Intro to Self-Defense

What comes to mind when you hear self-defense? Stun guns or pepper spray? Bruce Lee, Van Damme, and Chuck Norris disarming and taking down “bad guys”? Despite being highly cinematic and unrealistic, this is what comes to mind for a lot people. According to, self-defense is defined as “the act of defending one’s person when physically attacked, as by countering blows or overcoming an assailant: the art of self-defense.” [1] While I can’t disagree with the definition, I can, however, say it doesn’t show the whole picture. Although the physical action of counter-attacking or even, preemptively striking is considered self-defense, it is only one aspect of what self-defense truly is.

Military and law enforcement break down attacks into 6 stages [2] (I have made a slight modification to cycle that fits better with self-defense): Target selection, observation of the target, attack planning/training, execution, escape, and finally, exploitation. I break self-defense down into three phases pre-attack, attack, post-attack, which the six stages fit into.

Phases of an attack

Now that you have an idea of what the phases of an attack are, lets better define self-defense in a way I can completely agree with (we will go into detail on each phase and stage in subsequent posts). Self-defense: the defense of oneself or others through the actions leading up to, through, and after an attack. Typically most self-defense classes and martial arts studios only focus on the attack phase. It is much more productive to understand violence (social and asocial) and learn how to avoid it. That’s not to say that the attack phase isn’t important to train for, it most definitely is, but why only focus one aspect of protecting yourself and loved ones? By learning how and where attacks unfold and how to spot “pre-incident indicators” [3], you will greatly increase your safety. Moreover, coupled with learning how to deal with the aftermath of an attack emotionally, criminally, and civilly is truly the epitome of self-defense.

I teach in all three phases but emphasize the importance of phases one and three. Why not avoid the incident all together? If I need to defend myself or others, its critical to understand how to deal with everything after wards.

1. self-defense. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved December 07, 2013, from website:

2.   Stratfor Global Intelligence, Stratfor on the Terrorist Attack Cycle, (Oct 3, 2012).

3.   Gavin De Becker, The Gift of Fear (New York, New York: Dell Publishing, 1997), 116.

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