There’s an interesting discussion on self-defense going on at Dean’s World. Some of the conversation has devolved into whether it’s more likely that you’d be able to defend yourself against attack with a gun or a knife (or a high-heeled shoe). I don’t want to get into a religious dispute of that kind so I’ll take a different tack.
First, let me establish some credentials. I’ve studied martial arts longer than many of my readers have been alive. My first Judo instructor was a U. S. national champion. My second Judo instructor and Taekwondo instructor was the head instructor at the most prestigious martial arts school in South Korea (the name escapes me at the moment). My kendo instructor was the head kendo instructor with the Japanese Imperial Army in Manchuria (he didn’t spread it around too much for obvious reasons but odd things come out in post-practice drinking sessions). I’ve also studied aikido and fencing. I used to be a passable shot with both gun and bow.
I taught judo for six or so years and women’s self-defense for five years. I received thank you notes for several years thereafter from women who’d successfully used the training I gave them.
I’ve found myself in situations in which I was compelled to use my training, successfully, a couple of times.
I agree completely with Mary’s conclusion:
Self-defense isn’t just an American right, it’s a responsibility.
However, I don’t think that’s quite the whole story. I think that it doesn’t matter a great deal if you’re empty-handed or whether you go out with a machete in one hand and a howitzer in the other. The only genuine weapon is the mind. Armies train for reasons and among those reasons is that it takes training to overcome the reflexes and inhibitions that prevent effective response to attack. Regardless of how determined you may be when fighting actually starts without serious training it’s pretty likely you’ll just freeze.
The most effective form of self-defense is recognizing dangerous situations and avoiding them.
Failing that the very first line of self-defense should be flight. Preferably yelling or screaming your head off, blowing a whistle, and generally making a ruckus.
Avoid being the first one to resort to violence. If your opponent is bigger or more skilled than you are you may be in for a world of hurt. And the instinctual response of your opponent to attack may be fight rather than flight. Or freezing.
You may get a few useful ideas from a short training class. Even video games, paintball, or other simulations may be helpful. But it takes real training and commitment (or luck) to be able to respond effectively in the stress of actual events.
Avoidance is best. Then flight.