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"One thing has always been true: That book ... or ... that person who can give me an idea or a new slant on an old idea is my friend." - Louis L'Amour

"Ideally, your self-defense will never get physical. Avoiding the situation and running or talking you way out - either of these is a higher order of strategy than winning a physical battle." - Wise Words of Rory Miller, Facing Violence: Chapter 7: after, subparagraph 7.1:medical

"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider..." - Francis Bacon

Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.

Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.

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What is Self-Defense?

What is it and how does that definition apply to the martial arts (emphasis on Okinawan karate, my system of practice)? In the past I have attempted to answer this question with some success but in reality the questions answers have changed drastically. 

In MA/SD the emphasis is most often on the technique, i.e. here is an attack and you need to learn this to counter it, etc. This is no where near true self-defense, as I understand it. Note: remember, all this is my perspective, my perceptions as to experience, training and practice all subject to validation through reality/real life experience as such.

So, lets answer the topic title question first, “What is Self-defense?” In order to fully understand what SD is you have to gain knowledge of all the area’s that involve and affect conflict and violence as it applies to SD - and that is also a narrow view port to the entire spectrum of SD, Conflict and Violence (just take a look at the terse, incomplete/not comprehensive, list in the below bibliography for more). Responses are my personal opinions on the quotes and do not reflect the teachings of Rory Miller or his books.

If you are in MA for SD then consider the following as quoted from, “Meditations on Violence,” by Rory Miller:

1. Donning a black belt, stepping in front of a class to teach, you are seen as an expert on violence.

Response: The simple truth is that many of these experts have no experience with violence.

2. Fair, does not happen in real life, not if the bad guys have anything to say about it and not if the professional good guys do, either.

Response: Almost everything within the teachings of “MOST MA” are based on mutual agreement, safety, and a sense of fair play. Fair play does not exist in real life.

3. If there has been little conflict in your life, your character, your identity, is mostly fictional.

Response: As Mr. Miller will say later in his book, most of what we know about this subject comes by “Word-of-Mouth” and often that comes from what we are exposed to as to media, etc. i.e., television, news as to TV and Internet, movies and other entertainment stuff.

4. Survival is very much a matter of guts and feelings and smells and sounds and very, very little a subject of words.

Response: This kind of describes those reality based things that are not taught in SD. SD tends to be mostly about words as to conveying the teachings along with what one feels are correct responses to conflict and violence - most often techniques against specified and specific techniques - and feelings that are not validated by first hand experience applying SD in real life, etc.

5. Take the information in this book (referencing his book meditation on violence) and treat it skeptically as hell.

Response: Take that to mean all his books, all his works, all his teachings and all his experiences simply because they are “HIS and NOT YOURS.” What works for me may or may not work for you and that goes the same even from an expert and professional such as Mr. Miller and so on. This includes other media outlets such as video’s, seminars, classes, the Internet postings, and so on to INCLUDE any and all the stuff I put out from my end - especially my stuff cause I ain’t no professional and ain’t no expert. 

6. Physical Response to Violence - not about effective technique but about what makes a technique effective

Response: Don’t take any direct and seperated quote as gospel but rather as a small part of a whole because this quote by itself means a good deal but know that avoidance, etc., are far more important - in my mind - than learning ROTE techniques against ROTE attacks, etc.

7. Martial arts and artists, and even people who fight for real on a regular basis have also only seen a very small part of this big thing. Often, the best know one aspect very well, but that is only one aspect.

Response: To my mind this statement simply emphasizes that SD, Conflict and Violence is HUGE and COMPLEX and NO ONE can teach you everything and every method to defend against it. Even the professional who provides us this window toward a complex and difficult subject will readily admit that what they experienced was only a narrow view of the entire picture. One reason I have several of these guys works in my library and under my studies, they all have benefits according to their personal experiences and beliefs, etc. 

