WOD Talk Magazine

What Does Self Defense Actually Mean?

By on June 3, 2012

Today I was having a discussion with myself (yes you heard that right, and no I am not crazy), about what self defense really means. Actually what I was doing was replaying a memory from a seminar I did a while back. When I gave the seminar I had asked three questions.

  • What does the “term” self defense mean?
  • What does “Learning” self defense mean?
  • And, What does “Practicing” self defense mean?

I got so many different answers, it blew my mind. And from all of the answers I got (maybe around 40), I didn’t get a single one that was even close to the correct answer. At least not one I would accept. This downright shocked me. How could people not know what self defense was?

It occurred to me that defining “self defense” was harder than trying to find a single grain of white rice on a white sandy beach 10 miles long. I wouldn’t do that anyways since I eat Primally (Paleo) anyways. But you get the point.

So in this post, I am going to tell you what I believe is the answer to these questions. Just remember that this is kind of a matter of personal perspective and understanding. Everyone has their own idea of what it means and so does the law. I just want to share what my interpretation of the answers to these questions are.

Okay, first I want to start off by asking you these questions and I want you to sit back for a minute and really articulate to yourself (maybe even out load) these questions. Then after you have done that, continue reading what my thoughts are. So here we go.

What does the “term” self defense mean?

I’ll wait while you contemplate this.

Ok, now what I think. My personal definition of self defense is doing anything possible to try and firstly avoid and defuse a situation. Then if I have to get physical, doing the least amount of damage to myself OR my opponent in the process. And then finishing it off with knowing how to justify my actions in a court of law.

This can be in defense of myself, my family, friends or even innocent people. I can not tell you how many times I have stepped in and broke up a “near fight” with some simple diffusing tactics. THAT is self defense. Punching someone in the face cause you feared he was going to hit first is not. Getting into a simple fist fight and you pulling out a knife and killing the person is also not self defense. That is called murder and you WILL go to jail for it.

Ok, Now on to question two.

What does “learning” self defense mean?

Again, I’ll wait while you think about this.

Do you think it is learning how to punch and kick? What about learning how to block? Surely that is self defense. You are learning how to stop someone from harming you by defending their attacks and you are not returning any attacks back. That MUST be self defense, no?


Learning self defense goes way beyond just physical defense and attacks. Learning self defense MUST start with learning things like awareness and avoidance. Over 66% of self defense is emotional and psychological. That means that only a small percentage (33%) is actually physical.

You need to learn how NOT to be in a physical confrontation in the first place by being aware of your surroundings and knowing how to get away from a bad situation. Then you need to learn how to defuse a situation going badly before it turns physical. Only if all fails, you were aware of everything going on but for some reason you got caught in the thick of it and you couldn’t avoid it or diffuse the problem, then and only then should you be using any type of physical response. And yes you need to train the physical as well. This is learning self defense.

And for the third question

What does “practicing” self defense mean?

To me, practicing self defense includes a great deal. Much more than just punching and kicking type of stuff.

But lets start there.

To me there is not just one ‘system’ of combat. Any system of combat can work in the real world. But they must teach it in a certain way. First, like I said before, you must practice the emotional and mental areas of self defense. This can be including drills such as the emotional climate drill, practicing scenarios where you try and verbally diffuse the situation, practice finding ways to escape, etc.

Then get into the physical stuff. And when you get physical, try and mainly stick with tools that utilize gross motor skills over complex ones. In a high adrenal state, pulling off techniques using complex motor skills just doesn’t work. Concentrate on palm strikes, elbows, head butting, biting, knees, shin kicks and stomping for attacks. And very basic primal shielding and other easy blocking tools for defense. Forget all the spinning back kick and jumping kick shit. The real world has no place for this crap.

And also forget about the pulling guard shit if you are in jiu-jitsu. The ground is a very unforgiving place to be in a fight. Especially if there are multiple opponents and weapons involved (as there usually are).

On top of all this, self defense to me also includes, learning about proper diet (paleo nutrition), and fitness (things like MovNat). Learning and practicing how to defend and secure your home. Learning and practicing how to survive under any circumstance. And more.

All of this is self defense in my opinion. What do you think?

STAY PRIMAL, my friends


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STAY PRIMAL, my friends

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About Coach Karma

Coach Karma L Senge has been in Personal Protection / Self Defense as well as the Fitness & Nutrition world for over 31 years now and continually teaches around the world. He has held seminars for many government agencies around the world as well as seminars for civilians. He currently teaches seminars in the United States, Europe, India, and throughout Central America. As well has oversees many training groups around the world.
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