Pragmatically the goal of self-defense is to avoid or deescalate the situation quickly and safely. Boundary setting accomplishes this by monitoring threats based on your ethical code. Once you know what is and is not acceptable, you will have no problem taking precautions to protect not only your body, but also your state of mind. When faced with a self–defense situation, every person has to work through two facets: knowing your moral/ethical limits and threat assessment.
Each person has a set of beliefs which are things that are “real” to the person. Those realities turn into values which are the things someone finds important. The hierarchy of values develop that person’s morals or ideology of what is right and wrong. Each progression leads to your ethics or rules to which you adhere. This connects to boundary setting because you will always be at a disadvantage when a threat has violated your beliefs/morals/values/ethics without your attempt to maintain them. For instance, if you believe in personal space and you find it important to have that elbow room, you will view an unwelcome advance into your personal space as wrong. It is at this point when a lack of boundary setting has let someone infringe on your ethical code. If you value space, then you must enforce your claim to your space. I am only speaking ethically not legally. One should not wait until they are in a fight to decide when they are willing to fight. Knowing ahead of time what your limits and boundaries are allows you to make better decisions in a timely fashion.
The next step is recognizing a threat. You will never be able to recognize a threat if you do not understand the boundaries they are attempting to penetrate. This process is commonly referred to as awareness, but this is an oversimplification. The truth is that many people have tons of experience but they don’t take the time to analyze it. Can you recognize a con man in a movie? Then you can in real life. Some things are that simple. You know what is normal to you. When things aren’t, your body sends you signals like an elevated heartrate, compulsion to listen carefully, or tunnel vision. The problem with self-defense is that the perpetrator is not going to attack when you are ready. They look for the lost, weak, or distracted. Therefore, your experience may not be enough. If you have never been mugged then you may not know the signs. You should seek out training that will give you the information to recognize problems before they can escalate. Awareness is the process of information collection and interpretation. The key is to understand how the information relates to your situation.
Together boundary setting is knowing who you are and what the situation is. From this base, all other techniques and tactics arise. Otherwise, you might over- or underreact to a situation.
Torriente is the owner and head instructor at Mind Body Defense which is a kickboxing and self-defense school in Chicago IL. He has over 20 years of martial arts experience and believes that self-defense is about empowerment through mental and physical training. For more information please visit his website MindBodyDefenseChicago.com