Environmental Self-defense

PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA — I am a Master Teacher of the martial arts. I took my first lesson in 1969, received my first degree black belt at the age of nineteen, and today I teach martial arts teachers all over the world how to do what they do, better. Self-defense training is a big part of the martial arts. It is my experience that just about everyone, martial artist or not, wants the ability to protect herself and her loved ones from harm. This is why, today, authentic self-defense training must include lessons in subjects such as environmental self-defense, conscious consumption, and attitudinal defense.

Many of us are much more likely to be hurt — and even killed — by things we do to the environment, by how and what we consume, and by our attitudes about things such as race, gender, and consumerism, than by any kick, punch, or throw. From my perspective, as an expert in self-defense, learning how to reduce one’s footprint on the planet is a thousand times more relevant to personal protection than are lessons in how to block punches and kicks. While this opinion is not yet common in the martial arts world, the idea is starting to catch on.

For a small but growing number of martial arts teachers, environmental consciousness is self-defense. Martial arts school owners Mike and Karen Valentine of San Rafael, California, own the first dojo in the nation (and most likely in the world) that has made an ocean-based environmental cleanup project a part of their black belt test requirements. Environmental engineer turned karate teacher Tim Rosanelli asks each of his students to perform ten acts of “environmental self-defense” to earn their green belts in his school in Pennsylvania. My program, The Ultimate Black Belt Test, requires high-ranking martial arts teachers to organize environmental cleanup projects as a part of their training. This requirement is already responsible for more than fifty cleanup projects worldwide.

In the near future, millions of “karate kids” and other martial arts enthusiasts will learn, along with their various stances and grappling moves, the ABCs of conscious consumption and the basics of living a sustainable lifestyle. To teach authentic, culturally relevant, here-and-now self-defense, we cannot leave out the very subjects that have the potential to do us the most harm. After thirty-nine years in the martial arts world, I recognize, as clear as a punch on the nose, that self-defense is not a matter of fists and feet; self-defense for today’s world is global and green.


  1. Interesting article. …I read it thinking it would explore the fact that the land is being essentially attacked by forces of greed and violence. You know, those forces such as multi-national corporations working with the assistance of the media and governments (otherwise known as fascism) which are responsible for things like: http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/07/17/10414/, and like: http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/07/11/10303/

    These are real-world, physical issues, which pertain to the author’s statement, “It is my experience that just about everyone, martial artist or not, wants the ability to protect herself and her loved ones from harm.”

    With that in mind I think environmental self defense would mean recognizing this is about FAR more than “consumerism”, consciousness and attitudes. I think we have to stop agreeing with the propaganda that individuals are the problem and recognize that changing ourselves only goes so far. Changing ourselves is not going to stop industries from destroying the planet, unless we defend the land from them, and stop the industries that do this.

    We live in a culture that takes for granted that these industries have a right to destroy the land simply by their right to exist. So instead of stopping them, we “defend” the land by changing ourselves??????

    20-30 yrs from now, if these conditions still exist, our descendants will not ask “why didn’t you change your consciousness so that I could have clean water and air and arable land; so that other wildlife could exist.” They will ask why we didn’t defend the land by stopping the things done to it by stopping the perpetrators.

  2. Indeed, there are companies that need to be stopped –but in the end, it’s the consumer who has the most power. In a martial arts school (and, of course, that is the field I work in), a good teacher will instill a sense of “if it’s to be, it’s up to me” in his or her students. And I have, 1000 times, taught childen that if you act as if you can do something about it yourself, you don’t give up power to someone else. It’s not his fault things aren’t good —it’s my fault –no what can I do about it?

    So, essentially, I disagree with your point. It is the individual that holds the key to change.

  3. Tom, I agree. An individual can make a decision to file a lawsuit against a corporation; an individual can start a campaign to change local laws giving the environment rights and stripping corporations of rights. An individual is powerful.

  4. Yes, great point. And, I should mention I meant to write in my last comment, “…NOW what can I do about it?” –and not, “…no what can I do about it?”

  5. This Article and paradigm OPENED my eyes! Each of us can make a really BIG difference by doing one small & simple thing…Vote with each dollar that we spend. Everyday we can make a difference just by choosing mindfully HOW we spend each $1 Dollar Bill. I am doing it today, right now.

    The Days of an “Educated Consumer” are over, we have EVOLVED. We have entered the age of “Consuming with Consciousness”.

    Move over YOGA here comes mindful spending! Love the article!

  6. Oh,My: Ah, yes all our individual actions, when looked at thru the mirror of narcissism, are so lovely aren’t they! Buy, buy, buy! Go on, now–Don’t be late–There’s one more thing you can buy before the planet is mined to death!



    Startin’ ‘ta sound like wallsteet bankers and their pals in washington….

    Now, go play tag team again and take turns deciding who will reply next and play “self defense” Just remember it’s the planet–Your only home– that needs the defense; it’s the planet to which you owe your life. Meanwhile, ask yourselves: You consume the flesh of the land, but what do you do that gives back to the land that gives you your life, except to buy more, (and therefore require more production?)

    My suggestion: Nothing, if all you do is make sure your little cubby hole is comfy, and do nothing but make sure you are self-satisfied with all your “little actions”…

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