After being ingrained in the martial arts and self-defense industry for over 20+ years now, I’ve come across all kinds of practitioners, students and teachers alike the world over. I’ve met some incredible people through this industry and was blessed in many ways with the friends that I have made.
Speaking from the personal protection perspective as that has always been our primary directive; I have found the degrees to which people train in both fascinating and interesting based on various things factoring from beliefs to culture to environment to job etc.
Beliefs were the first things that struck me as most fascinating as the varying beliefs went from extreme paranoia to complete apathy & denial with everything in between as a reason for training or studying self-defense, or not.
I made a distinction between training and studying because although many do both, I have found that there are equally as many who only do the research or studying without putting in any physical training and vice versa leading to what I believe to be a more harm than good type of practice. All theory and no action or the other way around leaves too much room for error and leaves one open to the deer in headlights syndrome, nothing anyone would want to be in when facing a real, live threat.
Since actual factors such as environment, lifestyle and job can vary the ranges of need regarding self-defense training depending on circumstances predicated by such factors, I will be focusing on the two extreme ends of the belief spectrum here.
There are beliefs that range from always being ‘prepared’ or living in ‘code red’ if you will to ‘never worry be happy, violence only comes to those who attract it’. Both interesting perspectives, both a little right and left wing if you ask me but nonetheless, interesting.
Examining the first belief of always being prepared which usually deals with actions such as: Always carrying a weapon no matter where one goes, always keep a weapon in every room of the house, always be aware of improvised weapons, always watch everyone’s hands, train to pre-empt at first or any sign of aggression, etc. is a very safe way of living sure, but it also isn’t a healthy one. Adopting this sort of thought process, unless your ‘job’ or ‘lifestyle’ dictated it by circumstance and choice, it could lead to many personal, physical & mental health problems in the long run.
The constant activation of the adrenal stress glands through the emotion of fear and stress create a physiological imbalance in the body disrupting nearly every system in it. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process through the increase of ‘free radicals’ which can lead to various cancers. Long-term stress induced thoughts can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable and susceptible to general feelings of anxiety and depression.
Regardless to what degree of stress or fear causes one to live as such, as no one lives as such unless they fear an assault or attack at one level or another, the body doesn’t distinguish between physical and psychological threats. Add to that the daily stresses of a busy schedule, an argument with a spouse, a traffic jam when you’re late, or a mountain of bills - your body, on a physiological level, reacts just as strongly as if you were facing a life-or-death situation.
If you have a lot of responsibilities and worries and you add to that the daily chore of concern of protecting yourself from a possible assault, your emergency stress response may be “on” most of the time. The more your body’s stress system is activated, the easier it becomes to activate it and the harder it becomes to shut it off.
Also, regularly training under the intended inoculation of the adrenal stress condition phase, causing the over activation of the fight or flight branch of the nervous system (though excellent for replicating reality and a necessary part self-defense training) it can also be detrimental without enough activation of the calm, peaceful, restful and meditative state of the body & mind.
Both branches need equal stimulation if a healthy strong and balanced body and mind are to be cultivated and maintained. That way, if it ever does come down to fight or flight, your nervous system will be able to perform at its peak therefore truly enhancing your survivability rate at its maximum.
