In the past week I got into 2 conversations about more or less the same thing. I’ll admit one may have been more of a heated argument than a conversation, but it did manage to cement my views further on the matter.

The topic that seems to be confusing for some people is, what is self defense?

Doing a quick Google search on the definition, I got this.


  1. the defense of one’s person or interests, esp. through the use of physical force, which is permitted in certain cases as an answer to a charge of violent crime.

  2. “he claimed self-defense in the attempted murder charge”

What people, at least it seems in Vancouver, seem to be getting it confused with is the definition for conflict resolution which in a similar search results in this definition.

“Conflict resolution, otherwise known as Reconciliation, is conceptualized as the methods and processes involved in facilitating the peaceful ending of conflict and retribution

The clear difference is one is expecting physical contact resulting in possible physical harm and the other is attempting to resolve possible violence using words.

To me at least, the difference is quite clear cut, and as I teach, conflict resolution is absolutely the first step to any self defense strategy. A lot of the time situations can easily be avoided by either:

         A. Walking away

         B. De-escalating the situation using verbal conflict resolution

This is why in Krav Maga, we have the semi passive stance. This is a stance that a person takes that is not threatening yet allows the individual to protect themselves should the other person choose to instigate physical violence. In the law enforcement community this might be referred to as an interview stance.

Here are some images to show what that might look like :

The individual wants to resolve the situation with conflict resolution but at the same time is prepared to defend themselves physically without appearing overly threatening.

Again, up until this point it seems fairly straightforward what the difference between self defence and conflict resolution. But apparently it isn’t clear otherwise those two conversations I had may not have happened.

The first Conversation

I was at a local leadership conference as both a participant and presenter and in the main atrium of the building they had various tables set up to show the merits of volunteering in the community. One of the tables set up was the local volunteer community policing program. The particular city in question for those of you wondering is the Vancouver suburb of Surrey. Many of you reading this may not know, but Surrey is actually larger in size and population than Vancouver and as such ,is having problems associated with rapid growth. A current concern is violence in the community and an outcry was sparked after this event:

Naturally, I asked the volunteers at the booth did they have any self defense training. Her answer was:

“We used to have a “verbal Judo” course, but they stopped it from some reason. Really they encourage us not to get involved in anything and stay away”

In my head I wanted to explode, but I politely handed her my card and said if she could pass it on to her superiors if they were ever interested in starting a proper program.

My first question is, what is “verbal judo” and second, how can that possibly be considered self defense?

Here are individuals who want to make a difference in the community and are quite visible by the bright neon yellow high visibility vests they wear.

“Verbal Judo” sounds like a good start, but really it sounds like conflict resolution to me. The fact is that even if they took a quick verbal Judo course, does this make these volunteers experts at dealing with aggressive, disturbed or otherwise threatening people? I think not. What happens if someone decided to violently and maliciously attack these good samaritans, what then?

Too often people take a reactive stance to situations rather than a proactive one. Proactive self defense would recognize that this potentially puts them at risk for physical violence and would teach them both verbal and physical skills in order to deal with the possibilities.

On that note, I often hear ” just call the police” or wait until the police officer who is 100 meters away to come and help. The fact is an individual within 10-20 meters who has an intent to cause physical harm will achieve their objective far faster than that police officer can react.

The second conversation

While this one started off harmlessly, as can quite often happen, it escalated into something more heated that may have required ironically, conflict resolution. The end result was me being called an A-hole by the individual and their friend. Also ironic because of the nature of the conversation.

This one took place at a private residence where everyone knew I taught self defense, in fact several individuals had recently asked me to start up a program in their community. This means that everyone knew I was a professional and I take self defense very seriously.

The individual in question told me that they taught self defense to teens as part of a program they were involved in. Naturally, this peaked my interest and I began to inquire as to the nature of their program.

Though, I am paraphrasing the conversation, it went something like this.

       Q: What does your program teach?

       A: We teach them self defense.

       Q: But what do you actually teach them?

       A: We teach them the vulnerable points on the body.

       Q. That’s good, but do you practice any of the techniques?

      A. No, we teach non physical self defense.

My answer to this of course was, I am sorry but you are not teaching self defense. From here the conversation spiraled into an argument which ended in the result as mentioned above.

This being the second time this kind of conversation came up in a week really made me mad. Not because I got called an A-hole, as I have been called that many times in my life, and it really doesn’t matter to me. It was because people in general, do not know what self defense is. Here I was, what I would consider a professional on the subject and I ended up the bad guy, go figure.


Conflict resolution is NOT self defense. It is a precursor in an attempt to avoid a self defense situation. This is of course if there was even any time to have a conversation and no surprise attacks were involved which would require self defense.

In my opinion, it is extremely naive of people to think that one does not need to learn physical methods for defending themselves if someone has intent on causing bodily harm. Not only is it naive but potentially dangerous. Giving a person a false sense of security to their personal defense can only get them injured or killed.

People who know me may have also heard me say this is why I am not a fan of one time “self defense” seminars. Learning a move once, does not mean you know how to defend yourself or use that move effectively.

The only way to defend yourself against physical violence is with physical violence. If you are the type to take a peaceful perspective and prefer to take a trip to the hospital because you didn’t think it necessary to know self defense then by all means, that is your choice.

However, I plan on doing everything I can to teach people what I know so that they can all go home safely no matter what the circumstances.

I want to be perfectly clear, though I am a proponent for Krav Maga and it is what I believe in, your chosen self defense system can be whatever you like. However if it is not physical and you do not practice it regularly, I am sorry but you are NOT learning self defense and you most likely will not be safe. At the end of the day people need to face reality, Conflict Resolution is NOT self defense.

Written By: Jonathan F