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Self-Defense Training: Examining the Psychological Benefits

Psychology of self-defense cover

When you think about the pros of learning self-defense, what benefits come to mind? First and foremost, you’re giving yourself the ability to protect yourself and those you love from the bad actors of the world. Physically, self-defense training can build muscle, cardiovascular strength, and flexibility. Plus, whether you realize it or not, training will provide you with more control over your body and its reactions, enabling you to respond to a potential threat more effectively.

But, self-defense isn’t just physical. There are mental and emotional components as well, and when you engage in training, you’ll likely see some real benefits in these areas too.

“Neurons that Wire Together, Fire Together”

If you’ve ever listened to our National Training Director Austin Davis speak, you’ve probably heard this phrase. Cheesy rhyme? Maybe a little. But incredibly true in terms of self-defense training, as you’ll revert to whatever you may (or may not) have practiced in a threatening situation.

Getting technical for a second: When the brain detects danger or attack, it radically alters brain functioning by releasing chemicals that can impair the prefrontal cortex. This can cause freeze-ups and delayed responses to a situation that needs a rapid response. Individuals who have previously been victims of an assault or traumatizing event are even more likely to experience this response than those who haven’t previously experienced these events. And depending on the situation, freeze-ups could mean the difference between safety and a much worse result.

So how do you overcome this psychological hurdle? Repetition, repetition, repetition.

By practicing defensive skills over and over again, you increase the likelihood of your ability to perform them under extreme stress. This is why some members of the military spend time simulating the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan — they want to be aware of their surroundings and ready if a situation arises.

Now, we’re not telling you to go into an actively dangerous area just to practice your situational awareness skills. Ideally you should do this kind of practice in a controlled environment. Walking through a defensive use-of-force situation or even taking a self-defense class involving a virtual reality simulator can help you build these skills while keeping the stakes relatively low.

Female VTA training
Concealed Coalition’s Virtual Tactical Academy allows students to train in realistic self-defense scenarios while maintaining low stakes.

Self-Defense and Self Esteem

In the 1990s, the University of Washington conducted a study showing that practicing self-defense actually gave women a self-esteem boost. The study was based on a six-week self-defense course, focused on physical and verbal rape and sexual assault prevention. The 80 women who participated were relative novices in self-defense.

These women not only learned physical skills that would allow them to resist or escape a violent situation, but also cognitive skills such as situational awareness, anti-panic training, and verbal resistance. As a result, researchers noticed a ripple effect: the women that participated in the study generally felt less anxious and more confident in their abilities to be able to control the events in their lives.

Principles from these findings still come into play today in organizations like Peace Over Violence, which provides what it calls “Empowerment Self-Defense” courses for women, children, and senior citizens. Peace Over Violence invites participants to consider the fact that a good self-defense program cannot tell you what to do, as every defensive encounter is unique. Instead the organization helps students learn how to handle these encounters from physical, mental, and emotional lenses, resulting in – as the name would suggest – a sense of empowerment related to self-defense abilities.

If you’re looking for a way to jumpstart your journey to becoming more adept at self-defense, then the Concealed Coalition Membership is for you! Our courses cover a wide range of topics, such as situational awareness, de-escalation, and the legal fight after the fight, all of which you can train to retain in the comfort of your own home.

CCU de-escalation and self-defense
Concealed Coalition University, our members-only training platform, provides a variety of courses to help you in your self-defense journey, including de-escalation and situational awareness.

Sources: undark.org, psychologytoday.com, washington.edu, peaceoverviolence.org

*Disclaimer: While self-defense can have beneficial psychological effects, it should not be used as a replacement for therapy. If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, anxiety, or depression, it’s important to receive professional help.

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