Are You Mentally Prepared for Self-Defense?

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by DP Friesen

Author of The Mind Sculpting Coach: Functional Mental Tools for High-Stress Performance.

Editor’s Note: Part of prepping is becoming mentally prepared for whatever may come ahead. You need to know that you can handle tomorrow’s problems from a mental perspective. It is for this reason that card games such as Conflicted are so popular: they give the user the opportunity to think through what they would do in a particular situation now so that they can make a quicker (and better) decision in the future.

To help our readers to be better mentally prepared for an uncertain future, today we have an excerpt from Part 5 of self-defense instructor D.P. Friesen’s book, The Mind Sculpting Coach: Functional Mental Tools for High-Stress Performance.


Part 5: Replication of reality (pages 210-213)

Any scenario-training needs to have as close as possible a correlation to the actual potential event. We have personal anecdotes of surviving violence now, omnipresent on social-media, media, news articles, blogs, books, case-studies, and a host of other avenues we didn’t have years ago, at least not to the intricate extent we do currently. We also have unlimited numbers of violence videos on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and others showing these events playing out in real-time and the results of varying decisions taken under duress, whether positive or negative. We have police reports and court documents released online at any given time. The volume of knowledge and education out there is never such that it is at this very point on the timeline, so the ability to “come as close as possible to the real thing” is more achievable now that at any other point.

One asterisk I’d put here is that far too often we tend to “victim-shame” in the self-defense industry. That is, spewing what the victim did wrong, what they’d do different, how someone could’ve survived “had they only” and this is utter garbage.

  1. We never know how we will react to a given circumstance…until we’re in it, and that might differ from one time to the next with similar or almost-identical circumstances rather drastically given context and states. It´s simply Internet couch-analysis if not willing to look at the pressures of the situation, the state of the victim, the surprise elements of the attack, one´s own personal biases when analyzing, and what a survivor did correctly to facilitate that survival. There’s far too much armchair-quarterbacking for the purpose of maintaining credibility, preventing honesty and weakness, and judging others in events we simply haven´t been in or may never be in. Case-studies are just that – a real-life case to break-down and see what options could have been available, which ones we think might have and yet may not have been, how micro-elements could have made a difference, and how pre-event elements might have factored-in. Don´t fall for the macho, “I would have”, “He/she should have”, “If it were Tom” drivel we perpetually see online or in-person.
  2. Unlimited unknown circumstances are always factors in events and they could be anything we may or may not be privy to. Attacker had a key, there was a previous relationship, previous interaction may have taken place, the store didn´t have appropriate security and after previous attempts did not take the correct precautions, lack of law-enforcement intervention when needed, media sensationalism of what actually took place, tertiary parties stating seeming-truths when they never actually interacted with victim or attacker other than a passing morning-wave. Endless. And we do not know the micro-elements that led to the event, leaving us to only guess certain elements of the overall picture.
  3. Media story-telling. As mentioned above, the media is often a very skewed opinion of what happened. They are present and accounted-for to make money, get viewership, and post eye-catching headlines to draw people in to listen to their side of the story – when they weren’t present. Interviewing satellite-entities who have literally no connection to either party. Making grandiose statements of how the isolated-event has far-reaching overall effects – “as you can see, violence is skyrocketing in this area!”, “this could happen to anybody!”, “the problem is clearly out-of-control!” Journalism, in its purest form, has no opinion – it is simply there to tell the story, as accurately and without bias as is possible. They provide the information on a surface-level, that’s all. The minute an opinion is given, it´s not journalism – it’s a personal opinion of anchor, reporter, news-outlet, tv-station, etc.

This also holds true to business. There are countless avenues, templates, books, blogs now that reveal unlimited business strategies and success stories. Regarding methods, they will always tell you how “their” method is the best as it´s yielded these particular results. Yet if we look elsewhere, a 5-minute Google search reveals multiple other methods that have yielded the exact same results. REMEMBER, there is NEVER one way to do a thing and do it successfully. That should limit a lot of your anxiety over “correct practices” and perfection being some kind of guide to success. We make errors, we adapt, we change gameplan mid-stream, we develop resilience. There IS often room for some error if your goal is to teach students, proteges, employees how to critically-think, improve snap decision-making, learn to adapt to dynamic-circumstance, and think outside the box. “The thinking fighter” can easily transition to “the thinking business-person” or “the thinking athlete.”

So, back to our replication of reality. Make the scenarios as close to the real thing as possible. Bring in outside actors who will authentically play the role required. Make the surrounding area a replica of the environment they´ll potentially and actually be present in when these events may take place. Place obstacles and barriers in whatever format – physical, emotional, mental, psychological – that challenge their perception. Here´s where distractions, always and forever present in real-life circumstance, that cover the gamut of senses can greatly benefit a student´s focus and attention.

Auditory distractions that drown-out sound, create split-attention, fog thinking. Visual distractions that prevent easier one-to-one solutions or focusing on the profile of a single person. Kinesthetic distractions that cause discomfort, spatial lack-of-preference, or connect to previous event-struggles. With a calm hand, this can be an incredible learning experience for the student which gets them out of in-the-box thinking from the one-dimensional solutions to always three-dimensional problems avenue most seem to peddle with their top-5, top-10, 3-things to global-success methodologies.

