A Dirt-Simple Formula For Successful Self-Defense
Self-defense doesn’t have to be complicated. If someone were to ask me, after a lifetime of studying self-defense, a career in law enforcement and decades of life experience, “What are the most significant factors to successful self-defense?” Here’s what I’d tell them:
Get fit, be smart, and hit hard.
Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability. ~ Edsger Dijkstra
Keep It Simple
I’ve been at this self-defense stuff a long time… over 40 years! I’m STILL grinding away, trying to discover, understand, apply and teach the truth and reality about self-defense training.
I’m certainly not bragging nor implying that I’m a master, an expert or someone who’s got it all figured out because I’m not. I’m like you, a student of human nature looking for the cause and effect of violent or unhealthy situations and the best ways to deal with them.
What I can tell you is that after a half-century on the planet and a 28-year police career, I’ve been in A LOT of scrapes, close calls, and confrontations. I’ve dealt with more than my share of volatile, dangerous and violent people and so far (knock on wood) I’m pretty much intact and unscathed.
Over the years I’ve studied all kinds of systems, methods, principles, concepts and techniques to deal with threatening situations. Half of them I can’t even remember! Those that I do, I have to call bullshit on because they don’t stand up to common sense or the realities of a critical incident.
When I look back at my own experience, separating the way things are supposed to work from the way they actually do, my personal foundation for successful self-defense is a simple one:
1. I was in shape.
2. I was street smart
3. I could hit hard
That’s pretty much it. Sorry if you were expecting something more profound and mysterious, but if I had to do it all over again, I would (and will) stick to those three things and I’m optimistic that I’ll come out at the other end just fine. I’m suggesting that it will do the same for you.
So allow me to “insult your intelligence” for a bit and expand on these grassroots and dirt-simple factors:
1. In Shape
As far as I’m concerned, “Self-Defense IS Health & Fitness.” You can’t do justice to one without the other. My definition of self-defense is as follows:
“Self-defense is the ongoing process of improving your health, fitness and function AND the ability to protect it from the violent actions of others AND the consequences of your lifestyle.”
It’s ridiculous to argue that your chances of successfully defending yourself wouldn’t be dramatically improved by being stronger, more athletic and fit.
Being in good shape will improve your ability to respond to a violent situation, whether it be to fight your way out of it or run like a rabbit.
Your fitness will also boost your confidence, improve your movement and the way you carry yourself which changes the signals that you give off to a potential assailant.
2. Street Smart
The dictionary defines street smart as, “the experience and knowledge necessary to deal with the potential difficulties or dangers of life in an urban environment.”
Developing street smarts begins by acknowledging that predatory and violent situations do happen and you need to prepare for them and be aware of the clues and indicators associated to them. It’s about having a flexible game plan of how you will deal with these situations if and when you encounter them.
So, if you’re not already, how do you get street smart? By doing what you’re doing right now: studying and reading about self-defense and related subjects, reflecting on how that information relates to your life and adjusting your perceptions, habits and behaviors accordingly.
3. Hit Hard
The capacity to hit (strike and kick) effectively and efficiently is an obvious asset when responding to a violent situation. Go on YouTube and conduct a search for amateur videos of unrehearsed, real-world assaults and street fights. What you’ll see are some pretty consistent, pretty brutal, and PRETTY SIMPLE dynamics of interpersonal violence.
You won’t see the wristlocks, arm bars, slick tricks and fancy moves that we’ve come to associate to many self-defense programs. What you will see more times than not is a violent clash of body parts, usually ending with a solid punch (occaisionally a kick) to the noggin. Boom… Lights out!
Now to be clear, I did not go through my life nor my police career dealing with volatile situations by punching people in the face! That would be ridiculous. Had I done that, I would have created far worse problems than I solved.
I went through those times with the knowledge and ability to punch people in the face really hard IF I NEEDED TO. There’s a big difference.
Having a “back up plan,” of blasting out solid and accurate strikes if all else fails adds a whole new dimension to dealing with volatile situations. In my case, it allowed me to remain calm, composed and strategic in my responses.
I was more confident in attempting to defuse and deescalate situations, or to resort to less-injurious tactics to bring the matter under control. Knowing if the shit hit the fan that I had a good chance of punching my way out of it allowed me to be more patient and calculated in my responses. If less forceful efforts failed, or things escalated, I always had “plan B.”
I suggest that it will be the same for you.
What Do You Think?
So there you have it. The most dumbed-down, but honest formula I can think of to share with you about self-defense. If you make these three factors the foundation of your approach to self-defense, I assure you that you’ll be standing on solid ground as far as your ability to move through life with more control over your health and safety is concerned.
Let me know what do you think? Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below. If you liked what you read, please share it and bring others into our conversation.
Take care, train smart and stay safe.
About Randy LaHaie
I’m the founder of “Protective Strategies,” a training and consulting company providing self-defense and combative fitness solutions to law enforcement, high-risk professionals and private citizens since 1994. I am a retired police officer, court-declared expert in use-of-force and critical incident performance, and a life-long student of self-defense and combative fitness. “My Thing” is to help people incorporate functional and minimalist workout strategies to improve their health, fitness and personal safety.