The Self Defense Myth

I studied martial arts as a child and teen, and then I found girls. This took me off the path I was on, which I admit, was probably one of the worst things I’ve done. I was good at martial arts and dedicated a lot of time towards the art. The style I took was fairly physically demanding and we often did full contact sparring. Later as an adult, I again did some martial arts only to find that it was not only painful now, but I just didn’t have the time to invest, which is the real problem. Being 6’3″ and 240lbs, I can hold my own for a while if need be, but my endurance just isn’t there anymore. This is typical for most people as they age. Even if you keep in shape, your endurance fades over time as your body ages. The other issue is recover and injury. A lot of people end up with injuries from either sports, recreation, accidents, or work. While the injuries heal, you’re never quite the same, especially as you get older.

This is why we all carry a gun, right? No one wants to get into a fist fight with a younger and faster person who has less to lose. At least I certainly don’t. But there is something to be said for real life self defense tactics. There are a lot of styles out there, some of which cater to women, or children, or elderly people. There are many reasons to know good hand to hand techniques, and they will help you in some situations. But there’s also a problem. Most of what you see and learn is a myth.

Ok, calm down… I can see people getting upset already. Don’t think of it as wasting money, because it’s not, usually. But it can be, if you’re learning the wrong stuff. I cannot say what is right and wrong, because there are too many variables. What works for one person, may not work for another. Everyone develops their own style based on their strengths and weaknesses as well as their attitude and outlook on life. There is no perfect fighting style. But, there is a wrong fighting style. What is it? It’s any style that doesn’t work itself into your daily defensive mindset. If you carry a weapon, be it a knife, a gun, or a cane, you need to train with that in mind.

Almost everything you learn in a martial arts class goes right out the window in a real fight. Real fights are explosive, frightening, emotional, and can have real deadly consequences. Lets break this down and see what each of these mean.

Explosive: Yes, real fights are explosive. They go from calm to full out rage in a fraction of a second. Can you match this? Can you yourself go from peaceful and calm to being a full on warrior ready to kill? Most people cannot. Most people can go from zero to defensive, but they cannot go from zero to full on aggression. Even if you can, there is a fine line. You cannot let your explosive behavior cross into the emotional side, which we’ll touch on in a minute.

Frightening: I’m a big guy, and I don’t scare easily. But you’re damn right I’ll be scared if I have to defend my life or the life of a loved one. Why? Because this is REAL, and that means people get hurt or worse, dead. I don’t want to die, I don’t want a love one to die, and I really don’t want to kill someone else. This scares me, and it should scare you. If you aren’t scared because you have “training” or you carry a gun, you’re a fool. However, do not let fear be confused for weakness. Fear is good, it keeps us safe and non-complacent. Not wanting to get stabbed in the face by a felon is a good thing when you’re questioning going into that shady liquor store at 2am. It makes it so you’re aware of who is around you, and what they’re doing. Once you become unafraid and complacent, you’ve already lost.

Emotional: If someone wants to hurt me, they’re really trying to hurt my kids too. Or, if someone attacks me while I’m with my wife and/or kids, they’re attacking us all. And quiet literally, they could be attacking us all, depending on the attack. There is a lot of emotion here. To say otherwise would be a lie. You can act like Tommy Badass all day long, but when things get serious around the kids or wife, emotion runs wild. You need to be aware of this, and be able to control the rage you get from the emotion. Why? Because you CAN take things too far, which could put you as the aggressor and completely flip the situation to be in the attacker’s favor once the cops show up.

Deadly: Fights can and do end up in people dying. A person does not need to be armed to kill or seriously injury another person. Many people are “knocked out” in simple altercations which leave them wide open to further attacks that cannot be defended against.

What does any of this have to do with the topic? I want people to be aware of what really happens. The “arts” you learn are that, they’re arts. They can be good, and they often are empowering which build self confidence. This is great! But, you also need to remember that being self confident is awesome until you realize this other dude is rocking your world, so now what? What we learn in the dojo or on the mat rarely translates well to real world fights. Why? Because it’s very, very, hard to duplicate those words I defined. You can be explosive during training, but you’ll likely hurt someone if you are. You will never have the same emotion or fear from training either. The online videos of women throwing men in these “self defensive” videos is laughable. There are good women fighters, don’t get me wrong, but this isn’t the norm. Physically they aren’t designed to fight, and they generally aren’t mentally wired to be aggressive (no jokes here). Men are the warriors of the species, this is just genetics. Even an armed woman, elderly person, or even man, if they aren’t “ready” to go from zero to full on aggression at a moments notice, they lose.

This is real life.

So what can be done? First, you need to be mentally prepared to be aggressive, and not just defending yourself, but “full on aggression rip out someone’s eyes mode” aggressive. Yes, this sounds horrible, doesn’t it? But it’s the truth. Second, you need to train around what you carry. If you carry a firearm, you need to physically and mentally train for different scenarios. If someone comes at you with a knife, then what? They aren’t going to lunge at you and wait for you to trap their wrist, get a lock, and then spring them into a compliance hold. Nope… They’re going to be violent and aggressive. They’re going to stab at you over and over and over and over until they feel they’ve done what they wanted to do. Do you know what they want to do? Didn’t think so… So what is one to do? Personally, and this might be somewhat controversial, I would use my support hand to push and keep distance between us, while my strong hand came down and presented my pistol into a retention position so I could fire. How many rounds? Hell if I know… I’m just going to pull the trigger until there’s no more threat. A lot of people say to control the knife, but I say that’s impossible if the person attacking you has even the slightest amount of determination.

I think martial arts are great for self improvement. I think the values and discipline you learn are invaluable, and can be applied to most aspects of life. But let us not disillusion ourselves, most people will never become a master in their chosen art, and even if they did, there is a chance that even then they could be easily defeated on the street because a thug was more violent than they could be. So, fill your hand to hand training with useful techniques that complement your carried weapon of choice. Be in a vigilant state of mind so you’re always aware of what is happening around you. Lastly, be ready to match or exceed the aggression of the attacker. Do not go out easily… Make them wish they never set eyes on you.

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Greg Ryman is a certified NRA instructor and RSO. He is also a California DOJ Certified Handgun Safety Instructor and a Certified Glock Armorer. Greg has been shooting for over 20 years and is the owner of Ryman Tactical.

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