Situational Awareness: Tae Kwon-Do and Self-Defense


The best piece of advice Mr. Myagi gave Daniel-San in the Karate Kid?

“No be there.” 

I tell my students all the time, “they can’t hurt you if you’re not there.”

Self-Defense is a very ambiguous term. Is it shooting an attacker? Fighting off a bully? Putting a threat into a joint lock?

The way I see it, self defense is simple: not getting hurt or killed. But how do we achieve that?

Number one, take Mr. Myagi’s advice: “No be there.” 

If you can’t run, find an authority. At school,  look for a teacher, lunchroom monitor, or bus driver. If not, find a police officer or security guard.

If you can’t avoid it, put your hands up and draw a line in the sand. And if anyone crosses that line, it’s time to fight back.

Where each of us decide to draw that line is very personal. A strong Tae Kwon-Do instructor will help you know when and how to reach that decision. 

I used to ask in all of my classes: “How many of you need to be hit first before you will hit someone?” 

Inevitably, every student straightened their back, smiled, and gave me the answer they thought I wanted: they would let the person hit them first. 

“Great. You’re all gonna die,” I would reply. 

I explained that if the person you’re facing is bigger, stronger, or crazier than you, you’re probably not getting up from that first shot. 

The key is situational awareness. Everybody needs to know how to protect themselves. When you participate in a strong martial arts program, you will learn to become more situationally aware. You start looking at things a little bit differently. You start to pre-plan more.

When I get on an airplane, I find the exit and I walk to it. I count how many rows are going to be between the exit door and my seat. Because if something happens, I may not be able to see anything. But I’ll know how many rows away that exit door is. When I am out at a restaurant, I always sit with my back to the wall, facing the door. 

We learn situational awareness more for the purpose of avoiding a fight than winning a fight. 

Through all of the training, sparring, tournaments, and eventually running my own dojang, I feel that I am exceptionally good at sizing people up. I mean, you never want to judge a book by its cover, but you have to play the odds when it comes to personal defense. 

Ultimately, the goal is to become self-reliant. You can’t always depend on someone at school to help you. You can’t always depend on the police to get there in time. You need to be able to depend on yourself. 

When it comes to training, whether it’s for self-defense or competitive martial arts, you have to be honest with yourself. That is why I love Tae Kwon-Do, and I love tournaments. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, the ability to win in a tournament does not guarantee your ability to win on the streets. Tournaments have rules. The streets do not. 

However, there’s no kidding yourself In a tournament. If you’re in there doing patterns and you lose, it’s completely on you. If you’re sparring and you lose, it’s on you. All BS goes out the window once you step in that ring and bow to your opponent. As we have always said, bowing is accepting what is about to be done to you, and promising your opponent that they will get your very best. Win or lose, you begin to become very honest with yourself about your abilities. 

Tae Kwon-Do will give you the answer to a simple question many people don’t ever want to hear: “Am I strong, or am I weak?” Unfortunately for some people, when the time comes–God forbid–that they have to defend themselves, they very often can’t. 

There are schools who teach these 6-week self-defense courses. Those simply don’t work. Self-defense is a state of mind. It requires constant training. 

Remember, knowledge and ability aren’t permanent. If you stop maintaining them, they go away. 

Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do offers a trial program for individuals and families in Buffalo, NY and the surrounding areas that allows you to get a feel for the different classes, meet our instructors, and experience our dojang. It’s a great way to see if Tae Kwon-Do is right for you. To learn more or to sign up, visit the Contact Us page or call (716) 836-KICK (5425) and a member of our team will follow up with you on next steps. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals. Pil-Sung!


Your browser is out of date. It has security vulnerabilities and may not display all features on this site and other sites.

Please update your browser using one of modern browsers (Google Chrome, Opera, Firefox, IE 10).

WordPress Video Lightbox