8. Violence is complicated as HELL (my emphasis all caps). Just “ONE PIECE (my emphasis again)” - Interpersonal violence - you would need to understand physics, anatomy and physiology, athletics, criminal law, group dynamics, criminal dynamics, evolutionary psychology, biology and evolutionary biology, endocrinology, strategy, and even moral philosophy.

Response: Wow! See what I mean. It is a wonder that more folks are not hurt or killed by conflict and violence than what occurs today. I cannot think of one person I have met over the last thirty-eight years or so that can meet those credentials and teaches self-defense or martial arts, not one. I can’t claim them for sure although I am working on understanding them a bit, a small bit. I suspect that Rory Miller may have actually truncated the list for brevity and to get the point across that it is really, really COMPLICATED. Just read his books then read Marc MacYoung’s book INoSD and then realize they are just touching the surface of this subject. 

Note: Although my efforts so far was to answer the original question the following actually does that for me as a quote from the book used to create this post.

9. Self-Defense is recovery from stupidity or bad luck, from finding yourself in a position you would have given almost anything to prevent. It is difficult to train for because of the surprise element and because you may be injured before you are aware of the conflict. The critical element is “To overcome the shock and surprise” so that you “Can act,” to “Beat the freeze.” Self-defense is about recovery. The ideal is to prevent the situation. The optimal mindset is often a conditioned response that requires no thought (for the first half-second of the attack) or a focused rage

Response: I can say that little to none of my martial arts training was geared toward any of the above in regard to self-defense or even fighting other than maybe the school yard scuffles, social stuff, we all experienced in our youth. This may not be a complete and comprehensive explanation to what is self-defense but it does provide a good picture to compare to what we are all taught as self-defense. 

Response: If we are truly going to study a martial art toward self-defense then we have to take into consideration all that these professionals provide as to the world of conflict and violence. It is NOT what we think it is and it is NOT what we perceive as to our narrow exposure to experiences we may have encountered in life. Very few are exposed to long-term conflict and violence. Even the professionals who are required to step into harms way experience a very narrow view of conflict and violence as dictated by the professional description of their jobs be it military vs. police vs. corrections vs. professional protection vs. bouncers and so on. 

Every time I study the subject and re-study previous studies I find new and different views and teachings and that has not gone into the actual reality based training and practices they recommend if one is serious toward self-defense, etc. Yet, our society is flooded with folks who are “Experts” in the field of teaching MA/SD. 

Just remember, when in a MA/SD training enviroment remember what you read in Mr. Millers publications then consider some of these quotes about black belts and the next one:

“Martial arts try to do more … Some studios promise self-defense skills and tournament trophies, discipline and self-discovery, fitness and confidence, and even spiritual growth and enlightenment.” These are different skills and they are trying to teach them from one profession, one view, one perspective and one perceptive view. “Not one of them is like dueling, sparring, or waging a war.”

Bibliography (The above post are my thoughts and mine alone, the below are simply sources that influence my thoughts on this subject):
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Meditations of Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence" YMAA Publishing. 2008.
MacYoung, Marc. "In the Name of Self-Defense: What It Costs. When It’s Worth It." Marc MacYoung. 2014.
Goleman, Daniel. "Emotional Intelligence: 10th Anniversary Edition [Kindle Edition]." Bantam. January 11, 2012.
Miller, Rory. "ConCom: Conflict Communications A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication." Amazon Digital Services, Inc. 2014. 
Miller, Rory and Kane, Lawrence A. "Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision-making under Threat of Violence." YMAA Publisher. New Hampshire. 2012
Miller, Rory. "Force Decisions: A Citizen's Guide." YMAA Publications. NH. 2012.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected." YMAA Publishing. 2011.
Elgin, Suzette Haden, Ph.D. "More on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense." Prentice Hall. New Jersey. 1983.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1995
Morris, Desmond. “Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behavior.” Harry N. Abrams. April 1979.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1993.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Written Self-Defense" MJF Books. 1997
Maffetone, Philip Dr. “The Maffetone Method: The Holistic, Low-stress, No-Pain Way to Exceptional Fitness.” McGraw Hill, New York. 2000

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