IS PHYSICAL FITNESS RELEVANT IN SELF DEFENCE?Nov 15, 2018
By Tristan Kealy
A common question asked in the Self Defence world is whether or not an individual needs to be physically fit in order to defend themselves in a violent encounter. As with many topics discussing Self Defence, there are no absolutes! I’m sure those people who wouldn’t be considered in top physical shape have defended themselves from violence countless times. The “anything can happen in a violent encounter” statement is another whole topic in itself. Personally, I believe physical fitness is extremely relevant in all aspects of our day to day lives and play a deciding factor when it comes to Self Defence. At it’s most basic if you need to run then you better be able to!
In a physical confrontation of any kind, any attribute can be a contributing factor to the outcome. All else being equal, such as size, strength, balance, speed, mindset and physical fitness can be deciding factors. People who have a strong mental focus on keeping themselves physically fit and active seem to exhibit a number of common traits that are beneficial when considering Self Protection.
Physically fit people tend to be able to deal with discomfort better, push through pain barriers, and deal with setbacks easier and still strive to obtain their goals. They don’t sweat over the small things in life and take a positive look at most situations in front of them. Fit people plan their lives well in terms of work, exercise and play. They have healthy eating plans and understand the importance of rest and recovery. Physically they tend to display better posture and balance, better general awareness and reaction times, have higher levels of mobility and coordination.
These are just some of the regular physical and mental character traits I have observed from people I train with on regular occasions over the last 35 plus years. The things that impress me most with these people is the positive angle on how they interpret a given situation, the way they carry themselves when walking down the street, upright walking tall, taking in their surroundings and enjoying what’s on offer. The way they interact with other people, upbeat, looking people in the eyes when they engage with them. The aura of confidence they project.
Now after considering this and taking it back to a Self-Protection/Defence angle, even without any type of Combative or Martial Arts training, I think we can see that these personality types would be amongst the first people to re-act in an unorthodox situation such as a violent encounter. These people are used to making themselves uncomfortable physically and pushing through it (and enjoying it). They deal with stress better and can maintain concentration levels and focus whilst enduring it which is required during an attack. With the huge dump of adrenaline and all the other hormones and chemicals released into your system that is experienced from fright and shock, who will be able to cope better? The physically fit person or the inactive? When these people are shown principles and techniques on how to physically defend themselves, they will be the ones who want to understand the information and work hard to not just “get it” but to excel at it.
When we exercise a number of chemicals are released into our system that aids us in many ways. Some of these are: Serotonin a mood-boosting brain chemical, Norepinephrine which is a brain chemical and hormone that increases our state of awareness, Dopamine a brain chemical that makes us feel more motivated and energetic and the one we’ve all heard of, Endorphins, these are the chemicals that make us feel good. There are a few others that benefit in other ways but these ones in particular offer the characteristics that innately help us when talking about avoiding or surviving violence.
The Serotonin boosts our efforts and makes us feel like we can accomplish and push through the difficult task ahead, the endorphins minimize the physical pain we may be enduring allowing us to continue on. When confronted with stress or shock our bodies also release the hormone Adrenaline from our adrenal glands which send signals to our organs to start lifting their work rate it also triggers blood flow to the major muscle groups. All this is done to prepare our bodies for action, the Fight or Flight response.
Once we understand this, we can see that perhaps the physically active individual will also deal with and recover from the mental and physical aftershocks of a violent encounter better than the inactive person having exposed themselves, albeit to a lesser degree, to the stresses and rigours both mentally and physically that exercise exposes us to.
So, in summation, I believe that being physically fit is not just a huge plus when it comes to Self Defence but a huge plus for our lives in general. So get active!