to violence on a daily basis.

One which is becoming more visible these days is people suffering from Domestic Abuse - that happens in a relationship, often out of sight.

Many people are killed each week in domestic violence cases.

What kind of self-defense skills do you think would benefit them?
 
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O'Malley

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We often attract, or are drawn to, the things we continually concentrate upon.

My buddy Andy lived in Moss Side, an area of Manchester which has been associated with gangs, drugs and violence for a long, long time. I asked him about the trouble there and how he kept himself safe. His response was "like-attracts-like". The troubled folk fought one another. The violence and gang/drug-related issues were pretty much self-contained. On occasion, an unsuspecting and na簿ve member of the public would suffer the consequences of wandering into an unsafe area, but this was due to a distinct lack of awareness on their part.
The above implies that victims suffer violence because they either lack environmental awareness or are themselves offenders. If not, please clarify. Do you have any sources for this claim apart from "Andy from Moss Side"?
You are correct in saying violence can happen anywhere, but what evidence do you have to suggest it very, very often happens to non-violent people?
You cite domestic violence, which is a good example of such a phenomenon. Robbery is another one.

And I struggle to understand how "like-attracts-like" applies to domestic violence in particular.
And of those people how many were aware of their environment and understood what was happening?

Unless we go ahead and interview each and every one of them, we will only ever be surmising.
Depends also on how you define "aware of their environment". It can mean anything.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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I had to read your OP and also your other comments a few times to understand what you're asking. Want to make sure I got it right.

So basically, you're asking is internal (meaning one's own psyche) and external (meaning one's own environment) awareness enough, along with fighting skills, to prepare someone for self defense? Did I get that right?
 
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Taiji Rebel

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I had to read your OP and also your other comments a few times to understand what you're asking. Want to make sure I got it right.

So basically, you're asking is internal (meaning one's own psyche) and external (meaning one's own environment) awareness enough, along with fighting skills, to prepare someone for self defense? Did I get that right?
Yes, I am basically asking what kinds of things benefit those wishing to protect themselves in daily life.

Internal and externals such as mindset, understanding environment, what kind of places to avoid, how to gauge threat etc. etc. etc.

How do you train and drill the skills etc.
 
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The above implies that victims suffer violence because they either lack environmental awareness or are themselves offenders. If not, please clarify. Do you have any sources for this claim apart from "Andy from Moss Side"?

You cite domestic violence, which is a good example of such a phenomenon. Robbery is another one.

And I struggle to understand how "like-attracts-like" applies to domestic violence in particular.

Depends also on how you define "aware of their environment". It can mean anything.
Yes, I am beginning to realize an internet forum is a difficult place to explain the intricacies and nuances that we take for granted in face-to-face conversation. Some of the ideas are being converged and taken as blanket statements - any misunderstandings are unintentional 儭
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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I'm not going to address situational awareness as that's already been mentioned and you're looking for stuff beyond that.

Internal mindset carries a lot of it. Not just in terms of being 'peaceful', but more importantly being able to set up appropriate boundaries at appropriate times, and doing so with the appropriate communication style (look up communication styles with the key word assertive to read more about this). This helps with a lot of the violence that exists between people that know each other. So DV, abuse between friends, workplace violence/harrassment, things like that.

If you go in with aggressive, you get what your friend sees whenever trying to set up boundaries, which is immediate contention that can lead to physical/verbal fighting.

If you go in passive, or 'peaceful' (depending on how you're defining peaceful) then people stomp over whatever boundaries you have, to the point that you can end up abused. And the longer you stay with those boundaries, the more likely that you'll be overly aggressive trying to remove them (if you do), which could result in violence, or that the person you didn't set boundaries for will react in an aggressive way to their sudden existence, no matter how you approach it, which could also result in violence.

This also works when it comes to strangers a lot of the time - set boundaries and be assertive, but make sure you're not being aggressive when dealing with them, or doing something to incite them.

The other main tool that's important, is verbal de-escalation. This can be learned, but it's something that needs practice, and (kind of like sparring), doing it in a controlled environment can only get you so far. The easiest way to learn it is making an active effort, in jobs that deal with irate members of the public, but most jobs that require that suck, and doubly so if you are putting in the effort.

Conveniently, all the above skills can be learned with the right therapist. Less conveniently, a lot of therapists don't know how to teach those, and there's a whole field of therapists who got a degree that doesn't actually teach different therapy modalities or require you to learn how to be a therapist, but can license you for it (in the US). That's a huge tangent though, but ultimately my point is that it's just as much of a crapshoot as finding the right martial arts instructor.

