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The Seven Components Of Self-Defense

chessboardThere are seven essential categories to a comprehensive approach to personal safety. If you know what they are, you can evaluate your “mental map” about self-defense and determine what you know, where the gaps are and what you need to learn more about.

This article provides the big picture of a self-defense system and lists seven essential building blocks of a comprehensive solution to violence.

Component #1 – Self-Defense Training

In my opinion, a commitment to ongoing self-defense and combat-related workouts is an integral part of a realistic approach to self-defense and achieving optimal health and safety.

The doctrine of Toughen Up addresses self-defense training and has three ingredients.

  1. Combative Drills as a form of exercise
  2. Functional Exercise to improve combative performance
  3. Strategies to help you “Toughen Up” physically, mentally and emotionally.

In a previous post,  I wrote about four principles of self-defense training: Self-Defense = Health, Adopting A Training Focus, The Erosion Effect and The Performance Equation.

I believe that ongoing training is the ONLY realistic way to fully align yourself with those principles.

Decision-Strategy-Gears-ProfileComponent #2 – Self-Defense Intelligence

Your brain is your most powerful weapon. Self-Defense Intelligence is the development of awareness, situational assessment, threat recognition and decision-making.

Intelligence includes “street survival” concepts and formulas, similar to those used in law enforcement and the military, that help you to focus and structure your awareness and thinking during a critical incident.

The more accurate and realistic your knowledge is about violence and confrontation, the more effective you will be at detecting, recognizing and resolving threatening situations.

Component #3 – Self-Defense Response Strategies

No two self-defense situations are the same. Each brings with it variables and factors that make it unique and unpredictable. What might work in one situation could backfire and make things worse in another.

You need a range of response strategies and the ability to apply the strategy with the highest probability of success.

When you get right down to it, there are five strategies to deal with a volatile situation: compliance, escape, de-escalation, defiance and fighting. Knowing when to implement your “best bet” strategy, when to abandon one that’s not working, or how to combine them are important skills to acquire.

Component #4 – Prevention

Prevention tips are precautionary actions that reduce the likelihood of falling victim to a violent, criminal or predatory situation.

If you understand the brain’s predisposition for complacency, you should know that you can’t just apply safety tactics when you think you need them. Bad things happen when you least expect them.

At some point, you need to evaluate your lifestyle and determine the right balance between being safe and living your life.

There are virtually hundreds of things that you can do to improve your personal safety. Some are simple, some take some effort and some just aren’t realistic or practical. If you understand the fundamentals of prevention, you can improvise and adopt the ones that make sense to you, your family and your current circumstances.

line upComponent #5 – Predatory Recognition

If you could consistently recognize a criminal, rapist, mugger or bully how much safer would you be?

Unfortunately, most violent or predatory people don’t look much different from anyone else. Your ability to detect and recognized cues and indicators associated to someone who is in the process of setting you up as their “next victim” is crucial to protecting yourself.

The more you know about the motives, methods and behavior of a predator, the better you can steer clear of, preempt or respond to a violent situation.

Component #6 – Victim Selection

Not everyone will become the victim of a violent crime. In fact, for every person who is victimized, dozens are evaluated and passed over.  By understanding first that there is a selection process, and secondly what the criteria of a “desirable target” are, you can reduce the probability of being selected as a potential victim.

Research into that selection process reveals that human predators, whether they’re aware they’re doing it or not, select a victim based on their perception of how vulnerable they are and whether that person is ready, willing and able fight back.

The way you move, carry yourself and behave impacts your “victim profile.” By taking charge of those criteria, you can reduce the probability of being selected as a potential victim.

Component #7 – Survival Psychology

Millions of years of evolution have “wired” us for survival. The need to feel safe and secure is deeply ingrained in all of us. Many psychologists consider the fear of interpersonal violence to be a “Universal Human Phobia.”

The thought of being victimized is unsettling to most people. Some people block it out of their minds and become complacent, others worry about it more than they should and there are those, like yourself, who accept it as a reality of the way the world works and do something about it.

Unmanaged fear or a sense of helplessness can erode our health and the quality of our lives. Being safety-conscious does not mean being fearful or paranoid. Quite the contrary, self-defense knowledge and skills provides a sense of control and resilience.

Survival Psychology develops the mind in areas such as responsibility, motivation, confidence and mental toughness.

Have I Missed Anything?

Admittedly, I’ve just brushed the surface on these seven components of self-defense. There is much more to be learned to flesh out this framework as a viable approach to personal safety. I will be expanding on these components in future blog posts.

If nothing else, I hope that this post has got you thinking about the big picture of self-defense and evaluating your own approach to this subject.

Please feel free to offer your opinions and feedback in the comment section below.

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.

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  • Bill Rush

    I like this approach-the relative unimportance of actual self-defence ‘techniques’ is the key for me here. The weapons are better if they’re simple and more effective if you’re physically strong. Nothing works unless you’ve endeavoured to make yourself mentally robust and not being there is the cleverest and most successful strategy of all. It’s all in there. Another article that helps me get my joggers on and get to the gym for my 6 rounds Randy..

    • Well said Bill… I’m glad we’re on the same page. Thanks for your input.

  • Chuck Peterson

    This might fall under the Self Defense Intelligence category but I think developing proper habits is huge. I ask my students to make their own list of habits they need to develop and then to work on adding them one or at most two at a time. It takes 6 weeks to develop a new habit. Scanning before crossing a parking lot or checking for available exits or potential weapons when they enter a new environment – the list is long. They can know to do these things but if they don’t develop the habits it does them no good.

    • I agree Chuck, I’d put it in the intelligence catetory as well. Excellent teaching strategy. Thanks for your input.

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