The next self-defense recommendation from practitioners of the traditional Japanese martial art of shotokan karate is to build your self-confidence. Confidence in your ability to fight back largely determines if you’ll survive an attack unscathed.
Second-degree black-belt Kelly Schwartz’s self-assurance received a wake-up call early in her training. “At one tournament, my opponent roundhouse-kicked me in the cheek,” she remembers. “What did I do? Did I get mad? Did I fight back fervently? No. I started to cry. But sometimes you need to be hit. You need to feel it so you won’t be afraid.”
James Field, a seventh degree in shotokan, remembers how his self-confidence blossomed during his training. Several days before an important tournament, he discovered that he would have to spar with someone known for his match-winning front kicks.
“When my instructor learned I was going to face this guy, he had me practice a particular counter-technique over and over,” James Field recalls. “Predictably, when that opponent and I squared off, he tried to front-kick me, but I stopped him with the counter-technique I had practiced. That really boosted the confidence I had in myself.”
Practice makes perfect. The repetition and discipline shotokan requires increased Tibor Hegedus’ self-confidence exponentially. As a beginner, he became nervous just thinking about being assaulted on the street. Like many people untrained in self-defense, he wasn’t sure what to do if attacked. That nearly destroyed his self-confidence.
“But shotokan training taught me to control myself,” he maintains. “It taught me to stay calm and, most important, to remain confident during a fight.”
Perhaps the biggest confidence builder for Tibor Hegedus was the continuous repetition of basic techniques throughout his shotokan workouts. It taught him to manage his emotions and actions, which eventually helped him control his nervousness.
If you must think about how to fight back, it’s usually too late. While you’re busy plotting your next move, your assailant will beat you senseless. That’s why the best self-defense moves are automatic. It is a concept James Field can’t emphasize enough.
“When shotokan students practice basic sparring, we try to develop reaction,” he says. “Ideally, when you’re attacked, you’ll react automatically. The further you go in your shotokan training, the more your techniques will become reactions. They’ll become second nature to you. At the junior level of training, you learn basics. But when you graduate to the upper level, you learn the reaction of application.”
Tibor Hegedus agrees. His technique was so precise when he was attacked in Hungary that he didn’t need to think about his response. He reacted automatically. “When my attacker tried to hit me, my arms suddenly blocked,” he recalls. “And when I hit him, I knew what my target was and how I was going to strike. It was like my arms had eyes.”
Maintain an average appearance. Boxers and grapplers look tough — like fighters. Similarly, weightlifters, bodybuilders and other muscular athletes are usually big and strong enough to defend themselves. But shotokan practitioners can fool you because they often look like average people. That’s good, though, because it gives them an added advantage if attacked.
It took James Field several years to fully realize this. “Throughout training, your body develops in ways you don’t recognize,” he observes. “For example, when you repeatedly practice punching, you become strong, but you don’t see it. It’s not like lifting weights because your physique doesn’t change much. Yet you become strong and toned — much more so than average people on the street.”
Monitor your mindset. Wouldn’t it be great if you could prepare yourself for an attack whenever you train? Shotokan students do that when practicing their techniques.
For Mary-Beth Macaluso, this is one of the art’s most appealing assets. “When we train, we’re as serious as we would be during a life-and-death struggle,” she explains. “Our mindset throughout each session is that we’re really defending ourselves. We’re conditioning our minds to see our attackers and to fight them with every move we make.”
Weigh Your Options
You don’t have to surrender your life if you’re being mugged. You have options. A hand-to-hand battle with a vicious, desperate thug would terrify anyone, but if you’re prepared, you can prevent such a catastrophe — or at least fight back and escape.
Your choices? At one extreme, you could become a recluse, shutting yourself off from the rest of the world. But that wouldn’t stop someone from invading your home and attacking you. At the other extreme, you could hire bodyguards — if you could afford them. As a third option, you could arm yourself. Plenty of legal weapons are available. However, you must be trained to use them effectively and safely. And what if you can’t get to your weapon in time?
The martial arts provide a safe, practical and effective fourth option. Many fighting systems can do the job, but none does it better than shotokan.
For Your Consideration: Will You Be Attacked?
How do attackers choose their victims? James Field has taught self-defense for four decades. During that time, he’s carefully studied how predators pick their prey.
“While in college, I worked in recreation centers and talked to young thugs,” James Field recalls. “They told me they could simply look at certain people and see they were easy targets. There was something about these potential victims: their posture, demeanor, the way they walked. Many avoided eye contact.”
One way to prevent an attack, then, is to avoid looking like an easy victim. “Walk with energy and self-confidence,” James Field says. “Make brief eye contact with people you encounter, but don’t act aggressively and don’t try to stare them down.”
Your body language often reveals whether you’re a potential victim. Rest assured that the bad guys are watching you.
To read Part 1 of this article, go here.
To download a FREE Guide titled “Karate Techniques: Fumio Demura Reveals How to Make 6 Types of Karate Moves Work Properly,” visit this link.