Every person has different things to keep in mind when it comes to how their situation looks when using physical force to defend one’s self. Smaller women, like me, are more concerned with not looking like a victim, so we teach them how to carry themselves with confidence when walking about (more details in How to Avoid Looking Like an Easy Victim). We also teach them to make their psychological intention stronger to make it clear that they are not an ideal victim to their aggressors while simultaneously adding more force to their physical defense (more details in The Power of Intention in Self-Defense). But what about bigger, stronger men? Their situation is quite a bit different when it comes to how the situation looks, especially when it comes to bystanders.
Especially now when videos are easily taken with smart phones, bigger men have to be concerned with how they appear to potential witnesses when they use force to defend themselves. Even if they’re not the aggressor, and resort to reasonable physical tactics only to protect themselves, they might still be seen as the aggressor simply because they’re bigger, as many people only come to witness a fight after it’s already in progress, not having seen how it started in the first place. Add obvious combat training to their size and it makes it look worse.
The “Wimpy” Approach to Self-Defense
So instead of taking a pretty stance and emphasizing well-rehearsed martial form, bigger guys might want to consider the option of squealing like a 6-year-old and camouflaging their combat techniques with a desperate flail of arms and legs in an attempt to get away. Below is a video of Dave Woods Sensei, 4th Dan in Can-Ryu Jiu-jitsu, demonstrating this concept (in the second example).
Someone watching the second example in action in the above demonstration is not likely to assume Woods Sensei is the aggressor, despite the fact that he’s competently defending himself. While the second example in the video is intentionally comical, it was performed to make a point. Optics are everything when it comes to witnesses who might make assumptions based on the limited amount they see of a self-defense situation, and you don’t always get the chance to explain what happened to people around you. But even if you don’t want to use the extreme example, you can always go for the more moderate approach demonstrated in Woods Sensei’s third performance in which he yells defensive statements such as “Get off me!” which would easily serve to demonstrate the context of his using physical force.
In my case, I don’t have to worry quite as much about how things look as a smaller woman defending against a larger man. People see what they expect to see, which works in my favour. But anyone who is larger that trains in martial arts/self-defense should consider how their approach would look to witnesses so they can develop their own approach for minimizing the potential backlash of witnesses, whether it’s yelling defensive statements or squealing in a way that is clearly defensive.
Now over to you. Would you be willing to squeal like a 6-year-old as part of your defensive strategy? Or do you think this approach too embarrassing to consider? Or would you go for the more moderate approach of simply yelling defensive statements. What are your thoughts?
Editors Note: For more info, read the follow up article by Chris Olson Sensei, Priming Witnesses: Look the Part When Defending Yourself.