You’ve just attended a basic self defense class. Now what?
In your class, you probably learned a stance or two. And a movement technique and some simple strikes or kicks. Maybe you learned some methods to break away from someone that has grabbed you.
And now you’re ready to defend yourself.
But will you still be ready a month from now, or 6 months, or a year?
Like most skills in life, self defense skills are perishable.
To keep them fresh, you must use them. And that means practicing. How much practice? Well, at least enough to keep them fresh in your mind.
However, you need to be able to use those skills in an actual attack. When you’re scared and your heart rate has just doubled. When your breathing is rapid and your fingers and brain are numb.
So you must practice your newly learned skills this week, next week, the week after that, and the week after that. In other words, regularly.
Like the skills we [used to] teach at Personal Defense Connection [we no longer hold classes], the skills needed for basic self defense are based on natural instinctive movement. And they involve mainly large muscle groups (gross motor skills, not fine or complex motor skills).
These types of skills are easy to learn and easy to practice, with or without a partner. Granted, having a training partner is always a benefit, but you can still practice them on your own.
Sure, it would be great to have a workout room filled with heavy bags, kick bags, B.O.B.s (Body Opponent Bag) and floor mats, and have a workout partner whenever you practice.
And let’s be honest, if you are lucky enough to have all that equipment, you’re probably already practicing more than the basic skills needed to defend yourself.
But, even without all that, you can still practice and maintain the skills you learned.
How? By visualization.
For example, pretend that you are walking down the street. Then visualize attacks from different types of “attacks.” Practice using your skills on the imaginary attacker. Make sure you “see and hear” the attacker coming at you.
Then react to the specific attack using your newly developed skills. (You may want to close your curtains, depending on the closeness and/or nosiness of your neighbors… you know… in case they think you’ve lost your marbles.)
Standing in line at the grocery store? Imagine the person behind you as an attacker and then visualize how you would react to defend yourself
(Remember, you are only visualize only here. Please don’t do anything physical to the poor person behind you.)
Visualization has been shown to enhance physical skills even without any physical movement.
But remember to also spend time physically practicing as well. Think how much more you can benefit if you use visualization while physically practicing the movement of an attack/defense.
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I also recommend that you practice with the defensive tools (pepper spray, kubuton, pen and flashlight, for example) that you may carry.
Spend some time practicing retrieving the tool from where you carry it to being ready to use it.
To increase efficiency, make sure that you carry your defensive tool in the same place every time. That way, you will only need to practice one method of deploying your tool.
Inert spray containers can be used to practice using pepper spray. Or you can use real pepper spray. In either case, take it outside.
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So how much practice is enough?
How much is enough to maintain or build your skill and confidence?
Honestly, that varies for each person and for the quality of the instruction you received in your basic self defense class.
But if you practice 10 to 15 minutes, three to five days a week, you will not only maintain your skills but also the necessary mindset to be successful during a real, personal and scary attack.
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Don’t practice until you can do it right. Practice until you can’t do it wrong! And then practice it again.
For the cost of a little time (1/2 to 1 hour a week), you can gain the ability and mindset to survive a dynamic violent attack.
And aren’t you worth it?
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