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Run away when you can! First rule of self-defense!
Hang around martial arts and self-defense instructors long enough, you’re bound to hear this advice given over and over. Some would tout it as the most important advice, but it’s most akin to, “Major in engineering (or whatever is financially lucrative),” or perhaps “Always eat organic foods.”
The temptation to make “run away” the foundational principle of self-defense lies in its simplicity. But since the advice is usually given rather than taught, its limitations are rarely considered, and how to use it as a successful and integrated portion of an overall strategy isn’t much discussed.
The most important piece of self-defense advice is actually, “Avoid the fight, or make it as short as possible.” That’s the defining strategy to avoid harm to self and others. “Run away” is but one of many possible tactics in support of that strategy. But the conditions under which it’s the best option are limited, and teaching it as one’s primary technique is as responsible as teaching everyone in the world to take the stairs instead of the elevator in order to improve their health.
Since most self-defense instructors were taught by—and teach, and are themselves—people of a certain baseline fitness and physical mobility, the assumptions behind “run away” aren’t always examined. So let’s take a look at them, and narrow down the circumstances under which running is indeed the best option.
First, understand running away is not a passive act. It is resistance. It is an escalation.