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Violence in the voice is often only the
death rattle of reason in the throat.
                       H. G. Bohn

What Does Self-Defense Mean to You?

To start this process, we'd like to ask you a question. It would really help you to answer it to yourself before reading any further:

What does self defense mean to you?

Without knowing what your answer is, we can guarantee you two things.      One, that in a certain sense, it is right.      Two, it is only an aspect of a much larger subject.

That is to say: While you're right ... it's a whole lot more than that.

What you think it is only a 'local truth.'  That is a term we use to describe something that -- while it is true -- it is not universal(1). That is to say it is true ONLY in certain circumstances, but it does not cover ALL the subject or possible circumstances.

The subject of 'self-defense' is that big and complex.

In fact, it is so big and varied that it can hold conflicting definitions. That is to say that someone who came up with an entirely different answer can also be right. Usually that just means he or she is somewhere else on the same continuum and operating under different circumstances.

We can say this with confidence -- even if seems that your answer is opposite to the other person's. And for certain circumstances, each of those manifestations are true.

And that is where things begin to get complicated. Because with that also comes the fact that is what is right in one situation is wrong in another. The situation dictates what is and what isn't self-defense. In short, what is self-defense in one situation is an aggressive, over-the-top response in another situation.


Welcome to just one of the problems of surrounding the subject of self-defense. Collectively, we have been studying this issue violence for over 40 years -- and we are still running into mutations, mitigating factors, changes in crime and violence, scientific discoveries, misunderstandings and shifting trends in legal and social standards. This subject is so huge that it overlaps with several different professions, fields and disciplines. Psychology, anthropology, criminology, law, politics, firearms and martial arts to name just a few.

Those fields not only overlap the subject of self-defense, but they surround the topic and influence it greatly. That's because: Self-defense isn't just the physical act. It's what happens before, during and after.

Violence is a human interaction. That's what makes this subject so vast and complex. And then there is the whole problem of staying alive when someone is attacking you.

Now lets add to this complexity. The fact is, ''self-defense' -- no matter what you think it is -- is a legally defined term. This needs to be the bedrock of your thinking about the subject. That means: Your actions must conform to that definition in order for society to deem what you did as self-defense.

If you leave those parameters -- and it is VERY easy to do that in an adrenalized and emotional state -- you are no longer 'defending yourself.' In fact, you have become, if not the aggressor, then an active participant in the creation, escalation and execution of illegal activities.

Are you beginning to feel overwhelmed?

Well the good news is that you don't need to be an expert in all those different aspects in order to be safe.

While we're on the subject let's talk about a few other things you don't have to do.
   You don't need to lock yourself in your home or live in fear.

   You don't need to stock pile enough guns and ammo to hold off the ravaging
   hordes of criminals just waiting to swoop down on your neighborhood.

   Nor do you, in preparation for a heroic battle of a hand-to-hand combat 
   have to go and throw yourself into a combative training regime that would
   make a Navy SEAL gulp in disbelief.

That's because your first -- and best -- line of defense is your brain.

Even though the subject is bigger than you originally thought it was, with just a little bit of knowledge, awareness, good habits and a dash of common sense, you can literally reduce your chances of ever having to physically defend yourself to almost zero. While there are no guarantees it won't ever happen, you can do a lot to prevent it from happening.

And the way to do that is instead of worrying about all the things that might happen, focus on what is most likely to occur -- especially given your particular lifestyle. This takes a vastly complicated subject and brings it down to a more manageable level.

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1) We reject the common misinterpretation of classical/Aristotelian logic that something must be 100% true or it is false. What is 'true' in one set of circumstances (or perception) isn't necessarily true everywhere. Modern logic allows for 'yes, no, maybe's and 'it depends.'  Return to Text

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