≡ Menu

Self defense as common sense is a rare trait

HeroThe most amazing thing about firefighters and emergency response people is their use of common sense and an ability to think in the midst of chaos. Firefighters especially learn to adapt whatever is at hand to put the situation more in their favor.

As farmers in Oklahoma, my family and I joked that we could fix anything with “some bubble gum and a little baling wire.” We also had enough sense of competition and pride to not just “make do” with what we had, but to create something better, stronger, and more functional that something bought in a store for the same purpose.

The ability to see beyond problems that a firefighter or farmer might encounter requires common sense deeply rooted in a broad type of situational awareness.

Common sense means different things to different people. From my roots in rural, small-town American to my years in the martial arts and emergency response, I see it as the ability to integrate experiences. To me common sense is:

A knowing or perception regarding nature or human nature that allows a person to integrate situational variables or to extrapolate from a situation the best and most positive results.

Such wisdom is not based on specialized knowledge or advanced education. Rather, it comes from exposure to people or experiences that foster this awareness.

The opposite of common sense, then is unsound judgment or misperception regarding nature or human nature. I’ve witnessed such lack of common sense more among those who gain information from book learning as opposed to first hand experience or immersion into a situation.

You can read about firefighting or farming or the martial arts for years, but until you roll up your sleeves, get dirt under your fingernails, or even shed a little blood from intense effort, you can’t understand the true nature what it is to be a firefighter, farmer, or martial artist.

So how does this apply to self defense and how to Think Like A Black Belt?

Everything and nothing.

Nothing because even a totally untrained and scared to death mother of a 3-year-old can kick an attacker’s butt because the mothering instinct and protective rage is so intense it drives her to heroic efforts.

Everything because most self defense is having a wary eye, being street smart, and staying in code yellow. To me these are common sense, but I find many people don’t think about them at all. Why?

The Needy Now
As a nation, my generation and my parent’s generation failed to teach common sense. Instead, lessons helped a generation focus on the needy moment at hand. This makes moments in life segregated, not integrated. We react to a news story and not the background issues. We react to a situation at school or work, but not the deeper historical or emotional variables. We want something to happen right now, and we are unwilling to let time take its course.

And as for self defense, many will see it outside the needy moment of right now, and not prepare — just like many people in the path of a hurricane wait until the last minute or until it’s too late to make good decisions.

Some people only learn to see the big picture when they take their first driving course, and the instructor tells them to keep in mind road conditions, the abilities of the vehicle, as well as all others driving or walking nearby.

Self defense — and citizenship or parenting — requires we see the big picture of what is going on around us. This is also known as situational awareness. Blinder-like inward focus must be replaced by frequent, habitual scans of our environment.

For self defense to work well, it’s best to see danger before it arrives. That gives you time to respond instead of react.

Hey, it’s only common sense.


Thank you for visiting and learning about self defense.
If you think others can benefit, please pass it on!

Lori Hoeck

Photo: anomalous4

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Betsy Wuebker June 16, 2010, 11:59 am

    Hi Lori – Generational failure to teach common sense has a lot to do with how ridiculously dependent kids have been and are kept in the guise of keeping them “safe,” or “making things easier for them than they were when we were growing up.” Obviously, this isn’t the personal safety level you’re recommending, where someone else is responsible for ours.

    It’s hard to rise to the occasion using common sense if you’ve not had any of the occasions that sequentially build up to it. Overprotection and underexposure to consequences, empathy, responsibility, and problem-solving on our feet have created this ineptitude. Classic example: an elderly relative, a big man who was not too sure on his feet, suddenly fell backward from a seated, mixed group of varying ages. I was shocked at who sprang up to assist and who sat frozen, waiting for someone else to literally do the heavy lifting.

  • Lori Hoeck June 16, 2010, 12:31 pm

    Hi Betsy,
    SO TRUE and well said: “Overprotection and underexposure to consequences, empathy, responsibility, and problem-solving on our feet have created this ineptitude.”

  • OAD June 17, 2010, 11:03 am

    Great post Lori! The biggest problem I see in the world is the lack of common sesnse, the lack of understanding the bigger picture and the not wanting to make a decision for yourself. So many people let life happen to them rather than living their life. This is how victims are born.

    I also agree with Betsy that parenting has a lot to do with it. I know so many people who fall into that “let life happen to me” category. They are utterly helpless and the sadest part is they could fix it themselves. Instead, they keep waiting for somebody else to come do it for them (a parent or the government or any other willing savior).

    On another note, I wanted to THANK YOU. At the beginning of the year you had made a post that said:
    “Yet, when self defense is learned as a life skill, the resulting boundary setting abilities, the awareness, and the body language knowledge can develop a powerful and healthy sense of:
    • “I am worth defending.”
    • “My emotions are worth protecting.”
    • “My well-being is worth leaving the influence of users, abusers, and narcissists.”

    Which spurred me to take a self defense course. I researched and found what I believe was the best women’s self defense class in my area and after a bunch of reschedules I finally took it this past weekend. I feel so much more confident that I could survive a physical attack. And it really did help to enforce all these emotional boundaries I have been working on. I wrote about the experience here:

  • Lori Hoeck June 17, 2010, 12:51 pm

    Hi OAD,
    Loved your post on the self defense class! I’m glad you found good instructors and learned a lot. Happy to have been a catalyst.

    I agree, the “let life happen to me” option rarely makes for a life of power, passion, and peak performance.

  • Hilary June 17, 2010, 1:34 pm

    Hi Lori .. you know I’d have said my generation and my parents’ generation did teach common sense, or perhaps it was part of growing up anyway .. but your comment about moments in life being segregated and not integrated .. do make sense .. however I now do look at the other side and don’t immediately react – but I would have got up straight away to that old boy .. and I’ve often been in those sort of situations – where I get others to help immediately .. because they are bigger or stronger ..

    Be prepared is such a good motto – and how true is it. I’d like to think I’m normally in code yellow .. I’m usually pretty aware of what’s going on around me ..

    Thanks – interesting and I went back to the Code Yellow post in November .. Have a good day tomorrow and the weekend .. Hilary

  • Lori Hoeck June 17, 2010, 8:30 pm

    Hi Hilary,
    Based on your other comments, I’d have guessed you intuitively understand code yellow. Be prepared is a great motto, but often neglected as a reality.

  • Lori Franklin June 24, 2010, 2:21 pm

    Hi Lori,
    I have often seen your comments over a couple of my favorite blogger sites, so I thought it was time to check out your site — honestly, I don’t know what took me so long! 😉
    There are three awesome things about your that stood out right away:
    1) Martial Arts! (I did a few years of training — and it has carried through in my life — good for you!)
    2) Farmers in Oklahoma — yee haw! I grew up on a farm in Nebraska — practically in your back yard. You had me at, “bubble gum and baling wire”! (Although I live on the West Coast now…)
    3) We’re both named Lori and we both spell it the “right” way (ha ha). How cool is that?

    OK, that’s it. I’m subscribing! Great to meet you, Lori.

  • Lori Hoeck June 24, 2010, 4:42 pm

    Hi Lori Franklin,
    I’m so glad you decided to drop by and comment. Nice to meet you, too!

    West Coast?! Hope you are coping with that …

    Thank you for subscribing.