“On Self-Defense” by Johnny Pranin


“Is physical force the only option you have when confronted by an aggressor?”

This article was shown to me unprompted by my son. I thought it contained some good points, and that it would be interesting to readers as representative of the opinions of one young man on the subject of self-defense. – Editor

johnny-blog-imageA lot of people think that just because people may be potentially hostile to them, you’re justified in using physical force and it’s as simple as that. There’s nothing else to think about. But that’s not necessarily true. There is a lot more to take into account.

There is much more to self defense than just having martial skills, Kung fu skills, gun skills, knife skills, whatever. Self- defense is also about awareness and avoiding potentially hostile situations. Being good at sticking up for yourself or someone else doesn’t mean you go around looking for trouble. I don’t care how tough you think you are, don’t go jeopardizing your life when there’s absolutely no need for you to do so.

When it comes to defending your life, you have to ask yourself what your options are. Do I have an opportunity to flee this situation and avoid conflict, or is physical force the only option that I have? If you find yourself confronted by an aggressor and you see an opportunity to flee the scene, by all means flee! Don’t let your ego get in the way.

There was a guy I knew once who said that if he we’re in a bar with his sister and a drunkard simply insulted her, he would not hesitate to beat him up. When I asked him, “What if you have the opportunity to simply get yourselves the hell out of there?,” his answer was, “I don’t care what other options I have. If he is insulting my sister, I’ll kick his @^# and show him nobody insults my sister! He picked the wrong person to #$%# with. If I don’t fight, he’ll think I’m a pussy.” Sounds like someone who wants to go to jail! When I told him that if I were in that same situation I would have just walked away, he looked at me like I fell down from Mars. Even better, I told him that I wouldn’t even be in a place like a bar to begin with. I didn’t ask him this, but he didn’t seem to have an answer for the police if they came later to investigate the scene.

This is not about going around looking for trouble. Swallow your ego! Self-defense is about survival, not going around showing the world how tough you are! Am I condemning the use of lethal force in self defense? Absolutely not! What I am saying is that lethal force is the absolute last thing that you want to have to resort to in order to defend your life! As Mike Seeklander said once, “the ultimate key to survival are awareness and avoidance.” Krav Maga experts say, “It’s better to avoid a fight than to fight. However, if you cannot escape at all, it’s better to fight than to get killed.”

So always know what your options are in a potentially dangerous situation. Thanks for listening everyone! And stay safe!


  1. Oliver Hartner says:

    Wise beyond his years…great thoughts here, Johnny.

  2. Gail H. Skinner says:

    BRAVO ZULU! I want to commend your son. He gets it and shows a wisdom that a lot of people fail to get. I try to teach the same point to all of my students. I hope that most of them get it as thoroughly as your son, Johnny, seems to have.

  3. Very good perspectives indeed, in my view. I particularly like the point against pre-emptive violence. We cannot rightfully attack people because we think they might attack us. Far wiser than pre-emptive attack is O Sensei’s point to ‘invite’ attack in a way that allows us to keep control of the attack – but such ‘invitation’ would only be accepted by an actual aggressor. Others might not even notice it.

  4. Curt Schad says:

    This is one of the hardest things to do is to swallow your ego. When you master this you truly practicing the Art of Peace this is the way of Aikido.

  5. “Self- defense is also about awareness and avoiding potentially hostile situations”.

    The point here is to stay away from unwanted attention by not making oneself into a target. Self-defense is also about avoiding putting others’ safety at risk.

    We are free to believe (or not believe) in any ideology and belong to any group or organization. However we are not free to express our believes and/or affiliations when we may become targets of hatred.

    Suppose that you are in a public place — a train station for example — and wear certain clothes or external signs that identify you as a member of a particular group that is a target of discrimination or hatred. “It’s my right, I live in a free country and the constitution says that blablabla…” you think and it’s true. You may be the target of a violent attack and it’s your life. You become a victim and it will influence public opinion to request more protection and rules from the authorities.

    But in the meantime other innocent people’s lives have also been threatened or taken. Is that compatible with our believes, the ideology we struggle to live by?

    Thank you Johnny for bringing a topic that needs to be further developed.

    Patrick Augé

  6. Excellent,spot on !!!!!!

  7. Johnny Pranin says:

    Glad to see how many people my article stood out to!

  8. sheila barksdale says:

    Er…. does the sister get any say in this scenario? Maybe she could yawn and look bored when insulted, or she could suddenly reveal she has been secretly training with a 10th dan Master and execute her deadly ‘no touch’ throw:) Seriously though, it’s nice to hear from the younger generation that chivalry is not dead!

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