Understanding personal safety & self-defence 0 1222

If you are on the search for good advice on how to protect yourself and your loved ones, chances are that you will find a lot of rather confusing, contradictory and even questionable information out there instead. Personal safety and self-defence are somewhat “no man’s land”, although claimed by many as a domain in which they are experts. In reality, this expertise is often more based on self-promotion, than it is on real-life experience.

Who should you trust?

I have started this blog mainly because I believe that despite an ocean full of security-related material that is already out there on the internet, most of it is either created with a business or professional audience in mind, often getting too technical and complex, or if it is made for common people, it often lacks any kind of professional expertise to back it up. It is not uncommon that you see Instagram influencers, Youtubers, and lately TikTokers giving tips and advice on personal safety and self-defence, without having any kind of real relation to the subject whatsoever. It was exactly the fact that far too many people out there disperse either meaningless, false or inadequate information on the subject of personal safety. This often tends to be pure nonsense, and could worst case even get you killed should you try to apply it for real! This was my initial motivation to start this blog and share useful and relevant free expert advice so people would know the difference. Knowledge is power, so they say and empowering people to protect themselves from crime and violence has become my mission ever since.

The Self-defence industry is chaotic

When it comes to the topic of self-defence, things can become even more complicated, as there is no equally accepted, unified truth on what realistic self-defence even is. If you talk to one hundred “experts” out there, you will very likely get one hundred and one different opinion. If such a thing as a self-defence industry even exists, then it is deeply divided into many different interest groups who are involved in all this. For a start, you have all kinds of martial arts schools and combat sports clubs, promoting how their styles and training methods will teach you also valuable and life-saving self-defence skills. Then there are several global franchises of lately very popular self-defence systems that boldly claim to be the only “real” self-defence authority out there. But of course, there are many independent instructors, schools, academies, also specialised in self-defence, often with a very specific background like former military, security, law enforcement, and they often teach some form of practical self-defence training or courses. But then there are also all kinds of manufacturers of various self-defence tools and weapons, miscellaneous products, apps and services that offer some form of personal safety solutions. Last but not least, there is also the government which has some influence as it regulates all this with a legal framework. All those people consider themselves being “experts” on the subject of self-defence and personal safety, at least from their perspective. The one thing they all do have in common is usually only the opinion that all the others are doing it all wrong! These differences in opinions often go so far, that for example just between different martial art styles or schools, they would call each other out to be unrealistic and completely useless for self-defence, and the comment I had made earlier, that “this will get you killed”, is something you will hear quite often from insiders. Unfortunately, the authorities do not make it any easier or better. Where one would reasonably expect that the Police force which has to deal with violent crime on a daily basis, would be a good source of reliable information and advice, the reality is often far from it. Some advice I have heard coming from members and officials of the Police in regard to personal safety, make it very high on my personal list of “worst advice ever given”. Also, the government as a regulatory body has in most cases very twisted perspectives on the subject of self-defence, and as a result, there are countries like the UK, Switzerland and a few others, where you are not allowed to legally carry or even possess a pepper spray for defence, whilst criminals on the streets are armed with knives, machetes and guns. Sometimes it is really difficult to understand the purpose behind such regulations, but you don’t want to rely on such products anyways. Now you might have found yourself in the middle of all this chaos as you are searching for proper information and advice on how to protect yourself and your loved ones. But worry not, that is exactly why I am here and why you are reading this article, so without any further ado, let us look into the problem of personal safety a little deeper.

Understanding personal safety

It is not my intention to do the same thing as just being mentioned and just point at everyone else who comes to mind, saying this s*** isn’t working, or that is useless nonsense. Instead, I would like to take a different approach and give you deep enough insight into the subject, so that you can decide for yourself what information or knowledge presented to you, will help and improve your personal safety and what might be useless or irrelevant for you and your circumstances. Being actively involved in this industry for years, my opinions are obviously also biased, I therefore hope that we can agree that this approach is the fairest. Also, keep in mind that I do not try to sell this information to you, but I am sharing it for free, hence I do not have any personal interest or gain here from eventually misleading you. All it takes now from you is to actually read the information provided and make your own conclusions.

