Self-Defense – “Staying Sharp”


Some days it really seems like my “inbox” fills up quicker than I can get stuff done and into the “outbox”.  This is especially true for folks running families.  So while completing the never ending list of items to take care of, how does one implement a self-defense training program that is not only effective but easy enough to maintain?


When it comes to Self-Defense, what is staying “sharp”?

What do I mean by “staying sharp”?  Staying sharp is nothing more or less than maintaining the self-defense skills required to meet a threat to you or your family in the real world.  The required maintenance for self-defense is a multi-disciplinary approach to improve one’s skills on an obvious physical level, a mental toughness level and finally on a overall strategic level (I think of this as training in self-defense law, avoidance measures, and altercation de-escalation).

If I’m to stay “sharp”, then I need to dedicate regular study or training to these areas.  But how much time, when, where, what to study?  Before I get into that, I submit to you, that the required self-defense training one needs to protect themselves and their families will not get done if it isn’t viewed as a regularly necessary task as one does keeping gas in the tank of their vehicle.


Is Self-Defense Training Necessary?

The mental battle is the hardest.  Have you decided that continual self-defense training is necessary?  Let’s say you’ve got a family of 5.  You already know this too well I’m sure – you split your list of tasks into things that “HAVE to get done”, from those that would be “NICE to get done”.  While there’s no easy formula for how one makes these decisions, somehow people make the choice and some things get onto the “HAVE to get done” list vs the “OTHER” list.  The brain makes a complex calculation, looking at all the “if this, then that” type angles of every time allotted scheduling decision.  People choose what’s best for the family and move on.

Training self-defense to a proficient level (meaning you can perform those skills in the real world – and maintaining that level) is no different than any task placed before us.  Either we see our duty to train protect ourselves and our loved ones from bad people as a HAVE TO GET DONE task, or we see it as a NICE TO GET DONE task.  The worst thing to do is muddy the water by thinking about how you’ll never be able to get self-defense lessons into your schedule and time to train, etc, etc, etc.  I’ll give a few suggestions in a moment.  At this point the only question that matters is this:  Is it, or is it not a NEED to be able to protect yourself and your family?  Once that question is answered, the excuses for not training seem to become more transparent.

(If you view self-defense training as a “NICE to get done” task instead of a NEED, then I’ll save you the time, you can stop reading, don’t burden yourself with unnecessary pressure to complete yet another thing on top of all the other crap you have to get done this week . . . seriously.  And besides . . . If you live in a nice area, don’t frequent parking lots, areas of obscured view, you don’t ever frequent places where a person with an impaired state of mind could be, or you look intimidating, or just have really good luck, chances are no one will ever attack you.  It’s a calculated risk . . . one I’m not willing to take, but hey, everyone takes risks, right?)

If you’re still with me at this point, then I’ll assume you see protecting your family from violent bad people as a duty and subsequently the task to train and maintain those skill sets as a “HAVE to get done” task.  It’s important to note that “staying sharp” is a daily choice.  It’s a choice to train in combatives or with personal protection weapons because you know the threat you face is down the road, vs. the folks that get really motivated about self-defense training because they had a “close call” . . . .  then slowly forget about training once they’re not afraid or their ego is no longer bruised.

I’ve come across guys that are motivated to “train” because of a bruised ego.  It’s funny how their commitment to “train” never really pans out.  Why we do what we do is everything.  For me, it becomes easy to see self-defense training as a need – and here’s my “why”:  I cannot bear the thought of a common street thug assaulting my family and I and me failing to perform to protect them because of cowardice, lack of strength, lack of motivation to train or just plain pre-occupation.  I know that some day my “brood” will grow up.  They will follow my example, good or bad.  They will pick someone who will protect their family, or they will themselves learn to protect their family.  It’s always apparent to me when folks have a weak “why”, because their training fizzles out.  Why do you train the way you do?  What’s your “why”?


