All of us come to the personal safety and self-defense world for different reasons. Some of us have been targeted by violence, or know someone who has. Some of us have seen it first-hand or in the news. Some of us came to be interested more academically, knowing it exists in theory but perhaps not quite as viscerally. Regardless, we learn and train so that we can protect ourselves and those we love.
It’s hard work, and there’s a lot of it. We might start with guns or martial arts, and discover that countless hours are needed to hone our proficiency with them until they can be effective in complex situations or against determined bad guys. As we dig deeper, we may find that there are other areas we need to learn about, ancillary tools and skills to deal with greater or different types of dangers, ones we may not even have been aware of when we started our journey. We struggle to balance all of it while we continue to try to live the kind of life that is worth defending.
Regardless of whether we dive all the way into the training world or whether we commit to being “about that life,” we try to do all of the right things to stay safe with whatever level of preparation we’ve achieved. We lock our doors, look over our shoulders, and carry our weapons. We practice all of the right things and become experienced with them, if not expert. We are strong. We are empowered.
But as I was talking about last week, the bad guy gets a vote. If you missed it, here’s the upshot in shorter form: you can do everything right, and still get hurt, still die. That’s why it’s important to allow for failure as an option, to figure out if you can turn it around to survival and success. But that’s also why it’s important to understand that sometimes you’re just going to lose.
I won’t tell you that’s okay, because it’s not. Nobody wants that outcome, especially anybody who trains and educates ourselves as we do. However, to paraphrase the late Dr. William Aprill, we live in the world as it is and not the world as we wish it to be.
That’s why I’d urge you to add another thought exercise to the work you’re doing towards increasing your safety: what does it mean to fail your own terms? While we focus on triumphing over the bad guy, what else can we count as a win? Is it enough that we fought back? That we made the bad guy exert more effort than they’d planned on when they selected us as a victim? That we find a way to make the bad guy lose too, for whatever definition of “lose” we want to use?
Then what do you have to do to ensure that you can meet that goal, in addition to or instead of meeting your goal of outwitting and outfighting the bad guy? Are there more things you need to learn? Do you need to practice what you know more? Is there mental and emotional work you need to do to ensure that you are able to act as you would like? Or do you simply need to sit down and get comfortable with whatever outcome may occur if you are attacked?
You are allowed to decide whatever you like, in terms of how much you want to fight back against a bad guy, how much you are willing to hurt them to save yourself. You must acknowledge, though, the full range of potential outcomes and do what is necessary to enable your peace with them. The time to figure that out is not in the middle of a crisis, but right now. What are you waiting for?