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What you say and do has a HUGE effect on whether or not you are physically assaulted. You do have power and control over whether or not you are attacked. Teaching you how to exercise this power is what this site is mostly about.
A super simple way of understanding when it is self-defense is to ask the question: Can I take a photograph of what is going to be damaged?
If the answer is yes -- and that is being physically endangered -- THAT is what will allow you legally react in self-defense.
If the answer is no, then you aren't defending yourself, you're attacking.
. . .
Since the results of self-defense are physical (you can take a picture), the law is LESS concerned about what is going on inside your head than it is in finding out if the danger was just as physically demonstrated. If the danger was real, then other people can see it too on the security video. Or was danger just in your imagination?
. . .
Most conflict is people who have left the original source of the conflict and are now are arguing over something that has no physical existence. Pride, anger, hurt feelings, fear and self-esteem are not things you can put in a wheelbarrow. But they ARE what is now driving the conflict.
These are VERY important to your monkey brain. And while they serve as motivators for your behaviors, they are totally intangible. But outside of your own head, they do NOT exist. Self-defense is ONLY concerned with preventing stuff that you can take a picture of.
. . .
In civilized circles repercussions for unacceptable actions are
usually subtle and down-the-road. For example, you get passed
over for a promotion, someone starts slandering you to others,
etc.. It is not unusual for these repercussions to take weeks,
months or even years to manifest. Even at its most extreme,
civilized conflict are limited to strong emotions and harsh words.
Most of what you see in these circumstances are degrees of
threat display. While often loud and emotional threat displays are
a means to avoid physical violence).
The less civilized tend to take a more direct and immediate
approach. Both in the action and threat display. To them, a threat
display IS the last warning you're going to get before violence
erupts. If you don't alter your behavior, violence will happen.
Furthermore, in those circles, you do not make certain kinds of
threat displays unless you are ready, willing and able to back it up-
especially ones that are insulting or challenging.
Unfortunately, too many civilized people who find themselves in
conflict with less civilized people take the approach that they
would to dress down a rude busboy. While that might work to
intimidate a laborer in Rome, (who is afraid of losing his job 2), in
his own territory he will not tolerate it. This is not Rome, here the
customs of his own apply. And this goes double if the person being
verbally abused is a 'barbarian warrior.' In those circles, if you are
not willing to kill or die over your words, DON'T say it ... because
he is. And right then and there.
For the record, we aren't even talking about dealing with muggers and other criminals. This is how things work in certain socio-economic/ethnic/cultural levels. This is Joe Average and his cousin from the old country, Jose Mediania. Those rules that dictate 'civilized' behavior do not apply where where they are from. The rules and customs of where they live are very different than how they are done in your 'Rome.'
Unfortunately, many modern Romans fail to realize this when they travel into other socio-economic/cultural levels. Therefore they do not recognize when their behavior is both inappropriate for where they are and dangerous to themselves.
. . .
In order to understand what "self-defense" is, you must first understand what it is not. "Self-defense" is not martial arts training. Nor is it fighting. It is not getting in touch with your inner rage and channeling it into attacking someone who scared you. It is not simply mastering a set of physical skills (e.g. becoming a kung fu killer ninja or combat shooting expert). Nor is it something you can take a weekend seminar for and then forget until you need it.
In our definition, self-defense is not a *specialized* skill that you only use in one context. In our definition it is part of a much large set of "life skills."
These are skills, talents and abilities that you will use in a myriad of ways every day of your life. What's more, as they are basic "people skills" using them will improve your quality of life. Use them and you will find yourself in far fewer conflicts, you will be more popular, work will be easier and you will get along with people much, much better.
All "self-defense" is is taking these same skill sets and applying them in a slightly different context. To a large degree, they are the same skills with some slight "tweaks." Properly applied, you will never have to use physical force to protect yourself because you will learn to steer yourself clear from situations where violence is likely.
He who hesitates is lost