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Confidence And Self-Defense

masteryWhy Is Confidence Important For Self-Defense?

It’s not what happens in life, but how we perceive it and what we do about it.

To most people, the thought of being confronted or attacked is terrifying. That’s healthy and normal but not necessarily your most desired response.

Fear and stress activate the “fight or flight response,” which is the body’s natural response to danger. A host of physiological and emotional events occur that create changes in your thinking and performance. These can be divided into three categories:

1. Cognitive Impairment – the inability to think clearly, logically or creatively. Your ability to perceive or analyze the situation accurately and make good decisions is compromised.

2. Perceptual Distortion – changes in your vision, hearing, sense of pain etc. can be diminished or amplified.

3. Deterioration of Fine and Complex Motor Skills – your ability to perform precise or coordinated techniques (a.k.a. many martial arts and self-defense techniques) is impaired.

Too much fear and stress and you’re likely to become “hijacked” by your emotions, flustered in your thinking and inefficient in your performance. This can lead to over-reacting, under-reacting or not reacting at all!

Like it or not, you can’t change the reality of the “human factors” associated to performing in and surviving a critical event such as a violent attack.

What you CAN do is decrease the degree of “arousal” associated with these types of situations by changing your perception of the event, more specifically, the confidence in your ability to handle it.

How do you do that? By developing confidence at a subconscious level so that your stress response is manageable and can actually enhance your performance in an emergency.

What Is Confidence?

Confidence is the degree of certainty we have in our ability to successfully achieve our goals AND our resiliency to withstand the threats, mistakes and challenges along the way.

In self-defense, confidence is the degree of trust that you have in your “LEGITIMATE” ability to successfully respond to a threatening or violent situation.

Everyone craves confidence. Few of us have enough of it. Some of us have more than we should!

We are born with a need for security and safety.  In his “Hierarchy of Needs,” Abraham Maslow, legendary pioneer of human motivation, identifies it as a fundamental drive of all human beings.

The theory stipulates that, until lower-level needs are satisfied, higher-level drives (such as love, self-esteem, and self-actualization) do not motivate us.  We crave, strive for or worry about those lower-level needs that remain unmet.

When left unsatisfied, an unmet need becomes a nagging, subconscious distraction that can compromise the quality of your life and even your health.

Many psychologists consider the fear of interpersonal violence to be a “universal human phobia.” Who wouldn’t be afraid of being raped, beaten, robbed or murdered?

Self-defense training, if conducted properly, can satisfy our need for security and provide us with a perception of control in our lives.

Can Self-Defense Training Build Confidence?

It’s almost a cliché that self-defense and martial arts training will naturally and automatically lead to increased self-confidence. Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. Confidence doesn’t necessarily happen by default.

I know many people who have turned to self-defense training (perhaps driven by their perceived lack of confidence) and it failed to turn them into confident, self-assured people.

Even years of training, if it’s done haphazardly, inconsistently or with the wrong mindset, will do little for your sense of confidence. In some cases it may even reduce it!

The good news is that, if you train consistently and intelligently, you can make a dramatic, positive impact on your level of self-confidence.

Confidence developed though self-defense training can “spill over” into other aspects of your personality and make you more effective in areas of life over and above physically defending yourself.

I can’t count the number of people who turned to the martial arts “lost and broken,” only to improve all aspects of their lives dramatically as a result of the control, self-discipline and confidence that they developed through their training.

Confidence Is A By-Product Of Self-Esteem

In an effort to more thoroughly grasp the concept of confidence building, let’s take a look at the broader quality of “Self- Esteem.”

Your self-esteem has a direct correlation on your self-confidence, your personality and the results you produce in your life.

In his book, “The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem,” psychologist and self-esteem authority Nathaniel Branden describes self-esteem as follows:

“Self-esteem has two interrelated components. One is a basic confidence in the face of life’s challenges: self-efficacy. The other is a sense of being worthy of happiness: self-respect.

Self-efficacy means confidence in the function of the mind, in my ability to think, understand, learn, chose and make decisions; confidence in my ability to understand the facts of reality that fall within the sphere of my interests and needs; self-trust and self-reliance.”

Is it any wonder that people have been able to make a significant, positive impact on self-esteem and confidence through self-defense training? Let’s take a closer look at why…

Why Self-Defense Training Can Build Self-Esteem

Branden’s definition of self-esteem is an excellent tool to understand why self-defense training can make such a positive impact on a person’s emotional and psychological state. Let’s apply that definition to self-defense training:


Evolution has wired us to detect and respond to threatening situations. In the days of cavemen and dinosaurs, that was a good thing.

However, in modern times, that wiring can backfire when it generates fear, anxiety and stress in response to situations that are not physically dangerous. This can create symptoms and perceptions that compromise our self-confidence.

Proper self-defense training develops the knowledge, skill and willingness to resolve legitimate threats to our personal safety.

You begin to satisfy your need for security and gain a sense of control over the events in your life. You become more capable of discriminating between REAL threats and the “pain-in-the-ass” variety that can suck so much enjoyment out of life.

Setting and achieving self-defense goals provides you with a process that can be applied to anything else you want to accomplish. It builds a general sense of competence that leads to your overall confidence.


When you engage in self-defense training, what message do you think is conveyed to your conscious and unconscious mind?

What are you saying to yourself when you decide to dedicate time and energy to your health, your skills and your protection?

When you are prepared to stand up for yourself, assert your rights, even injure another person to protect yourself or someone you care about, what does that say about your value and importance?

Keep in mind as well that intelligent self-defense training is vigorous enough to strengthen and tone your muscles, burn off excess body fat and generate positive hormonal responses that make a significant impact on the way you feel about yourself.  Science has proven that vigorous physical activity, such as a well thought out self-defense workout, can boost your mood, improve your outlook and increase your confidence pretty much immediately. Need I say more?

What affect has your self-defense training had on your confidence?

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.

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