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Does Self-Defence Make You Violent?

As someone who teaches self-defence, I come across a surprising amount of people who seem to believe that learning to defend yourself will turn you into an inherently violent person, ready to “fight” at any opportunity. In my experience, this could not be further from the truth.

The word 'STOP'

If anything, learning reality based self-defence, with a good coach or club, makes you less likely to engage in any “fighting” because you learn to respect violence and how much damage and pain it can cause if used in an aggressive way. You are not taught to admire violence or think it is cool. You realise how much control one human has over another if they have hold of their throat. You are taught to understand that if someone chokes you, you do not have long to react.

A good self-defence coach teaches you that the first part of defending yourself is becoming more aware of what is around you and learning to trust your gut instincts. Simple things like walking assertively, not being glued to your phone when out and about, not having both headphones in and being oblivious to the world. If that person you’ve met gives you a funny feeling that you can’t explain, there is probably a reason your body is feeling that. If the idea of walking down that particular road feels unsafe this evening, don’t do it – go the other way.

The system I teach is CROSS Krav Maga. CROSS stands for Combat Ready Offensive Survival System. The first defence they teach you is avoidance where possible, when that is not an option, it teaches you to deal with the threat, disengage and escape the situation as quickly and safely as possible. The first rule we have in the gym is, “No Egos.”

Scales symbol with female and male icon on each side of the scales. The scale is evenly balanced.

I was in a relationship with a much older man as a teenager, he had a violent temper at the best of times but when fuelled with alcohol or cocaine it was frightening. To be faced with such raw, physical violence was a shock to my system and it took me years to come to terms with the things that happened whilst I was in that relationship. When I started training in martial arts, I felt stronger in myself but I was still frightened deep down.

Once I found reality based self-defence, I never looked back. Learning about violence, what causes it, how to deal with it verbally and then physically if necessary. Understanding that when that man used to choke me, he could so easily have held that choke for longer and killed me. Learning that if someone ever chokes me again, there is a way to get out of it and escape the situation, that was hugely empowering for me. It didn’t make me want to go out and choke people to test things out or start fighting in pub car parks. It made me feel as if I could walk down the street with my shoulders back and feel safer in myself.

I have trained with a lot of men and a few women over the years and they have nearly all been fantastic to train with. People who want to feel safer and more able to protect themselves and those they love. None of them are violent, in fact I would suggest they are the person most likely to be de-escalating any potential situations or, even better, avoiding it in the first place!

Philippa Scannell, November 2021

Silhouette of a woman with head back, arms flung wide, feeling free

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