On Writing: Self-Defense Myths
A few of the myths and misconceptions I see about self-defense in fiction. Please note that self-defense is a pretty fractured body of work that doesn’t have much in the way of rigorous, peer-reviewed studies, so you’ll find people who disagree with me on a few points, but in general:
- Self-defense classes are a scam. Some of them are openly and obviously a scam. Some of them are just a bit misguided. The majority of them won’t help you do jack-diddly-squat in a real attack. Truly effective self-defense depends upon being adaptive and reactive, but most classes teach formulas and prescribed steps for “moves.” These moves will range from being an utter joke to being useful only in the exact right set of circumstances. The main pitfall of the majority of self-defense classes, however, is the way the participants practice. Due to safety reasons, you usually can’t get the all-out, random, formless, tooth-and-nail style that criminal attacks tend to follow. Classes will have their sparing bouts follow rules, go slow, and partners will only ‘attack’ each other in predictable, teachable ways. This is useful as a baby step, but useless if the teaching goes no further. A character can be overly reliant and confident in their self-defense classes, but they should also be in for a nasty surprise during the first fight.