The Wrong Question – Erik Kondo



“You can’t get the right answer from the wrong question”. I heard that statement from Rory Miller.

In terms of a self-defense discussion, the wrong question usually beings as “I want to learn some moves”, or “please show us some moves”.

This question inevitably leads to the Self-Defense Instructor demonstrating a technique to be execute into a particular situation. The problem is that the Instructor is demonstrating the “move” that he or she would use, not a move that most other people could emulate without physical, emotional, and spiritual training, the judgment of when the “move” is appropriate for the situation, and the successive actions necessary in the likely event that the first “move” fails.

The Instructor, by the very nature of his or her training and choice of self-defense profession is not comparable physically, mentally, and emotionally to the majority of the people seeking “moves’. Thus, the question needs to sound more like “Given my current lack of physical training and ability, my inhibitions from social conditioning, my emotionally fearful state, and my lack of clarity as to what would be actually happening, and my unwillingness to devote much time, energy, and resources to self-defense study, what is something I could reliable do in this [described] scenario?”

No longer is the quality of the answer dependent upon the Instructor’s own ability to execute. It is about the Student actually being able to perform the suggested “move” in a real life situation. The Instructor is now judged on how well the Student could perform the suggested ‘move” regardless of the Instructor’s personal ability. The determining factor is the Student’s likelihood of success, not Instructor’s likelihood of success.

The problem with this more involved question is that the Student does not want to be informed of his or her limitations. He or she is unhappy to settle for a “move” that is so basic in nature that it can not even be described as a “move”.

For most beginning students with the limitations of mind, body, and spirit as noted above, the best “move” if physically attacked in an asocial predatory situation is to make as much noise a possible and move away from the attacker as best they can.” The “move” is to loudly move.  Given that the classic “victim” is silent and frozen in fear, loudly moving is not a classic “victim response”.

This “move” is not what the Student is looking for because the Student is asking the wrong question. A more appropriate question would be to ask “Given my current mental, physical, and emotional abilities and limitations, what can I actively do to deter being assaulted in the first place?” This question does not get asked because most people think that self-defense begins with the physical assault, not well before it.

There is no sexiness and glory in deterrence. But understanding deterrence is a prerequisite to understanding what to do when deterrence is not enough.



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