Should you be training for Self-Defense or Self-Offense? Both? What is the difference?
These are common questions asked by people not only in the self-defense industry, but across the martial arts world. To really boil it down, Self-Defense should be actions taken while Self-Offense is the mindset.
What do I mean by this? Well to start, let’s look at Self-Defense. Self-Defense doesn’t start when you are in the middle of a conflict. It actually starts well before the event, with situational awareness. It is ever present as you go through your day. Being aware of what is taking place in your environment, words that are spoken, people in that environment. Not having your face buried in your phone is always a good place to start. Having strong situational awareness is a major key to having strong self-defense skills. It’s what can potentially save you from a situation in the first place. Situational awareness isn’t the only aspect of Self-Defense that is important because utilizing conflict avoidance is another important skill. Conflict avoidance isn’t just trying to talk someone down from a fight, but it plays off of situational awareness by removing yourself from a potential conflict before it even unfolds.
There is also the aspect most commonly associated with Self-Defense and that is the skill set to defend oneself. It is proper to categorize these skills as Self-Defense. Defense by its very nature is reactionary to an action. The mass majority of Self-Defense skills taught are a reaction to an attack. Even Pre-Emption skills can be considered Self-Defense because proper use of Pre-Emption would be in response to a perceived threat prior to a physical attack. This could be due to language, impeding movement or threatening gestures. All of which under the right terms of perception can provide justification of Self-Defense by pre-empting the physical attack. Understanding this is actually quite important. Those that push Self-Offense as a skill set run the risk of destroying their own legal argument to the right of Self-Defense.
So what then is Self-Offense? I pose it that Self-Offense properly defined would be the use of Self-Defense skills utilizing an Offensive mindset. To paraphrase one of the greatest Master Combatives instructors in the world, Kelly McCann, being defensive is at best delaying the inevitable. The self-defense community understands this and that is why there is a push for Self-Offense. However, it needs to be properly understood. When you find yourself in an inescapable conflict, being defensive (read reactionary) is not enough. You must immediately switch from a defensive mindset to an offensive one. Covering up in the fetal position will not make your attacker stop. YOU must make them stop. You can not win (or potentially survive) being solely defensive. You must go on offense to actually protect yourself in Self-Defense. Only after the attacker is no longer a threat or escape is created do you scale it back.
Self-Defense skills are absolutely important to have. Especially prior to and after a conflict, in that you are able to properly articulate your use of self-defense. Of course, the Self-Defense skills including techniques and strikes are important, but realistically the Self-Offense mindset is of greater need in the middle of the conflict when the fists are flying. Really, Self-Defense and Self-Offense simply go hand in hand; one providing the skills and the other providing the necessary mindset to overcome the threat.