See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil: Why Traditional Self-defense Instruction Doesn’t Work for Most People



The most commonly held view of a self-defense situation involves an “evil” attacker assaulting an innocent victim. As a result, the majority of self-defense instruction is based on the following two fundamental beliefs:


1. If you are able to inform people about the existence of threats to their personal safety, this information will then make them more “aware” such that they will be able to identify and avoid these threats.


2. If you teach people basic physical defense skills, they can apply these skills for physical defense in the event their awareness and avoidance fails.

In theory, these two steps seem logical and make sense. But they fail to take into consideration that the primary factor for maintaining personal safety is the ability to execute good judgment and make critical decisions. These skills are developed through experience, and a process of observation, trial and error, and evaluation.


As a practical and statistical matter, the average person is exposed to very few incidents of actual face to face violence in their daily lives. They don’t see, hear, or speak about “evil” incidents or personal safety threats in more than a passing manner. As a result, they don’t really think about “evil” or self-defense scenarios. In fact, “evil” incidents or violent assaults are commonly described as “the unthinkable”. Thus, they do not develop the judgment and critical thinking skills necessary in a time of personal danger.


As long as the image of self-defense and personal safety conjures up horrible and “unthinkable” situations, people will tend to not think about the subject regardless of any well intentioned attempts to make them more “aware”. It is not enough to be told about the importance of “awareness”. People need to be aware of “how to respond” to individual threats and that requires judgment.


The solution is for people to see, hear, speak, and ultimately think about the fundamental concepts of self-defense in common everyday incidents and situations. Think about how these concepts apply to themselves and to others. Not just in terms of the “unthinkable”, but in terms of everyday assertiveness and personal boundary setting. This process will enable them to develop their judgment and critical thinking abilities.


These fundamental concepts are respect, communication, and the enforcement of behavioral limits through the use of Progressive Boundary Setting. They are universal and used by individuals, organizations, and policing authorities in all aspects of personal relationships and society.