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If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...
It AIN'T a peacock. No matter what anyone tells you.

Is It REALLY About Self-Defense?

On this page:
Bob And The Bear | Something Else Is Going On | How Does This Relate To Self-Defense Training? | Self-Defense Training As Self-Medication | If I Become A Bad Ass...

Winston Churchill once said "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." I like to add to the quote: And refuses to admit something else is going on.

There are a lot of fanatics who are attracted to self-defense, martial arts, women's self-defense, reality based self-defense, etc., etc.. There's a lot of stuff that is being presented as self-defense that isn't self-defense.  However, much of what is going on isn't about self-defense at all. It's about other things.

Keeping in mind my addition to Churchill's quote, I'd like to tell you a joke. 

*Note* This is an off color joke. If you're easily offended, stop reading now. If this jokes strikes a little too close to home, expect to get really, really angry. (1)

Bob and the Bear
Bob decides to go bear hunting. While he's in the woods, he sees a bear. Raising his rifle he shoots and the bear falls down. Flushed with excitement Bob runs up to the bear. And the bear stands up ....

"Bob," the bear says. "You tried to kill me. I don't like that. But I'm going to give you a choice. I can kill you or I can fuck you and let you live. The choice is yours Bob."

Well obviously Bob doesn't want to die, but on the other hand, option B isn't looking to appealing either. Still, it beats dying; so Bob chooses option B.

True to his word the bear screws Bob and sends him home. That night Bob is furious. He spends all night thinking about the wrong done to him and he gets madder and madder. He swears he's going to kill that damned bear. So the next day, he gets his gun and goes out into the forest again. He sees the bear, he shoots, the bear falls down and Bob runs up to him.

And the bear stands up.

Repeat offer ... Bob again chooses to live.

That night Bob is FURIOUS! He is so outraged he can't stand it. He is going to kill that fuckin' bear for what it has done to him. So the next day he goes out into the forest ...


In the middle of screwing him, the bear taps Bob on the shoulder and asks "Bob ... this isn't about bear hunting is it?" (2)


Something Else Is Going On
The latent homosexual connotations of this joke are obvious.  However, what is less obvious -- and far more important -- is that it's not even about revenge onthe bear.

It's about what's going on inside Bob. And that is an overwhelming drive by Bob to "WIN."

Face it, Bob is alive. He is physically not injured (By this I don't mean just pain, I mean the bear didn't kill him or mutilate him). The 'injury' to Bob is to his pride and core beliefs. That is what is motivating him. His fury is at how the world didn't behave according to his beliefs of 'who he is.' Most of all, it's about his own self-importance. Bob considers himself too good for those kinds of things to happen to HIM! That is where his desire for revenge is coming from.

There's also a huge element of denial here. Denial as to the impact of his own actions had on the situation. Bob tried to kill the bear three times. In fact, in two of the three cases, he went out with the specific intention to murder that particular bear.

But in "Bob's world" that doesn't matter nearly as much as the 'wrong' done to him. Never mind that 'wrong' was done in direct consequence of his actions. Bob sees himself as the 'victim' and his failed attempts of revenge only reinforce this position.

In his favor, Bob is attempting to keep from permanently defining himself as a victim (i.e. victimhood). In his mind, if he can avenge himself against the bear by inflicting more damage, he will be able to tell himself, that he 'evened the score.' When in fact, he would have inflicted MORE damage.

But realize something: Bob is trying to rewrite his history.

Every time he goes back into the forest, he is trying to 'win.' By returning again and again to those same circumstances he is trying to rewrite his perceived loss into a victory. We cannot stress the importance of this concept enough.

But there is a HUGE problem with that. He is attempting to avenge himself against the bear in the exact same circumstances he lost before. In fact, he's even using the same tactics. Ever heard the old saw: Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Well, that's what Bob is doing.

Using the same limited options, he is trying 'win.' And the more he attempts to make those options works, the more furious he becomes at the repeated failure. You can imagine him saying to himself, "Damn it! Shooting that bear WILL work!"

Except that the problem isn't the bear. It's Bob's wounded pride. In a bigger context, his ego.  Something has happened to Bob that is outside his world view, his definition of self and how he believes the world should treat him. Something that Bob refuses to accept ... because Bob is too good, too important and too special to have 'that' happen to him

Bob sets himself on a course to prove HE is superior in those circumstances. This, instead of accepting the knowledge that you don't always win; there are some situations you're NOT going to win. Instead of trying to 'win' it is better to find ways to cope and to move on. But that isn't what Bob is doing. He has become fixated on returning to those same circumstances and winning.

In doing so he sets up a self-reinforcing cycle of loss and trauma.

Bob has a lot of options. BUT he keeps on choosing one that keeps on bringing him back to the same result. And yet, the more they don't work, the more fanatical and fixated Bob becomes on making it work. In his mind, killing the bear is THE answer.

