As a martial arts instructor, I often find myself enjoying and focusing on the physical aspect of self-defense. I mean, its why people seek out instructors, isn't it? It's fun, you feel empowered, and in the end you feel like you can handle yourself if it all came down to a physical altercation. However, martial arts and self defense should be more than becoming more efficient at beating people up if you wanted to. The bigger picture is being able to avoid the fight to begin with.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all about defending yourself if it comes down to it, but the reality is that it probably shouldn't have came down to it in the first place. I've known plenty of people who have gotten thrown in jail on account of "self-defense" and I'm positive that if they were able to redo the situation, they would have done things much differently. So why didn't they do it in the first place?
To put it simply, most people don't know how to do things differently. It takes practice to be able to tactfully de-escalate a situation. Even as a practitioner of the martial arts, I would gladly prefer a verbal altercation than have it become a physical one. Does this mean letting people walk over you to avoid conflict? Absolutely not. Part of it is about letting them say what they want, as long as they do what I want. For example, they can call me names as long as they are walking away. How is this accomplished? It all starts with one word: empathy.
According to Dr. George Thompson, empathy is perhaps the most powerful word in the English language. Basically, if you are able to empathize with your "opponent," then you are better able to "absorb the tension" (Thompson). You don't have to like the person. Just understand how they see you at that moment. Knowing this can show you how to talk to your opponent and no one gets hurt.
Dr. George Thompson states there are 5 Universal Truths to Verbal Judo:
If you want to know more about protecting yourself with your mouth, then I highly recommend the book Verbal Judo by Dr. George Thompson. I actually tell people to read this book often as the principles apply to virtually every aspect of my life: talking to my wife, talking to bosses, talking to students...basically talking to anyone!. There's a link down here if you wanted to get a copy for yourself.
Sifu Alex Gacuya
I have been training in martial arts since 1995 in several arts, often dabbling here and there but I always find myself returning to Kenpo. I have competed in the open circuit, trained with champions, and have taught along the way. After 25 years of training and teaching, I'm here to give my two cents on everything martial arts related.