In the Name of Self-Defense: Review and Reflections

I’ve been studying the martial arts for about 15 years now.

Something I’ve found over that time is that most people think the terms martial arts and self-defense are interchangeable.

As I’ve come to learn, there’s a HUGE problem with that (at least if you live in the US).

With the misnomer of martial arts and self-defense comes not understanding what you’re actually claiming with self-defense along with a shit-ton of other garbage.


Filling in the Gaps

In the Name of Self-Defense by Marc MacYoungI remember when I started studying, part of the curriculum was labeled “Self-Defense Techniques.” We’d learn these ever increasingly more complex patterns that were supposed to disassemble people who tried to hurt us.

I remember we’d spend pretty much just enough time per belt rank to memorize the technique and then move on.

There wasn’t any principle, mechanic, or idea (or variation) extraction from the techniques.

Which looking back at things now, is entirely NOT what Ed Parker had in mind.

But beyond that, there wasn’t any study of actual self-protection.

Nothing against my instructor, but he hadn’t spent any time learning about psychology, sociology or even basic crime statistics (and I suspect the head of the system was/is still the same way).

They fell into the same trap that looking back, most so called “self-defense” instructors fall into: not actually understanding the people who actually attack others.

Marc MacYoung fills in the gaps that most “self-defense” instructors have. The topics covered include:

  • Motivations for attacking (social vs. asocial violence)
  • Pre-attack behavior (setups)
  • Use of force law (keeping yourself out of jail cell)
  • Dealing with the psychological changes that will happen after an attack

The Good/Ugly

The worst I can say about this book is that it’s pretty damn thick (weighing at 463 pages).

The subject matter is dense and MacYoung doesn’t spend much time with fluff and thus it took me a while to get through it (I think I started reading it on and off back in March).

There is a LOT of stuff to chew on.

MacYoung pulls no punches about martial arts training vs what it actually takes to defend yourself. So if you are going to read this book (which I definitely think you should do) be ready to question a lot of assumptions and rewire a lot of your understandings.

On the upside you’ll get a much clearer picture about how use of force incidents play out in court and you’ll get an insider’s view of how to keep your ass out of a prison cell.


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