Initial Training is not hardest part:

Most folks can be taught a combatives program in 10 to 12 hours of contact time that will allow them to defend their life and the lives of others in most circumstances.  They’ll have the tools they need to train to proficiency.  How long will it take to become proficient?  That depends on the dedication of the individual.  There are MANY instructors out there that are more than capable of offering a condensed self-defense program.  Some people like Krav, some like BJJ, some like JKD, some like hardstyle martial arts.  A good instructor can take 10 to 12 contact hours and provide essential skill sets that you’ll need to meet a violent encounter and survive. DTG and EDC offer the Finish It Now Self-Defense program.  Others like the Gracie Blue Belt curriculum.  If Krav is your chosen combatives program, there are companies like Covenant Defense around the country.  Personally I couldn’t care less what someone’s combative style is, why they chose it, or how much better it is than everyone else’s kung-fu.  As long as they can put a determined threat down with their bare hands in the real world.  (For the record, I’m a modern JKD concepts guy.  You will see me admire attributes about western boxing, Thai boxing, filipino martial arts, you name it.  I’m decidedly not a “my kung-fu is better than your karate” type person.)

Learning the basics of combatives isn’t really all that hard.  I’ll say it a 1000 times, the hard part is being dedicated to practicing to MASTER those basics.  Any instructor worth their certificate or belt can adapt their knowledge base to the needs of the student and CAN teach them what they NEED to be street safe and fairly quickly at that.  The enemy of proficiency for most people is boredom, and the fizzling out of infatuation for the martial arts.  My point is this – the excuse of “well I’d love to be dedicated to a combatives system, I just don’t know what one to choose”, is NOT an viable excuse.  Do them ALL.  Learn boxing, learn Thai boxing, learn BJJ, learn whatever makes you grin.  The more you’re exposed to, the better perspective you’ll have.  Or at least that was the case with me.  In true Jeet-Kune-Do form, you’ll end up using what you find to be useful and letting go of what is not.


If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It:

Other than making the decision that self-defense training has to get done, this is the other hard part.  Continuous training.  Let’s assume for the sake of the discussion that I’ve been taught a great combatives program.  I’ve received 10 to 12 contact hours by someone who really knows how to condense pertinent material and get folks performing adequately in a short amount of time.  Let’s say I’m fairly proficient on a conscious level, meaning, I can do all the basic combatives techniques, but I have to consciously think about what I’m doing, when and in what order.  What good does it do me if I took all the training but let the tools I learned to help me become proficient, fade away?  If I were to give a metaphor to describe that, it’s like the basic combatives learned are car tools.  Proficiency would be the car you’re trying to build or fix.  And not training the basics of combatives once learned is like letting your tools set out in the rain and rust to crap.  When you go to build or fix your car of proficiency, the tools are broken, seized up and useless.  You end up having to go out and get new tools all over again.  What a waste of time.  Maintain, the tools – keep them clean and organized.


An attainable training schedule:

Take one technique or area of self-defense.  Once a day.  Five to ten minutes.  Six out of seven days a week.  If you can fit it in, get a partner training with you one hour a week.  The partner training won’t always happen, but 5 or 10 minutes in the morning when you wake up can and should.  This for me, is where I decide every day, that self-defense training is a need, not a “nice to get done” type task.  The choice is demonstrated through my actions.

Maybe Monday I work kicking, punching, trapping range combatives.

Tuesdays are clinch range combatives.

Wednesdays are ground fighting.

Thursdays are improvised weapons use.

Fridays are unarmed weapons defense (as bad of a predicament as that is, it still needs to be addressed).

Saturdays are fighting to a personal protection pistol, and getting that personal protection pistol into the fight.

Sundays are rest.

This is strictly an example of individual combatives and close pistol training.  Carbine/Rifle training and other forms of preparedness training/study are not in this example.  Something to consider . . .


Own the performance or lack of thereof

If you’re like me and you’re honest, you won’t always hit every day self-defense training.  When I do hit my training goals, I feel the satisfaction of knowing that I’m doing my part to make sure if and when my family and I are faced with a threat, I won’t be caught flat footed.  When I don’t hit my goals, I know it’s an opportunity to improve.   Admit it, own it and do better.  That’s what real men (and real women) do.  They don’t make excuses and blame others for their short comings.

And that’s it.  My perspective on “staying sharp”.  Folks I know seem to ask, so I’m telling it.  Dedication, dedication, dedication.  Your beautiful bride (or handsome husband for our female readers) and those little ones are worth it though aren’t they?

Thanks for reading,

– Irish

P.S. “On-Demand” courses are on their way.  Urban survival, self-defense, threat mitigation topics will be available in this medium of instruction soon.

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