I owe my father full credit for inspiring this article. Years and years ago, he handed down the following wisdom:
“Sometimes, you have to learn what NOT to do.”
Truer words were never spoken. Learning what not to do—the mistakes, pitfalls, and disasters to avoid—is sometimes the best approach available to us. This applies in full to the world of self-defense and personal protection: there’s a lot of disinformation out there. I’m going to address some of it here so that you, the reader, can avoid becoming “That Guy/Girl”.
Don’t focus on physical self-defense.
This is the biggest single mistake I see folks making, and I’ve seen it a lot. I’ve been to seminars and watched martial arts experts teach wholly impractical techniques for self-defense (breaking the bad guy’s neck crosses a line in most cases), and seen very few talk about verbal de-escalation, conflict avoidance, or just plain running away. These are all better tools in most cases, but they’re often overlooked.
Don’t become a gadget junkie.
There are a lot of self-defense tools and toys on the market, and it’s easy to get focused on buying more stuff rather than acquiring and perfecting skills. And hey, if you’ve got the budget for it collecting these devices can be a fun hobby, but it’s not self-defense. Consistent practice and learning how to use the tools you have available will go a lot further toward keeping you safe.
Don’t become a chatterbox.
We have all had the nightmarish experience of being caught on a plane/bus/train/waiting room with someone who will go on and on about one very specific topic, in frightening, mind-numbing detail. Don’t do that. Just don’t. Your friends, neighbors, and passers-by will thank you. Also, nothing compromises a security plan like ensuring that everyone in town knows the particulars. And while we’re on the subject . . .
Don’t get paranoid.
This is akin to chatterbox syndrome, in that an over-riding focus on self defense and personal protection. Your home security and self defense plans are part of your life, and they should add to the quality of that life, not detract from it. Letting the paranoia take over and dominate every decision you make, every quiet moment at home—that’s not making your life better. If you sense that starting to happen, take a break.
Don’t get cocky.
While one of the big benefits of self defense planning is a confidence boost, don’t let it go to your head. A big part of personal protection is avoiding potential danger, so don’t start swaggering through life. A general rule: If upon entering a place or situation you find yourself thinking, “Damn, I’m sure glad I have pepper spray/my taser/know hand-to-hand combat, etc”, it’s time to get out of there, fast.
I’m sure there are other potential mistakes, but these are the most common and the most dangerous in my experience. But my experience isn’t everything—so please share your ideas via email or the comments section. You can even hit me up on Twitter if you’ve a mind. Regardless, I hope this article helped and I’ll look forward to hearing from you.