What is Self Defense?

This is actually the first post I ever started writing here. At this point, years later, it’s the least interesting topic in my drafts – mostly because of the philosophical mine shaft we tend to fall in when discussing it. It’s dry academics.

But a lot of people that aren’t me are interested, so I decided to finish. Lots of people have written on this topic, though, so I will attempt to offer a fresh perspective – and keep us out of mine shafts.

What is it, already?

I think it’s fair to say most people think of “self defense” as engaging in protection of the self against a physical threat or attack. And that’s pretty obviously an accurate definition. But I don’t think it is complete.

Let’s be real here: this world is actively trying to kill us every moment. If it’s not weather or temperatures, it’s toxins, poisons, certain flora and fauna, plain old physics, and plenty more stuff you may or may not believe in. That’s not to mention other humans who feel the need to exist within our area of activity, just going about their lives, apathetic to our safety and well-being.

In other words, there’s a lot of threats we face every day, and attacks on our “self” aren’t always physical. In fact I’m confident in saying MOST attacks on our “self” are not physical. Consider the following ways our “self” interacts with the world.


Ok this is an easy one, a no-brainer to break out of the box. Our continued existence depends on our ability to breath a certain mixture of gasses offered by our planet’s atmosphere. In-home sensors, PSA’s, altimeters, respirators and canaries (sorry about the mine shaft) have all been employed in our defense against breathing Bad Stuff. If I add a C02 monitor to my home, is that not self defense? Admittedly you could call it “home protection,” or something similar, but after all the pretty words it’s about nothing more than the survival of me and mine. Self defense.


This one is a little more on point, I think. Food is the fuel that determines how well my “self” is functioning. What I eat and drink has not only life and death consequences in the case of toxins and poisons, but is actually a large factor in my mental state and bodily health. Everyone knows and experiences this, but we probably don’t think of it in terms of self defense.

I do, most of the time. I could not tell you the last time I ate at a fast-food joint or guzzled carbonated sugar water. I’m defending my health – part of my “self” – by being aware of the threats and attacks in this sphere, and making decisions that keep me in good health – most of the time. I don’t always win.

And it goes beyond food, right? Health of the “self” includes all kinds of things, not least of which are medicines and drugs, air and environmental quality and lifestyle.

Belief and Influence

The things you believe and assume to be true; your convictions and values; your very world-view, all of this is part of your “self.” How well do you defend it? Every other person out there is constantly evangelizing something else; a slightly (or drastically) different way of seeing the world. It’s inevitable that other people will influence you in some way. But you do have some level of control over that, just like with people who might physically attack you. It begins with awareness, then moves into your own decision-making regarding that person or situation, and techniques employed in your own defense.

Let’s take TV as a significant example. What do you watch, and for how long? Do you see with a critical eye, or simply accept what is presented? Whether it’s News, shows, or commercials, someone wrote that from a certain perspective for a specific reason and with an objective in mind – for you, the viewer. How is your self defense in this sphere? Who and what do you allow to influence you? What is the substance of the ideas you let in? Are there threats and attacks in this sphere? Absolutely. This is self defense.


Closely related to the last section, in my opinion this one covers who you are and your place in the world. In mostly non-religious terms, this has a lot to do with your mental health, emotional state, sense of belonging and purpose. And in this realm, also, there are threats and attacks. Stress, anxiety, and the fast-paced modern life take heavy tolls on the spiritual well-being of the “self,” and you better have some decent defenses in place.

Things like “Mondays,” meetings, shitty drivers, mistakes, changing circumstances, pain, death of loved ones, angry or bitter people, financial woes, et cetera ad nauseum…these are spiritual threats. How do you deal with it is your self defense.


The term “holistic” is typically used for this kind of thing, but I prefer integrative for what may be obvious reasons. If you want to talk about self defense, you better not just be talking about physical techniques with empty hands, or static-square-range target practice with a firearm. Neither should you, in my opinion, talk solely about physical threats and attacks. This world is trying to kill us every day in a variety of ways. We’re constantly engaged in self defense even if we don’t realize it.

And most of it sucks. We tend to rely on “luck,” which is probably not the best strategy in any sphere. Better to have a plan, backed up with confidence in competence.