BY RACHEL CHEESEMAN, FOUNDER OF STREET SMART SELF DEFENSE
“Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the axe”. These words spoken by Abraham Lincoln are not so much about the action of chopping down the tree, as they are about a lesson in being prepared to chop down the tree. In other words, showing up with a dull axe will likely take you the full 6 hours (or more) to complete the task. By not being prepared, you will be much more fatigued and will waste a lot more energy. You also risk the higher possibility of failure. Sharpening the axe prior to starting the job greatly increases the motivation to finish the task in less time and conserve energy. This analogy illustrates that putting the time and effort into preparing for a given situation in advance, will greatly increase chances for success both physically and emotionally.
The best way to prevent panic is to train for it. Just ask any EMT first responder who works in the field on a regular basis. I was involved with teaching a self-defense workshop to first responders some years ago. In order to fully understand the scope of their work and prepare them for the threats they face, I had to spend the night riding in an ambulance with an active crew. These people spend countless hours preparing for high stress and adrenalized circumstances. Their acute level of emotional preparedness can make the difference between life and death for someone else. Effective response time for survival isn’t measured in hours, it’s measured in minutes and seconds. So too is being adequately prepared for your own personal safety plan.
How sharp is your axe? If this question evokes a reaction of anxiety, then it’s time to take a few extra steps in preparing yourself for the prospect of using it as a weapon to guard your personal space. The easiest and fastest way to do this is through a process called visualization. It goes back to the old adage “if you dream it, you can become it”. Every day we come across news stories through the media regarding situations of violent encounters. Mentally put yourself in those scenarios and process what it might be like for you. At first it may create a feeling of uneasiness, but over time it will become less toxic to your emotional well-being. Statistically, if you mentally prepare in advance to protect yourself through using the process of “visualization,” you have a much greater chance of being successful with physical self-defense skills as well as anything else your life goals desire.
Of course, taking a class to learn necessary skills for self-protection is also very helpful too. Just remember that crime is not only a physical problem but an emotional one. The more emotionally prepared you are to handle the encounter (sharpening), the greater your physical skills will complement the escape plan (the axe).
Rachel Cheeseman is a 2nd degree black belt and has studied the martial arts for the past 28 years. She founded Street Smart Self Defense Academy in Erie, PA 17 years ago to empower women, due to the rape of her sister in her off-campus college apartment. She is a certified instructor for the national full-contact self-defense program called “Model Mugging” and a certified instructor for the MUNIO Self Defense Workshops. Rachel is also a member of and former seminar instructor for the American Women’s Self Defense Association, and she has been inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame, Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Honors and the World Karate Union Hall of Fame.