It’s important to learn how to be self aware of one’s own physiological responses to stressful thoughts. The most dangerous thing about stress-induced emotions is how easily they can creep up on you. You get used to them. It begins to feel familiar, even normal. You don’t notice how much it’s affecting you as it takes a heavy toll on one's life and then it’s generally too late.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of daily induced stresses that we actually add too through the ‘code red’ type of daily thinking:
On a Cognitive level:
Inability to concentrate
Seeing only the darker side of life
Anxious or racing thoughts
Constant under the radar worrying
On an Emotional level:
Irritability or short temper
Agitation, inability to relax
General feelings of being overwhelmed
Sense of loneliness and isolation
Sense of being misunderstood
General sense of depression or unhappiness
On a Behavioral level:
Poor eating habits
Sleeping too much and/or too little
Isolating yourself from others
Procrastination or neglecting of responsibilities
Regularly using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs specifically to relax
Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
On a Physical level:
Regular aches and pains
Frequent diarrhea or constipation
Frequent nausea and/or dizziness
Frequent chest pain, rapid heartbeat or mild loss of breaths
Loss of sex drive
Frequent colds and/or flues
Keep in mind that these symptoms can also be caused by other psychological and medical problems or can even be the side effects of various pharmaceuticals. If you’re experiencing any or multiple of the warning signs of stress, it’s important to see a reputed health practitioner for a full evaluation as well as a good idea to re-evaluate one’s beliefs and perceptions for more congruous ones.
Thoughts can be scientifically measured in energetic frequencies. It has been proven that our very thoughts can and do manifest both emotionally and physiologically, your very thoughts can alter the molecular structure of water for better or worse when in contact with it, even through a bottle or glass. Food, even when ‘dead’ and cooked that is blessed prior to eating it has also been shown to have significant molecular change for the better making the food generally healthier overall.
Therefore the daily practice of less than positive thoughts or thoughts that inadvertently activate the stress glands do indeed lead to less than desirable results within and is completely incongruous with our very objectives of personal protection and survival.
The opposite isn’t optimal either, though it is healthier to live without a significant amount of fear or concern, depending of course on many factors, to be in complete apathy or denial and live with the belief of ‘nothing will ever happen to me’ can be worst and more detrimental than living in a state of ‘paranoia’.
I can hear some people now, “We’re not paranoid, we’re prepared!” LOL… I used to say the same thing, but then, I had the right too, I lived a certain kind of lifestyle which did indeed attract much violence, but for the average ‘civilian’ if you will, this sort of thinking is at best…. overkill & detrimental to one’s health.
Cemeteries, sexual assault centers and hospitals the world over are filled with people who said “This will never happen to me.” Therefore a healthy balance based on one’s individual or familial lifestyle becomes optimal if pure and applied self-defense is a concern, and as well, it should be for every human being out there as “chance favours the prepared mind”.
Put it this way, the training alone providing it includes some form of athletics and physical release beyond beating a bunch of padded assailants in a replication will do nothing but benefit your life in every possible area. Providing you are training with a solid and well-reputed trainer and you balance a peaceful and restful state of mind with the added stress inoculation of training or over training accumulated to the daily stresses of life.
A well-balanced training regimen with a healthy and logical state of mind and proper dietary habits actually reduces the effects of daily-induced stresses in comparison to the ‘paranoia’ mind set belief. It’s good to be prepared, but it isn’t a good thing to damage yourself worst through your very own perceptive state thinking you’re actually diminishing your probability of an attacker jumping you at the local movie rental shop or shopping mall with the James Bond approach to living.
Most ignore their emotional health until there is a significant problem. However, it is as critical to work on your emotional well-being the same way it takes time and energy to enhance your physical health. The more you work at it the healthier and stronger your emotional health will be. Those who possess a balanced emotional state usually deal with adversity with greater ease and resiliency. They remain focused, flexible, and positive in hard times.
Since we cannot entirely eliminate stress from our lives, we must insure the fact that we don’t unnecessarily add to it through our very own belief systems or methods of perceived ‘de-stressing’. We indeed can control how much it affects us.
Relaxation techniques such as Tai Chi, yoga, meditation, various forms of art, and various deep breathing exercises activate the body’s relaxation response and state of restfulness. When included in our weekly lives, these activities lead to a significant reduction in our everyday stress levels and a boost in energy levels and feelings of peace and happiness. They also increase our ability to stay calm and collected under pressure. An important factor in any self-defense situation. Remember, self-defense isn’t always or just about protecting ourselves from the bad guy, it’s more often than not, about protecting ourselves from ourselves.