I'm fond of telling my martial arts students that the First Rule of Self-Defense is "Don't get hit." After all, how can you be defeated if no one hits you?
This rule makes perfect strategic sense from a pugilistic perspective. However, there is a better and more broadly applicable rule that I prefer to stand by: "Protect your best interests." What is self-defense, really, if not protecting, or defending, your best interests?
The advice "Don't get hit" is simple and unambiguous, and therefore easy to understand. "Protect your best interests" is less straightforward. In order to protect your interests, you must first know what those interests are. Have you ever really considered what your best and most important interests are?
I propose that your best interests extend well beyond simply not getting hit by an assailant. Among your primary interests are your health and wellness and personal comfort, your financial security, your career, your savings or source of income, your relationships with family and friends, and your personal happiness, to name a few. Each of these areas may represent a major priority in your life.
The most important form of self-defense entails more than fending off an assailant, or even not getting hit. Real self-defense entails an outlook and a personal philosophy that takes into account all the many and varied factors in your life that insure your best interests are protected and maintained at all times.
In order to bring this philosophy alive, you must have the personal resources and wherewithal to implement it. You must be willing and able to take the necessary initiative in asserting yourself, as complacency is unlikely to serve your interests during changing times and circumstances.
It is a given that your number one interest is your health as being alive is something of a prerequisite to any other concerns.
Other important skills requisite to this goal include continually striving to improve your interpersonal and intrapersonal awareness and intelligence. This means you must know yourself and have the ability to perceive or discern the intentions of others with whom you come in contact. You must also keep yourself abreast of changing events and evolving trends in areas that have bearing on your interests. This will increase your ability to adapt to changing circumstances. The world around us is constantly changing and your ability to adapt makes for nothing less than an evolutionary imperative.
Of course, everybody's individual circumstance is different. But if you can embrace this philosophy and bear these overall considerations in mind you will be well on your way to mastering the first and most important rule of self-defense as it pertains to you.
A comprehensive list of steps for protecting all of your possible best interests would be exhaustive. Therefore, it is best that I leave it to you to imagine how the First Rule of Self-Defense might apply in your case. However, a short sample list such as the one that follows may point you in a helpful direction.
Here are some possible steps you might consider for a more proactive approach in adopting a "protect your best interests" mentality.
- Protect your bodily interests and safety by enrolling for an actual course in martial arts or self-defense skills. If you're already involved in martial arts keep at it to continually refine your skills and expertise.
- Advocate for yourself by not blindly accepting mainstream thinking about consumerism in general. Especially you should be circumspect regarding advertising claims having to do with nutrition, medical, pharmaceutical, or wellness resources. Think critically.
- Be ever mindful that advertising in general is designed to separate you from your wallet. If something sounds too good to be true it probably is. Think critically and adjust your priorities accordingly.
- Pay attention to trends in the marketplace that may have bearing on your health or financial wellbeing.
- Place a higher priority on your health and fitness. There's no investment that offers a better return than that of your own good health. Learn how to become your own best provider.
- Do something every day that makes you better or smarter than you were yesterday. Learning should become a priority and a habit. Learn one new thing every day and you'll see how much better off you are after a year.
- Keep in mind that most people, i.e. politicians, tell you what they want you to hear, not necessarily what you need to hear. Attune yourself to what you need to hear.
Remember nobody has a more vested interest in your overall health, wellness, and best interests than you. Strive to accumulate whatever resources, trainings, perspectives, dietary modifications, fitness ethics, attitude adjustments, etc. that you can to become and be the best you can be.
Exactly how the "protect your best interests" rule pertains to you will also depend on how big your world is. If your world is smaller, simpler, and more insular it may be enough to pay attention to a narrower range of concerns. But if you are you someone whose life is likely to be affected by regional or even global events you must adjust your philosophy, level of awareness, and life strategy more broadly. The most important point of this message is that you must learn to assume full responsibility for your own self-defense and for protecting your own best interests in a changing and unpredictable world.
The above article was originally printed in the July 2019 issue of the "Perspectives on Tai Chi, Somatics & Life w/Sifu John Loupos."