What If….? – Andrea Harkins (Conflict Manager, SEPTEMBER, 2015)

What If….?

What if you are attacked?

What if someone sticks a knife in your back?

What if you don’t know how to defend yourself?

“What ifs” are terrible.  They are projections of situations and scenarios that may never happen. They increase fear and make you anxious and leave you feeling uneasy all the time. There are many ways to teach self-defense and many angles from which you can draw information and conclusions, but none include the elusive “what ifs.”

I’ve been a “what if” person for a long time.  It just comes naturally.  “What if my car breaks down? What if I can’t afford to pay that bill?  What if I get sick? What if I get lost?”

Finally, one day, I realized that I was projecting a great amount of fear and negativity into my life by thinking about events that were just in my mind.  In some cases, I think I even subconsciously jinxed myself in order to achieve my relentless, contrived negative prophesies and predictions. Negativity can work that way.  It starts to impose on your life and builds up so much momentum that before you know it, you know no other way. Your guard is down.

Another way that “what ifs” work against you are examined in the questions I posed in the beginning of this article.  These are self-projections that are not set in fact or fiction, but in fear.  When you struggle with fear, you automatically lower your defenses and expose your vulnerabilities.  People do not realize that “what ifs” create unduefearful emotions that hinder real self-defense.  These “what if’s” strategically replace awareness and self-confidence with worry and anxiety.  I can tell you right now that neither worry, nor anxiety, has ever saved a person’s life in an attack situation.

Think about how you feel when you are scared; or, even more importantly, how you look.  Your face contorts almost unknowingly.  In the eyes of a perpetrator, you become the perfect victim.  You’re “what ifs” that you thought were preparing you, were actually bathing you in fear and working against you.  A perpetrator can use this to his advantage because fear is noticeable, and he will immediately target you as a potential, easy victim.

Those self-absorbed with fear have difficulty standing their ground when the time comes.  Emotions and thoughtless reactions work in unison to welcome defeat; the better equipped individual is the one who takes action to eliminate unnecessary fear, and strengthen his awareness. Instead of injecting fear or playing out scenarios that may never happen, it is best to take control of vulnerabilities by doing something that makes sense.

Take action.

The actions that can take place, that will better prepare someone for defense than “what ifs,” are many.  If you are an instructor, or someone who just cares about solid safety values and a strong mindset, here’s exactly what you should share with all who have not thought through how to be prepared through “actions” and not “what if’s.”

  1. Take a Self-Defense class.  Self-defense is inherently different from martial arts, although some martial art techniques may filter through.  The difficulty with self-defense classes is that women are afraid of them! Yes, they are fearful of not knowing what to expect, so if the class can be entertaining, refreshing, and right on point about true defense, a woman is more likely to attend.  These generally attract non-martial artists, so fitness levels, interests, and reasons for attending vary.  This is number one on the list.  Fear can be decreased through the actions involved in learning a viable self-defense system.

2. Try a martial art.  Yes, they are different than self-defense courses, but they do offer some valuable tools and techniques.  I’ve been a martial artist for twenty-six years and also teach some components of martial arts that include grabs and escapes.  I can kick high, if I want, but true defense only needs a good kick to the knee or groin.  Discerning where and how to kick, if that is part of your defense strategy, has nothing to do with height or speed, but more to do with accuracy.  Wrist locks, head locks, grabs, and other offensive holds all have escapes that can be learned.  Plus, martial arts training helps with self-confidence factors and resilience, both of which mean a great deal in defense situations.

3. Utilize Resources. Direct your friends, students, and families to resources that you trust. There may be websites, books, or on-line materials that you’ve read and with which you agree. There is a plethora of social media outlets these days where questions from simple to complex can be asked and answered.  Everyone has an opinion so no need to accept everything as fact, but something might just make sense for exactly what you need.  Don’t hoard.  Give up your great tools and resources to others who can really use them.

4. Practice.  Even if you have taken a self-defense or martial art class, they can be for nothing if they are not practiced.  Self-defense courses can be short, maybe even a few hours.  A refresher each year is a must.  A martial art takes a while to really learn. Movements and gestures only make sense after a while of application.  The key to strengthening defense here, is practice.

4. Read Inspiring Tales. Nothing hits home like reading a true story about someone whose self-defense saved their life.  What happened? What did they think? How did they react? What kind of confidence erupted? Learning from others, being inspired and motivated by their situations, can quickly kick-start self-defense thoughts into action.

Final words of advice to share:

Take action and remove the crazy “what ifs” from your life.  Arm yourself with simple but strong self-defense concepts.  By increasing self-confidence and controlling fear, you become more aware of who you are and of what you are capable.

I don’t know how you plan to proceed, but my goal is to eliminate “what ifs” from my thoughts.  They are detrimental and stifling and don’t allow me to clearly see the opportunities I have to learn more about self-defense and awareness.  If you are an instructor of self-defense or a martial art, you have a responsibility to give your students a fighting chance.  Help them to know that real concepts, real actions, real defenses, can help them; but, “what ifs” will always hold them back from understanding awareness and self-protection, and maybe even prevent them from saving their lives. Instead, do the one thing that will really help.

Take Action.

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