In self-defense circles, the words “situational awareness” and “zanshin” are frequently used. Both of these terms mean basically the same thing, although the transliteration of this word in Japanese, zanshin (残心), is “remaining mind.” Situational awareness means what it sounds like: being aware of your situation. This can apply to many things in life but when it comes to self-defense, situational awareness begins once you are outside of the relative safety of your home, work, or vehicle.
Self defense training is that safeguard. As I learn to strike properly and with strength, I can see myself standing up to the Boogeymen of this world. I can learn to throw them down, stop them from hurting me, and get away to safety. The more I learn, practice and grow, the more I can do for myself with a sense of confidence. With this confidence comes a change in perception about the Boogeymen, they are not a specter anymore, I am no longer haunted by fear and ignorance, I will no longer freeze. I will take action on my behalf.
In the simplest terms, self-defense training is learning techniques that keep you safe all of the time. This includes scanning your environment for danger, hiding, when to do (or not to do) something, proper punching and kicking techniques, how to fall correctly, grappling, and other movements that reduce harm and allow escape from an attacker. But this kind of training does so much more than teach physical skills. There are emotional turning points and cross roads we reach in the midst of the physical aspects, like learning one’s worth and value.
Training in self-defense automatically brings you into a state of self-awareness. Learning to move your body in specific ways, feeling the desire for self-protection, being acutely aware of your current environment, learning how to react calmly to danger and other such training phenomena hone your sense of self. You may find feelings you didn’t know you had, or ideas that are self-destructive as you become aware of your thoughts and emotions. This benefits your personal life because becoming aware of yourself and your inner workings helps you start to turn the tide on the aforementioned self-destructive cycles.
I was disempowered, dispirited, and disheartened by the abuse my mother poured out. The bruises she gave me are a part of my story, but they don’t represent strength and resolve. My current bruises do.
We go through the fires that hardens the clay and solidifies the shape we were when we stepped into adulthood. Because life is like that. Trial by fire. Will we survive, or won’t we?