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The Psychology of Self-Defense: Accessing Aggression

Updated: Apr 17, 2021

A common challenge in learning self-defense is allowing yourself to access your own aggression so that you can unleash on a strike pad. This is particularly true for womxn. Giggling, blushing, and hesitancy are common reactions when it is time to get aggressive. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to work through the giggles, sometimes it takes months of training to get through the hesitancy.

Wherever you might be on your journey to tap into your aggression, its ok. It can take some time to get there. After all we've been conditioned to reject our own aggression, to stuff it way down. We've been conditioned to judge and disapprove of other people for their aggression too. Attitudes about aggression are shaped by race, gender and even geography. Stereotypes like the "angry Black woman", middle-aged Karens and mid-Western niceness serve to shame folx to keep them "in line".

In episode five of The Psychology of Self-Defense series, I explore accessing aggression with clinician Barbara E. Davis. Ms. Davis is a LSCW based in Austin, Texas. She is a faculty member of International Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis, founder of Project Transitions and a co-founder of the People's Community Clinic.

Across her decades-long career working with a wide range of clients, Ms. Davis has come to view aggression, not as behavior or attitude of hostility towards others, but rather as an energy in your body. Rather than suppressing aggression, she identifies three advantages to connecting to aggression in your body:

  1. The more comfortable you are with it in your body, the more you can control what you do with it;

  2. Protection: you will feel more safe in the world if you can access aggressive energy in your body;

  3. The energy is a feeling that will fuel you to go for what you want.

In the full interview Ms. Davis also shares the dangers of denying aggressive energy in our bodies. Finally, she offers four exercises:

  • Access your Passion with your partner

  • Assertive Statements / Statement of Understanding

  • The Outrageous Ask

  • Feeling It

These are exercises you can practice on your own to help you safely access aggression so that you can channel it in a way that serves you without harming others.

In over 20+ years of teaching self-defense, I have witnessed some of the most glorious transformations when people learn how to access and channel their aggression. Whether you build this channel through Ms. Davis' exercise, or by wailing on a heavy bag, give it a shot. Tapping into your aggression builds confidence by deeply experiencing how powerful your own body can be.

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