After that, and to me less important for actual self defense, are the stuff that you'll learn in most gyms/dojos/dojangs/whatever. The fighting skills, dealing with pressure (which is important but my experience is most don't actually teach this in a transferrable way), and 'survival instinct' (which I'm not even sure can be taught, but is also not attempted in most places I've been to).

If I were making a pie chart, which I may actually do at some point as a mental exercise, fighting skills would rank very low on the list.
 

Xue Sheng

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Have you ever read/watch news in TV/internet portals/newspapers etc?
Do you think that robbers choose violent people as victims "Hm this one looks like 20 y.o. Arnols Schwarzenneger, has cauliflower ears, many times broken nose, scars on his knuckles - lets rob him!!!"

To this point. Back in my youth I hung out in Boston a lot. Walked all over, was generally very aware of my surroundings, but did not take into account what area of Boston I was in, including Boston Common at night in areas I discovered were where many muggins occured Friends of mine got mugged in Boston, I never did. One time a good friend of mine got beat up pretty badly, so I decided to be more careful.

I was at another friend's apartment, it was late and I decided to go home. THis meant walking to my car. When I walked out on his street I realized that there were absolutely no street lights, so i went on high alert. When I got to Mass Ave (or at least I think it was Mass ave), which was well lit, I felt better and started towards my car. I saw a young couple, probably the same age as I was then (20s) walking out of a comedy club, laughing and having a good time, laughing and walking towards me. THey look in my direction, stopped took an immediate right, ran across mass ave, jumped a wall, ran across railroad tracks, jumped another wall and then the other side of Mass ave. All the while looking back in my direction, I was looking around trying to figure out what the heck was going on, they kept running and then I realized....they were looking at me.... in my early 20s (6'1" tall about 220lbs and in shape - I lifted a lot of weights then) I looked like any biker you would really not want to see in a dark alley.... that is when it hit me, I was not being bothered by muggers, because I looked scary and dangerous.... I did not push my lick in Boston anymore, but at least I realized why no one bothered me...so to answer that, IMO, no, robbers do not choose people that look violent as victims
 

mograph

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I think that predators who know their limits generally pick targets that they see as easy: weaker than they are, allowing the predator to achieve their goal quickly and easily, whether that goal is money or power (e.g. domestic). The exception, I think, is when the predator is young and juiced-up with an inaccurate perception of their limits, and attack the tough-looking guy, imagining how their status would rise by beating the big guy.

Internally, I'm an advocate of meditation, particularly mindfulness mediation, where one learns to reduce the power of one's thoughts and experience one's environment directly without thoughts getting in the way. For one thing, such a meditator is less likely to become attached to concepts such as "the world is safe" or "the world is a threat." Either attitude blinds the person to an accurate (as best as one can have) appraisal of the environment, under- or over-estimating threats.
It's about that Buddhist ideal of losing one's attachments: attachments to relationships, worldviews, or to ideas formed when one was young, such as a need for validation.
If such a loss of attachments leads one to lose a need for social status or protection of the self-concept, one can be free to, say, negotiate out of a jam, even if it means apologizing for something you didn't do (except where admitting guilt is legally relevant, I guess) because you've decided that protecting your body is better than protecting your self-image. The other guy might be an idiot, but apologizing and buying him a beer is better than getting a concussion, or getting thrown in jail because you didn't want to let him "win."

... and of course, pressure-testing this mindful attitude under threats, physical, social, and so on, is important.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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Why only robbers? ... What kind of self-defense skills do you think would benefit them?
Why only self-defense? How about to defense your family members, your loved one, a stranger, or ...

This is why I don't like Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching - If you are soft and stay behind, you will live. If you stand up and face the challenge, you may die."

It's not fair for people who just talks about self-defense. You can run, you can hide. But when someone attack your family members, your loved one, a stranger, or ....,
your runaway, hide-away only solve your personal problem.

If you ever take a personal trip in the silk road in China, you will know what I'm talking about here. You and a bus full of passengers will be in the middle of nowhere. If some bobbers get on bus, you may give your money away. But what if those robbers try to rape some woman on that bus. Are you going just sit there, watching, and do nothing?

Let me put up this video again. What will you do if you are a passenger on this bus?

 
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mograph

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This is why I don't like Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching - If you are soft and stay behind, you will live. If you stand up and face the challenge, you may die."
KFW, Lao-Tzu (Laoze) doesn't advocate for the refusal to defend yourself with violence, only that to win without violence is better than winning with violence. Key words in Chapter 31 are bolded below.

Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.

Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.

Peace is his highest value.
If the peace has been shattered,
how can he be content?
His enemies are not demons,
but human beings like himself.
He doesnt wish them personal harm.
Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory
and delight in the slaughter of men?

He enters a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral.


(translation by Stephen Mitchell, 1995)

Yet still he enters the battle, if compelled.
 

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