Bob has become trapped in his own mind. The more he fixates on this solution, it not only reinforces his shame and trauma, but keeps him from seeing other options. In short, his fixation turns him into a fanatic. What's worse is he refuses to admit that it isn't about bear hunting anymore.

How Does This Relate To Self-Defense Training?
There are a lot of 'Bobs' out there. Many people who have been traumatized in their past (or who have a perception of trauma) behave in this same manner. They keep on revisiting the circumstances they tell themselves they 'lost' in (going back into the forest). Usually, like Bob, they go back with a 'never again' attitude and fundamentally the same tactics. So like Bob, they get the same results.

Then there are other people who look at the event, realize it was a no-win situation and don't put themselves in those kinds of situations anymore. They learn to stay out of the forest, so to speak.

However, there is a pattern common in the 'self-defense world.' That is a never ending training loop. A loop who's paradigms gradually replace reality.

Let's stick with 'Bob' to explain this. Instead of going back into the forest and trying to kill the bear, imagine Bob throwing himself into a never-ending cycle of marksmanship training, hunting classes and trips to the shooting range. Man when he goes back into that forest he's going to win this time.

Additional training would make sense to improve his chances of killing the bear, except never-ending training is used as a replacement FOR returning to the forest. Bob will never return to the forest. And yet at the same time, he can never let go of what happened to him there.

There are a lot of people who throw themselves into a never ending cycle of self-defense training, internet forums and talking about how well they are going to do -- next time they find themselves in a violent situation. But they are very careful to avoid putting themselves back into the forest. 

They are just as fixated, furious and fanatical as if they did like Bob and kept going back and losing. The more they train, the more fanatical they become about how next time they'll win.  It often seems that instead of reducing their rage and obsession, the training increases it.

Two fundamental problems exist with this approach
1) The person never develops the coping skills to mentally and emotionally
    'move beyond' the incident.
2) Much of the time in the training is spent in 'acting out,' both by himself and
    those around him.

Point one can be summed up by saying instead of training in combatives, the person would be better served by therapy. In fact, much of the training can be viewed as self-medicating (see below). This training often replaces developing better coping and people skills.

Point two is of special interest when it comes to reinforcing and continuing a dysfunctional pattern. People who take this route are often hyper-vigilant, aggressive and poorly socialized. They tend to over react when they perceive a threat or challenge. By surrounding oneself with equally paranoid and hyper aggressive people, you're going to find you have a lot of opportunity to feel threatened and challenged.

In case you missed that, I just told you that if you get in with the wrong group, they're going to make you more paranoid, afraid and convinced that the world is out to get you.

Along with this comes a tendency to over-emphasize certain elements and dismiss (or downplay) other factors. This skews knowledge and understanding of the actual subject and replaces it with dogma. A dogma based on partial understanding being presented as the whole of the subject. A prime example of this is the emphasis common in 'combative groups' on 'killing the bear" and the exclusion of legal consequences. The training not only exceeds what is self-defense, but actively encourages excessive use of force. The common excuses for outright ignorance on the subject of legal use of force are I'd rather be judged by 12 than carried by six and In the middle of being attacked you can't think about legalities.

The reality is, if you seriously injure another human being, the odds are overwhelming that you will become engaged in legal action.

And if your actions exceeded the boundaries of self-defense, you will be adjudged guilty. In light of such group's steadfast refusal to even consider controlling the amount of force they use, it's probably a good thing they won't ever go back into the forest. They are far better off staying stuck in an endless loop of imagination, emotion, obsession and preparing for the next time the forest comes hunting them.

Basically there are large number of people in these circles that it would be appropriate to ask "This isn't about self-defense is it?"

Training As Self-Medication
A common term in psychological and addiction counseling is "self-medication." Basically this means: The use of drugs or soothing behaviors to treat a perceived or real malady. Self-medication is often referred to in the context of a person self-medicating, in order to alleviate their own distress or pain. (Wikipedia).

One of the biggest draw backs of self-medicating, is that the individual is trapped within his or her own paradigms. So while it might seem like the drugs or soothing behavior (e.g. gambling, sex, self-mutilation, etc.) works to 'solve' the problem, it doesn't. All it does is temporarily deal with the symptoms. For example it temporarily allows for the suppression of unacceptable feelings. But it doesn't affect the paradigms, thought patterns or world view that causes them. Since the core thought pattern that is causing this distress is still in place, the unacceptable feelings WILL return.

A common result of self-medication is a secondary problem, like addiction. Now you not only still have the original problem, but you have the added burdens of the issues related to the secondary problem.

And face it, being a paranoid, hyper-aggressive, permanently outraged fanatic about 'self-defense' is a problem.

