The fourth dimension is a complicated concept for many people and you can get a general idea of what it means here and here.
What is the fourth dimension?
Time. In the art of self-defense, the element of time is often a forgotten factor: taking our past experiences into the present while learning new skills in the now. Self defense is to prepare for the worst of the future, while hoping you never have to use what you know now.
The 4th dimension is the often a forgotten aspect of good self-defense
How many styles of martial arts out there have got you practising forms and katas? How many of them teach a set of moves that are solutions to various offensive and defensive strategies? The answer is many, if not most, traditional styles. Now, how many of them are still teaching strategy or the art of war?
In today’s progressive societies which are driven by image and consumerism, even those who claim to be against capitalism often reject violence as a part of the human reality. An individual in a wealthy neighbourhood on the West Coast who has never been exposed to physical violence can easily renounce violence as bad. Unfortunately, the majority of people on this planet cannot do or say the same. Thus, when policy makers who have had privileged lives, no matter their ethnic background, try to dictate to everyone to be peaceful without understanding the nature of violence or use of force, we often end up with pointless documents that don’t always do anything to protect people.
As you may know, I am a big believer in teaching individuals not to rely on law enforcement or others for their own self-defence. If you don’t know, this is because in the moment, a split second is all it takes to change from a survivor to a body bag. In most violent situations, individuals do not have the luxury to wait on the phone and hope someone shows up in time.
So what does any of this have to do with the fourth dimension?
Well, time is relative. Depending on the situation, it could mean many things. Learning proper self-defence is so much more than just learning what to do in a specific physical confrontation. Self-defense is also about learning the strategy to avoid conflict in the future by learning from our past. This is where time and experience comes in.
There is a saying I like, it goes something like this:
“A fool does not learn from his mistakes. A smart man learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
This saying has been used in one form or another over the years and it echos truth no matter how it is said. Time is an important factor of self-defense because learning not only from your past, but also the past of others gives you context for violence and how to avoid it. It also teaches that sometimes violence and not peace is, in fact, the best solution to stopping more violence. This is where good strategy comes in, which based in reality in the past, present and future.
Knowing an opponent’s past will prepare you for a future confrontation and will better allow you to apply the appropriate strategy for a higher survival outcome.
A more simplified example could be thinking twice about heading to particular area of a city that is historically known for its crime or violence. (Situtaional awareness!)
A great self-defense program, no matter the style, will consider time in all its forms to teach proper strategy. Because without a proper strategy based on experience and knowledge as dictated by time, a person could easily be overwhelmed by a violent situation because it’s not at all what they were expecting.
Another easy aspect of time with self-defense is of course practice. There is often a flawed idea with regards to self-defense which is “oh, that’s easy to learn” and thinking you can be proficient at it in a very short amount of time. I know we have written about this previously, but it cannot be overstated that this is a flawed belief.
The only way to really be ready for conflict is to continue to practice, even if it is easy to learn, so that you become proficient enough to apply what you know even in overwhelming odds. Thinking you know how to defend yourself just because you took a few classes and broke a sweat is presuming far too much. Sure, we see stories all the time about people, usually woman or girls who took a little bit of self-defense and managed to fend off their attackers. Of course, these are great stories, but the truth is that these individuals got lucky. How many situations did we not hear about where the person wasn’t quite so fortunate. Just like time is forgotten, physics is also forgotten when it comes to self-defense. If you took some self-defense classes, but are not proficient under stress because you didn’t put in the time required and your attacker is someone skilled and considerably larger, then you have failed to account for such an overwhelming strategy and the outcome may not be so desirable.
Signs a self-defense school is not serious
- If they only ever show set moves and answers for specific attack patterns
- If they don’t encourage you to come and practice, even only once a week or month
If you’re at a place like this, maybe you are not in the right place for serious self-defense. In my opinion, a good self-defense school should take the time to go over strategy, explain current events regarding violence, and regularly put people of different sizes and skills together to challenge individuals so that they understand sometimes there are situations in which you may not be so lucky.
The fourth dimension in self-defense
Time means experience. Time means practice. Time means perspective. Time means strategy relative to the situation. When it comes to self defense, knowing the element of time can prepare you to deal with reality. Did you think of time as part of your self-defense system? Are you prepared to deal with all possible realities of self-defense?