What does meditation have to do with self defense?
To me the answer is simple. Meditation helps you pay attention and temper your reactions. Simply put, it helps you respond more neutrally to your environment and all stimuli. To me this is the rationale behind the famed view of a warrior monk.
Anyone who trains their mind can theoretically make better decisions and be more rational in a stressful situation. Like anything this takes time and practice to do well and apply in real time. Here's a simple template I use to train my mentality and how I work to implement my meditation into realistic self defense scenarios.
Practice sitting meditation by itself daily
Meditation doesn't have to be complex, although it can quickly become so depending on how far you wish to take it. My simple template for meditation is to set a timer for 15-30 minutes and simply pay attention to my thoughts, feelings, rational and physical sensations during that length of time. When the time is up I move on with my day either writing about it to process or not depending on how I feel that day. Daily practice in this way brings amazing benefits to the rest of my life. I've found this progress is steady and consistent as long as it is done w/o personal judgements honestly seeking where I am mentally and physically in the current moment.
Use physical exercise as a daily opportunity to practice mindfulness.
Exercise as an opportunity to practice mindfulness? What I mean by this is completely immerse yourself in what your doing. Feel every muscle fiber your using, pay attention to how your breathing, your speed, stacking of tension and power, etc. In our Chi Kung Fitness classes we focus very specifically on this and how your exercise can/does link back to your emotional state and specifically to how you relate to stress. Mindfulness can change a simple exercise you've done countless times and make it into something fresh that can give you a vast amount of insight into a variety of issues physical and otherwise.
Pay attention to emotional triggers during physical exercise and extreme duress.
This one goes hand in hand with the mindfulness piece, but more specifically what emotions come up for you while your exercising. How you respond to your exercise is similar to how you'll respond to other types of stress in your life. If you doubt your ability to follow through and keep going while doing push ups, for example, chances are you'll do the same when faced with other challenges. It's important to take note of those things and work them to your advantage as opposed to turning a blind eye to it. We're all emotional creatures, awareness of this brings us to use it as a help instead of a hinderance.
Spar at least 1x a week, and pay attention to my emotional reactions afterwards.
Sparing is essential to being able to apply martial technique. Keeping a level head in this environment will help tremendously. Being able to stay objective and observant overall will help you stay alive.
Self defense is more reliant on how you react to all of your surroundings as opposed to specifically how you apply techniques. Being able to fight will of course help you in a physical altercation, but being able to pay attention to see if a weapon might be in play, whether or not there's multiple attackers, knowing how to escape, and being able to talk down/ deescalate a situation will avoid the problem all together.
If you're not used to sparing on a regular basis it's easy to get frustrated, feel defeated, and/or be overcome by the stress of confrontation. This stress and emotional bias clouds judgement and puts you in grave danger when your life's on the line. Getting used to this stress and training to overcome these pitfalls is where meditation and sparing merge together. Awareness is key and it should be the central focus of all self defense programs. This internal foundation helps you to solidly shift it into a safety tool.
Daniel R. Hyde
Licensed Massage Therapist
OIF, OEF Veteran
U.S. Marine Corps
Kwan Ying Do Kung Fu
Tai Chi Chuan
Tui Na, Chinese Massage
Shiatsu, Japanese Massage