I recently posted this question on Facebook and it received quite a bit of attention so thought I would blog about and include my answers.
If you had to pick just 3 of these attributes/skills, which 3 would you choose as your Top 3 in importance, assuming I mean in a self defense context. Please offer explanations on why or which you ones you struggled with putting before others. There is no right or wrong answer and because I have only put a short title to each, many might interpret them differently than someone else.
5) Ability to Take Punishment
6) 360 Degree Awareness
7) Control of Emotions
My NUMBER 1 in order of importance to me is:
In my opinion all self defense begins in our minds whether that is the pre-phyiscal stage, verbal stage, or the physical phase of self defense. Once you have an effective self defense mindset, you are more than halfway on route to avoiding, dealing with verbally, or having to defend yourself in the event of possible violence. With an effective self mindset you are probably not walking around in a state of apathy or denial which is how the majoirty of the general population walks around 24/7! This majority never expects to be involved in violence or even thinks it is possible, so they never develop the mindset of what to do, how to avoid, or how to handle violence if it might occur. Also, with the proper mindset you would have programmed and most likely decided you will not let someone come into your life and destroy it with violence. Many people may be strong physically, but without the mindset and attitude behind it, you have limited yourself where someone with no physical self defense training, but the proper mindset already has the "I will do whatever is necessary" attitude to survive. The time to think of what is important and what you will fight for needs to be done ahead of time in your mind, not when you are confronted and in a high state of adrenaline. Now, mindset does not just mean having a killer attitude regardless of the scenario, but also knowing that the use of violence is the last resort because one understands the consequences of violence. So mindset is a quiet confidence of what to do regardless of what happens.
2) AWARENESS (1B)
You may have noticed I have put numbers 1 and 2 as 1A & 1B. I believe they are both critical, but I chose Mindset first as I believe it is what sets up your level of awareness and alertness. The word awareness is thrown around too much without explanation as to what it is. I like to add the word alertness to awareness now when teaching because you can't be aware of everything 24/7, but there are periods and situations where you increase your alertness which increases your awareness. Also, being aware does not automatically mean you know how to react or what to do in any scenario, so knowing what to do once your awareness tells you something is not right is critical. This is often during the pre-physical phase of possible violence like being followed, car safety in an underground parking lot, riding elevators, plus many many more. Being aware with knowledge of options on how to respond is what awareness really is. Awareness may also come in both the verbal and physical stage of conflict. If you are trying to force a verbal or physical strategy to work and it is not working, being aware that it is not working may save your life. I should say being aware and then being able to adapt (adaptability would be my #4) to how the other person is critical so awareness is not just about the pre-physical phase, but also flows throughtout all phases of violence. Being aware of your appropriate level of response, being aware of multiple attackers, weapons, when to escape, etc are all parts of awareness, so this is why I rate awareness as 1B.
No surprise that I rate verbal skills as high since often one can go from a high level probability of attack to walking away safely. Now this would be mostly during social violence, but having good verbal skills can also tell you very quickly if a scenario is asocial which would also provide you quick knowledge of how to react assuming it was not violent immediately. From experience teaching people, and even for myself I think this is the area of self defense that most people struggle with for many reasons, but because it is pre-physical I rate it very high because isn't true self defense about avoiding violence? If I was talking about rating your Top 3 in a fight, the answers would be much different. You might even include verbal in the post phase and your ability to articulate to the police or a judge why you did what you did if you had to defend yourself.
As always, I encourage your agreement, disagreement or additional thoughts on this blog.
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Managing Director, SAFE International