Personal safety and self-defence are not the same

In my opinion, although often mixed up and presented as being the same thing, “personal safety” and “self-defence” are actually two separate topics, or to be precise, self-defence is just one element of personal safety. I believe that personal safety has to include everything that could have a potential impact on the personal integrity and safety of oneself and the closer circle of people who live with us and we care about. This starts with understanding the potential threats we are exposed to and what risk they present to us (I have a separate post on understanding risks). It then should build upon this risk awareness and look into all possible prevention strategies that could mitigate and reduce these risks. These would mainly be things that are under our control, that we can influence and change to make a potential attack on us less likely to happen. As a next step, you have a variety of conflict resolution tactics that are focusing on de-escalation, following the principle of avoiding physical conflicts whenever possible! And finally, only as a last resort, when all other methods have failed, we use self-defence techniques to survive a physical attack and escape to safety. You might wonder why that matters, why it is better to walk away from a potential conflict, why wouldn’t you just fight? Isn’t that why you learn self-defence in the first place?

Why you should avoid conflicts at all costs

Well, let us be clear about this right from the start, a “self-defence” situation only applies when you do not have any other option than to fight back! That means there is no more option to turn around and run away, or to resolve it in any other way. Everything else is a “fight”, a situation where two or more individuals have concisely chosen to get into a physical confrontation with each other. The problem here is that violent conflicts are always unpredictable, this is not a ball game where one scores and wins and walks away with the victory. From a legal perspective, there is no difference between the attacker or defender anymore, it does not matter who started it and there are two potential outcomes of this: if you win the fight, you might face the legal consequences for the injuries of your opponent, or if you lose you might be the one getting injured and looking for getting justice and compensation from a court, but either way, you lose! That being said it also has to be taken into consideration that due to its nature, violent confrontations have a tendency of escalation, whereby serious injury or even death is always a possibility, regardless if it was someone suddenly pulling a knife, or someone just falling unluckily and smashing the head against the curb. Shit happens, and it happens fast, often chaotic and in some cases, it cannot be undone. Nothing good can come out of a fight, win or lose, but a lot of things can go very wrong, changing peoples lives one way or another. For that reason, the safest strategy for physical conflicts is always “don’t be there”! Now, obviously, conflict resolution requires some skills as well, actually, even something as simple as running away needs to be practised too, as in a high-stress situation during a potential physical conflict, the brain doesn’t operate as it normally would. Under the influence of Adrenaline, fear and shock it falls back to basic survival instincts and memorised gross motoric reactions. Many have probably at least heard of the term “fight or flight reaction” well to be correct it should be “fight, flight or freeze”, but more on that another time, what matters is, that it can be trained and conditioned how to react under stress.

Where can I learn about personal safety?

It is my observation from personal experience, that martial arts schools as well as most self-defence providers usually offer only a limited form of self-defence training. These would usually include practising combatives like punching, kicking, blocking combinations, and/or self-defence techniques against certain attacks. However, they mostly do not teach any of the mentioned prevention and conflict resolution methods. Not necessarily because they do not believe in the efficiency of these methods, but rather because either they simply do not have the knowledge and/or certificates required to educate people in these subjects, or because it actually doesn’t suit their business model. If you for example join a martial arts class, it will usually take years to get through the whole curriculum to become a black belt one day and often even a lifetime to become a real master of the art. The focus here is obviously not and has never been on teaching people how to do risk assessments and basic crime prevention tactics, so they could learn how to stay out of trouble. Instead, their business model is based on maintaining membership, going to regular classes over a long period of time in the pursuit of achieving perfection. Learning how to defend yourself can be therefore considered more a side effect of martial arts training. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with teaching or learning martial arts, I have personally practised martial arts almost my entire life and absolutely enjoyed doing so. But it is not the most efficient approach to learning self-defence and it clearly isn’t focused on teaching you how to increase your personal safety either. I often tend to say that practising cross country running, parkour or training for those lately more and more popular mud races, would probably benefit your personal safety more in the short term, than any martial arts training (yes, for running away efficiently, in case you wondered). There are some professional courses available but they often aim at other professionals that need those skills for their work, so they are coming with a serious price tag. I try to add as much information here as possible and I have also just started to work on a youtube channel as well. However, I am not the only one out there who shares information about personal safety and self-defence, so go and look up people like Randy King or Richard Dimitry, they are great subject matter experts and you can find lots of good information there. Besides that, of course, also do your own research, if you invest some time in it, you will certainly find also other videos, blogs, podcasts, books and courses on the subject, maybe also in other languages if that suits you more. Also, be aware that in the UK for example and some other countries are very strict regulations in place in terms of using any kind of self-defence tools etc. Therefore some things being mentioned by people who live abroad, might not apply to you and your circumstances, make sure you inform yourself adequately.

I hope this was informative and useful, if you want to find out more about proper self-defence training check out some of my other posts on the subject.

Stay safe!

Renato Skofac


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