I can´t impart how important it is to give that post-exercise feedback, roundtable discussion, point-counterpoint, and detoxing-session that grounds the entire exercise and makes people willingly want to participate without fear of being chastised, judged, or critiqued by peers and superiors. Ask them how they felt, what they felt they would do differently the next round, what alternate strategies could have yielded success, what positives they exhibited, what their emotions and thoughts were doing and their physiological state during, and some strategies on how in the future that could be mitigated most effectively. If it becomes a macho dissection, mockery, with laughter and disrespect, it does more than just ruin the exercise, it runs the direct risk of countering the exact thing it was supposed to be building and create a very adverse-effect in the participant.

Remember, replicating reality can go as deep down the rabbit-hole as one wants to replicate actual sensations, sounds, event-specific elements, and collateral-effects. In martial arts, some have gone to great lengths to imitate the actual act during training so as to desensitize the mind to any negative or unplanned-for stimuli. While it is controversial and sometimes over-the-top, it really does depend on how far you want to take your realism, how much it´s actually needed and if you´ll come across it, and whether it has negative reverberating effects on one´s psyche by doing it when the odds – more so than the actual possibility of the act occurring. For example, some have resorted to practice biting and tearing on a piece of meat, knife-cutting on a meat-pole to replicate cutting flesh, breaking chicken-bones as they are the most replicable to human finger-bones, placing oranges around the eye area while gouging with fingers or thumbs into the orange as one´s partner screams, filling shoes with sand or material and practicing foot-stomps to replicate stomping on a human-foot, putting olive-oil or grease on the hands and arms to replicate blood while continuing close-range, putting earmuffs and neck-protectors on to attacks vitals safely without damaging one´s training-partner, placing a piece of beef on a dummy-body to practice things like fish-hooking, appendage-tearing, and orifice-penetration. While these are definitely a little on the extreme side (I tried all when younger and thinking erroneously that they were “necessary”), they do demonstrate a will to make training less casual and intention-less and put a focus on the severity and intensity of the actual act itself instead of solely paying lip-service to it and talking about it so flippantly on social-media.

Make sure to check out the book for more!

And, of course, don’t forget that food preparation is vitally important as well. Our free QUICKSTART GUIDE will help you to learn the steps you need to take to get your pantry in order.

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Guest Contributor

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  • All of this is well and good as general training. However life seldom reflects your training, it is a well known and documented fact.
    What matters more; is your commitment to survive at any cost, especially in a SHTF world.
    That will get you through when your training fails or falls short.

    Most of us are far too civilized to actually go there, so we try to rely on training to make up for that lack, sometimes it will even work.
    Many of those who will be doing violence( in a SHTF world) will have no hesitation in inflicting the maximum amount of pain or even death upon you. So unless you are ready to defend with the same attitude, you will probably lose the battle.
    Right now many attackers will be hesitant in going to the max level of violence. So we will tend to train for responding to this current, limited level of violence.

    So consider very carefully how you train or the training that you receive.

    • “Many of those who will be doing violence( in a SHTF world) will have no hesitation in inflicting the maximum amount of pain or even death upon you. So unless you are ready to defend”

      well since police will be absent and the initiators will be shooting first, how does one defend against that? like has been pointed out before, in the post-apocalypse world a gun and a couple of bullets will get you anything you need.

    • Exactly. I wouldn’t waste time learning martial arts–they train you to pull your punches and kicks so you don’t injure your classmate. Striking is only effective if you put your weight into the blow, and in traditional martial arts this is never taught. If you bloody the nose of an opponent in a tournament, you’ll lose the match by default for “excessive contact”. You will practice your pulled punches and kicks thousands of times in order to advance in your training, and on the street, once the adrenalin dump hits you, you’ll have tunnel vision, hear a rushing sound in your head, and you will fight the way you’ve trained–kiss-contact, pulled punches. Western boxing (think Tyson) or even kickboxing (Think Benny Urquidez) teaches you to strike with maximum power. You will spar with partners also training in the same fighting system. The styles are simpler, and more direct. In the street, never kick higher than your opponent’s groin. Word to the wise–if you’re facing attack on the street YOU attack, don’t wait for your assailant to strike first. The fighter than lands the first telling blow is likely to walk away with his bacon relatively intact. Don’t hang around waiting for the police. My personal experiencer has been the guy that’s bleeding on the ground goes for a ride in the back of an ambulance, and the guy who’s still standing goes for a ride in the back of a police car. I’ve been in both, and don’t recommend either one. If you leave the scene, the police have to figure out who you are, get a prosecutor to draft a warrant and a judge to sign that warrant. Lots of times, street criminals will refuse to talk to police, which means they won’t be getting a warrant for you. Worst case scenario, you’ve bought yourself a little time to seek legal advice. You ALWAYS leave the scene because you feared “his friends” would kill you…

  • As a correctional officer I am always alert to the possibility of violence and prepare myself accordingly. At work and at home. It’s exhausting sometimes, I have to take time off to decompress. Stay safe out there,everybody

  • For those commenting on a snippet without reading the book, I might suggest that reading the full book might actually clarify and correlate with a lot of what you´re commenting here.

  • There was a true crime show on the home invasion of an elderly woman who had studied self-defense for years. Due to her age and the youth and larger size of her attacker, her training was useless. He beat her up and mistakenly thought she had money, which she did not. Her nearly deaf roommate stumbled into the scene, and the home invader held them both at gunpoint. She waited for an opportunity and took it by running out of the house. The invader shot her in the head. Fortunately for her, the bullet grazed her head and her attacker didn’t bother to check and see if she was dead. She survived by hiding outdoors until the creep took off. The moral of the story: don’t bring your fists to a gunfight.

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