That's because 'normal' people are going to consider YOU to be a loose cannon on deck. They do not share your paranoia, trauma or outrage that there are people out there who will stoop to attacking them. Generally speaking they just go out of their way to avoid people like that. Amazingly enough, living within societies rules and assigning a higher priority to issues other than your pride, tends to be an amazingly effective strategy to keep you out of violence!

If you've found yourself fixated on killing that damned bear, you might want to look into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, instead of training to go back into the forest. Better yet, you might want to work on developing the people skills to keep you from ending up in dangerous confrontations.

No lie, it really works. It does wonders for keeping you OUT of danger. It also has all kinds of other benefits to your life, like reducing conflicts, benefiting your career and making for stronger relationships. You'll find negotiation and compromise will get you a lot farther than having the ability to break someone's jaw.

If I Become A Bad Ass...
I have a confession to make. And it's about something that is an elephant in the room that nobody else in the self-defense world is talking about.

Let me start with the fact that you don't get the street name "Animal" by being in the church choir. In my youth I was not only a selfish and violent asshole, but I was self-righteous. The world had wronged me by not living up to my expectations and I was going to strike back by doing whatever I wanted to. And if you didn't like that, tough shit.

Well guess what? The world doesn't work that way. The reason I was involved in so much violence in my youth was because I was doing things that were pissing people off.  Want to get shot at? Sleep with enough men's wives and it will happen.

Simply stated, I was doing stuff that brought shit down upon my own head. Stuff that I knew was wrong, but it didn't stop me. Because of the lifestyle I lead and the people I was surrounded by I knew if I did it, there was a good chance they'd take action. My goal in training wasn't so nobody would dare to take a crack at me. Even though I was fucked up as a soup sandwich, I knew that wasn't realistic. My goal in becoming such a bad ass was so when someone DID make a run at me, I had a better chance at surviving.

This is why I have such a hard time when I encounter attitudes in so-called self-defense training like "A woman should have the right to walk naked into a biker bar and not be molested." Another version is "Well I want to be able to defend my family when we walk down dark alleys." Excuse me, that ISN'T self-defense. That's wanting to do whatever the hell you want to do and NOT have to deal with the repercussions.

And don't bother telling me that sometimes you HAVE to do these things. I know a self-justification for selfishness when I smell one, because I used to do the same thing. If you're really interested in self-defense, you'll accept that there are certain actions that will put you into danger -- and then you won't do them.

How could Bob prevent being sodomized by the bear? Well, not trying to kill the bear in the first place would have helped. And then of course there are all the repeat attempts. So too would staying out of the forest. And yet, he insisted on going back again and again.

The raw truth is you do NOT have the right to say or do anything you want. Nor do you have the right to walk safely through all situations. There's a word for that, it's called High Risk Behavior.

The simple fact is people who have been "Bobbed" often go into what they tell themselves is 'self-defense' training. This is a form of self-medication. It DOESN'T fix the problem.

Instead of stopping and reassessing their own behaviors and attitudes, they are desperately seeking a way that will allow them to do whatever they want without fear of repercussions. Or they want the benefits and respect of being a bad ass without the down side. This isn't just a selfish and juvenile attitude, it's also self-delusional.

There is the belief that IF they become some kind of bad ass they will never be attacked again.

Well guess what? Speaking as a former bad ass motherfucker, I can assure you it doesn't work that way. The more selfish, angry, aggressive and antisocial you become, the MORE likely you are to be attacked. Not only will normal people begin to shy away from you, but you will be relegated more and more into a 'trashcan.' You will be slowly -- and quietly-- shoved into social circles where that kind of bad behavior is 'tolerated.' And by that I mean you will be surrounded by equally violent and dysfunctional people as you've become. Normal people who don't have these kinds of problems won't want anything to do with you.

Is there quality self-defense training out there? Yes there is. But most of what is out there -- especially the more 'hardcore' it is -- is designed to fleece 'Bobs' by reinforcing their beliefs that they are too special for those kinds of things to happen to them.

Don't think 'self-training' that encourages you to be hyper-aggressive is going to fix if you've been "Bobbed." The issue is far more complex than just learning how to beat someone up. Instead of learning how to commit more violence, you might want to look into therapy

Return to top

1) On the other hand, so-called 'self-defense groups' can be pretty narrow-minded and fanatical. They tend to attack people who ask legitimate questions. Questions that reveal weaknesses in their approach. If you've witnessed this behavior or have been verbally attacked for not 'drinking the Kool-Aid' of a group's ideology, the punch line of this joke says a lot. Not about you, but about the people in the group. You don't need internet trolls to come into these places, a lot of times they live there. Return to Text


2) The fun part of this joke is when you've told it to other people and the punch line becomes more than an inside joke, it becomes a useful social tool. When someone is going off about something that you just know is a cover for (or about something else) you can defuse everyone else's discomfort about that person's behavior by asking the room in general "This isn't about bear hunting is it?" Return to Text


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