A person walks into a gym and wants to learn self-defense. They have seen some shit in their life, experienced it first hand. They have an abusive ex, in fact, they have a history of abusive relationships. They are now ready to take back control of their life and learn to defend themselves. Where do you start? A crash course in self-defense would be an injustice to this person, unless they understand how and why they ended up in the abusive situation to begin with.
The one thing I can say for certain about the art of Jiu-Jitsu is we do not repeat patterns very long, specifically when we are submitted for doing so. Rather we find our way through analyzing, adapting, and evolving. How quickly this happens is up to the individual. Many times it’s just getting out of our own way, mindsets, and allowing the process to change us. In this way, Jiu-Jitsu “unravels” a lot of the craziness in our heads and puts things into a clearer perspective.
Self-defense is the same way, we can’t really move forward with the physical aspect unless we have an understanding of the how and why. I like to call this “The Psychology of Self defense 101”.
Learning to change patterns in our life starts with analyzing the behavior and finding ways to change our course, thus changing the outcome. Personal self-defense starts with the right mindset. A healthy mindset is believing that we deserve to be treated and interacted within a safe and respected manner. We enforce this mindset by setting boundaries.
bound·a·ry: a clear line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.
Who decides our boundaries? We do. Who defines what is safe and respectful behavior? Again, we do. There are obvious behaviors in our laws and social norms that are considered “appropriate” and “inappropriate” behaviors. What those things mean to us is how we set our boundaries. What are the things we consider “disrespectful” to our person? What are the behaviors that we consider “unsafe”? Within those clear definitions, we set the parameters of our personal boundaries.
I mentioned “disrespect” in synonyms with safety, because a person who does not respect you will most likely not be concerned about your personal safety.
You have told someone, that you don’t like or feel comfortable with a certain behavior they have displayed toward you. You are setting personal boundaries. If this person does not immediately, or at least gradually recognize and change the behavior, they have crossed your boundaries. If they don’t respect your boundaries, they don’t respect you.
You are in a gas station at midnight getting fuel for the next morning. The parking lot is dim and there is no one around at this hour. Your standing by your car and across the alley you see a dark figure moving toward you. You don’t know who it is, but their steady approaching is making you feel unsafe. You quickly run through several rationalizations in your head as to why not to overreact, but a dull, empty feeling is still nagging in your gut, Instincts says: “danger, high alert”. How do you know this person and how do you know their intentions? There is one way to find out, you hold your hands out in front of you and you say “Stop right there!”. If they stop and identify themselves to you, and you choose to allow the interaction to continue, then that is one scenario. But what if they don’t stop? What if they just keep coming toward you? You hold out your hands and this time yell “STOP!”. You set a clear boundary surely they will stop, but what if they don’t? If they don’t stop, then for survival sake you must assume that this person has ill intentions toward you, and you must either flee or prepare to fight.
How is example #1 different from example #2? It’s not really.
It is astonishing to learn how many people don’t really understand the concept of setting boundaries in their own lives. It is not only their right, but their responsibility to set parameters into which other will interact with them.
Other people’s behavior does not dictate the level of respect or safety you feel, you set those boundaries and dictate to others how you will be interacted with. It is your choice and within your control. Does this mean that others will away respect your boundaries? A very clear No.
This is where you choose to allow them to pass your boundaries or you prepare to defend them. Defending your boundaries may be as simple as walking away from a potential argument, or toxic person. At other times defending your boundaries could mean physically defending yourself, and we can help with that.
Either way, your safety is most important. Setting personal boundaries starts and ends with a clear understanding that you have the right to feel respected and safe, and no one ever has the right to make you feel otherwise.