Time is our most precious resource. It’s the only thing we can’t make more of. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and we can’t go backwards to recover it, or go forward and make more of it. The best we can do is cut down how much time we spend on something, or trade off the time spent on one thing and use it on something else. Unfortunately, there’s so very much that demands a slice of our time, and even more so when we become interested in being responsible for our own protection. It can take hours of continuing effort over weeks, months, and years to prepare for our safety and to learn and remain practiced in the relevant skills. With only so many hours in any given day, how do you prioritize what fills that time? Rest and relaxation are important, after all, and spending time with those we love and doing the things we enjoy, not to mention the work that keeps us in food and shelter. Most of us live in relatively safe places, where the odds of becoming a victim of crime are relatively low, and we can confidently not worry terribly much about man-made threats to our well-being. It’s tempting to leave well enough alone.
But even if you really don’t want to spend time on self defense training, it’s important because bad guys do exist and survival is necessary in order to get to the other things we think are important. While it’s important to not let fear take over your life as you do everything in your power to avoid becoming a victim, I’d argue it’s likewise important to be capable of defending your life against those who would take it from you. You have worked, are working, so hard to have a life you are proud of, that you enjoy, that you want to continue living. Setting aside some time to ensure that you can keep what you have and have the opportunity to work towards more seems worthwhile when put that way. It does mean that you’ll have to juggle all that with competing responsibilities, leisure time, and perhaps even sleep, but the payoff can be worth it when faced with someone who could steal your ability to take care of what you must, let alone what you’d like.
We can start by balancing our regular lives with how we prepare to protect it by being realistic about how much we need to do and how good we need to be when we do that work. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that we have to master certain skills for them to be useful in self defense. For instance, fighters might talk about needing to earn a black belt in their martial art before they are truly useful. That goal is worthy and certainly might be useful against an attacker, but it can take a long time to achieve both in terms of raw hours spent training and in how long it takes to put in those hours in non-consecutive sessions over weeks, months, or even years. However, a lesser level of achievement might still be enough when we play the odds about what an attacker might look like, and how motivated or skilled they might be. No skill might not work against some attackers, but even six months or a year of training might give you enough skill to dissuade an attacker who is just a little more motivated, or to slow them down or escape from them even if we can’t force them to stop. It’s true that for many of us, having any self defense skills or strategies at all are already more than the odds might dictate about our risk of being attacked, so having that little bit can take us over the top against the less common bad guys we might run across while not requiring us to spend the time needed to become skilled enough against every the biggest baddest bad guy who might appear. Knowing that can make the idea of setting aside time to work on self defense skills a little more approachable and a little less overwhelming.
It also becomes a little easier when we find ways to squeeze in short chunks of training and preparation that are efficient, that require relatively low effort and time investment for a high return. This is where small actions like locking doors behind us or filling up on gas before heading out on a long road trip might not seem like much in the moment, but can be vital to you not being an opportunistic crime victim or not needing to stop in an unsafe neighborhood. Think of strategies like these as ways of ensuring that you save time in the long run – maybe not every time, but enough that one time everything would otherwise go wrong because you didn’t do the tiny thing that would have been enough to dissuade a thief or avoid an attacker. Or consider how a few hours once can be enough to learn about and a few minutes enough to practice with pepper spray and be able to effectively use it against the wide range of potential bad guys who can be addressed with it, versus the dozens of hours it can take over time to become and remain proficient with carrying a firearm and be able to effectively use it against the smaller number of potential bad guys who would be legally appropriate to shoot. We may decide that a gun is worth the time we’d need to train with it because we feel that we need its power against the dangers we may face or because we discover it’s fun. If we don’t have that time at all, though, we don’t have to give up on preparing. We can choose an option that still gives us significant protection with less time and with that, maybe find it easier to carve out that smaller amount of time.
Spending lots of time training for self defense is absolutely a thing. It’s interesting and enjoyable for some of us, or we might be driven by other motivations. At some point, though, that time can become unsustainable against the rest of our lives, the very existence we are trying to protect. Where that line is might be different for each of us, but it’s likely more possible than you might have thought for you to set aside a useful amount of time even if you don’t think you want to work on defensive skills at all.