Athletes are part of life. Most of us in an athletic field or profession, regardless of our discipline, are often referred to as athletes. Fair enough. However, while athletes can be nice guys and contribute to the well-being of society, there is a time when discretion and common sense dictate withdrawal from a potentially violent situation. Instincts play a role, as do circumstances. But let’s be clear, just being a great athlete, weightlifter, polished football player, hockey player, or any configuration of the same, does not guarantee one’s safety in a self-defense situation. Retreat is a viable military tactic, and knowing when to retreat and create distance between yourself and a potentially destructive or lethal situation is vital to staying healthy or even alive. You can be right in an argument, but you can also be absolutely right, and that is the heart of the problem.

True Story June 2011: A Southern California strength and conditioning coach, his brother, and friends went out late one night. Visiting an all-night restaurant, a confrontation began between them and a woman who stood in line. Words were exchanged. One of the boys apparently spat in the woman’s face in response to her negative attitude. The discussion escalated and the restaurant owner asked everyone to leave. She called her boyfriend, and when she arrived with her entourage of friends, a fight broke out in the parking lot. The result was that the strength and conditioning coach was stabbed to death. One of her friends also died from stab wounds inflicted by the girl’s boyfriend, who had a history of assault armed with a deadly weapon. The alleged stabber / murderer was arrested and is currently awaiting trial.

Sad … but too common. How many stories are there of young people dying due to such a lack of wisdom and an overly eager ego-driven desire to mix it up? What self-defense principles could have been used to diffuse this situation and prevent the tragic death of those present at this event?

1: Balanced and calm demeanor

Life will always present events and / or people that annoy us or do things that potentially annoy us. However, that does not mean that we should allow them or their actions to throw us off balance and disturb our sense of calm. In truth, no one can disturb us. We allow them or their actions to disturb us. Having someone in line is one thing, but does it justify escalation to the point of discussion or worse?

2: humble attitude

Humility is the highest form of strength; arrogance is the highest form of weakness. Humility is a great shield against the arrogance of madness that invades society. Lacking humility and having a quick trigger to spit in someone’s face is anything but humble and anything that’s incendiary.

3: Awareness of the situation

Reading a situation is essential for well-being. Heroes may never die in movies, but real life is not movies. People’s emotions are like fire and young people’s emotions are like wildfire, and sadly most young people feel invincible. Such thinking is a spectrum of illusion. Assessing a situation and its potential to create problems and dangers is essential to our well-being. Living in a state of naivety is dangerous. Be save. Be aware.

4: Create distance

When a situation starts to flare up, one of the safest and wisest things you can do is walk away. Create distance between yourself and the situation. If these young men had left the restaurant when the girl called her boyfriend or when the owner asked them to leave, they would still be alive. There is nothing smart or heroic about staying in the woods when a fire starts, fires that can spread very quickly, especially when there is a great deal of emotional energy to fuel them.

5: Do you want to die on this hill?

It is best not to fight some battles or at least postpone them until there is a better opportunity to engage. Picking and choosing our battles is important. Some battles are not worth fighting, much less sacrificing our lives. A person who gets in line, however unseemly, is an event that demands intelligent evaluation. In this case, no such assessment was made and the result was the tragic death of two young men and all the pain, suffering and turmoil that accompanied it.

Was this murder scene? Death by Jockdom? Was it more a condition of ego and testosterone than of wisdom and humility? Only participants can answer that. The fact is that two young people cannot answer because they are dead, no matter how good or good they have been.


We live in an always volatile environment that demands, perhaps more than ever, a calm disposition and the ability to assess dangerous situations. Tensions are high. People are stressed. Respect for law and order, even life, seems to be on the wane. Life is more fragile than some people choose to believe. Danger can be around the corner, at any moment. You never know when a situation will erupt into a volcanic explosion. Be wise. Be smart. Be calm. Be balanced. Be humble. Assess situations for their potential harm. Create distance if necessary to stay safe, and never forget to ask yourself, “Do you want to die on this hill?”

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