I am about to reveal the greatest self-defense weapon known to mankind. A weapon you have in your possession right now. A weapon that cannot be taken away from you. A weapon that never grows dull or runs out of ammunition. A weapon you can take on board an airplane without a permit. A weapon you can walk up to even the President with. What is it?
That’s not what you wanted to hear, is it? You wanted me to say something like your mind is the greatest self-defense weapon, or pepper spray, or a flame-thrower. Allow me to explain…
In case you haven’t heard, smiling has been proven to–
Okay, okay–that’s all well and good, but what the heck does it have to do with self-defense? I’ll tell you. Take a step back for a second and really consider what the term “self-defense” means. Self-defense is more than just what to do if someone tries to rob your wallet.
Self-defense is the struggle to be at your best against anything and everything that would rob you of your health, happiness, comfort, or well-being.
Yep. Self-defense is a full-time project. Your eating habits, exercise habits, relationships, work life, attitude… neglect any one of those things and you can expose yourself to unnecessary stress, pain, humiliation, or danger. Washing your hands is self-defense against germs. Reading reviews is self-defense against getting ripped off.
Everything you do, every choice you make, is either going to make you safer, stronger, and happier, or make you more vulnerable to disaster.
Nothing is more powerful than a smile in defending yourself from the ills of this world in all of their many forms, or more helpful in chasing down and seizing a healthy, happy life.
Your smile is your greatest self-defense weapon. But you can’t just tell someone to smile, can you? What if you’re not in the mood? Or maybe you feel you have no reason to smile.
Be careful, my friends. Waiting around for a reason to smile, or for something to make your life better, is a lousy strategy for a happy life. It means you view smiling as a reaction to life, and never an action to take. And that’s a mistake. Just like a gun is of no use to you if it’s at home under your bed when you need it, your smile is powerless to help you if you keep it hidden away.
You need it now. Right now.
The same goes for money. You know saving money is a good idea. But do you wait around until you have a reason to save money? No. It’s always a good idea to save money. You save money because you know at some point, sooner or later, you’ll want to have money to spend on something.
Same for smiling. It’s always a good idea to smile. Even if you don’t feel like it, even if you don’t have a reason. You should smile because at some point, you’re going to want to be healthy, relaxed, and attractive. Heck–not just at some point—at every point! When don’t you want to be healthy, relaxed, and attractive?
Here’s the good news– putting on a smile – even a fake one—will make you feel like smiling for real. That’s a fact. It’s how we’re wired. So, fake it till you make it, my friend.
Okay. So, if all that’s true, why don’t you see more people smiling? Why are so many people hunched over, dragging themselves around, moping… even on a good day?
Put a number on it. Look around the gym, the office, or the supermarket–what percentage of people do you see smiling? Would you say more than half are smiling or less? Would you say 20%… 10%… 5%? Whatever your count, it sure ain’t a lot, is it?
I understand that just because you don’t see people smiling that doesn’t mean they’re not happy. Maybe they’re all neutral. But neutral means they’re neither happy nor unhappy—you know, like a plant. Or a rock. Or a robot. Is that how you want to live? Aren’t you more than a plant or a rock or a robot?
Quick question. What is your “base face”? That’s the term I use to refer to how someone looks most of the day. Their default countenance, if you will. Think of someone you know. Anyone. Now imitate them. What does your face look like? That’s their base face.
Of course, the more important question is: If someone imitates you, what expression would they put on their face? Would it be a smile? A furrowed brow? Neutral? Serious? Grumpy?
What’s your base face?
No one wants to be remembered as mean and grumpy, but look around…it’s a sea of ugly faces out there! Why are so many people dead-set against smiling? Everyone is more attractive when they smile, yet look how many choose not to. It’s a disease, I tell you! We are suffering from an epidemic of ugly faces!
Here’s how bad it is. Remember that time you offered someone a smile… and they didn’t smile back? And you immediately felt like a moron? Maybe you even considered never smiling at anyone again?
Stop it! That’s how the disease spreads. Don’t let the grumps and the zombies disarm you. Don’t let someone else’s insecurities and fears strip you of your greatest self-defense weapon. Don’t be sucked into thinking that smiling is a sign of weakness.
Smiling is a sign of confidence and courage. Smiling takes guts. And you can do it. If you want a healthy, happy life, you must!
Why aren’t more people smiling? I theorize that people take pride in appearing like they’re working hard. There is social value in being seen struggling.
Smiling makes things look too easy. You’re not supposed to enjoy your work. You’re supposed to look miserable and stressed out, right? I mean, everyone else is whining and complaining, so you should, too, right?
No way. Not even close. We should all be smart enough to know that enjoying our work makes our work better. Joy is a productive emotional state. Repulsion, denial, bitterness, anger, and frustration will all separate you from the task at hand. Joy will connect you to your work, your relationships, and yourself more deeply and effectively than anything else.
Here’s another reason why you don’t see more smiles, and it’s a big one, especially in the martial arts– anger feels powerful. It feels good. It wakes you up. It gets the blood and adrenaline flowing. Anger feels like you’re taking control.
Look at children. When they feel like they’re not in control, they throw a tantrum. They stamp their feet, scream, and cross their arms.
As adults, most of us outgrow throwing full-blown tantrums, but that doesn’t mean we’ve learned how to smile when life tries to knock us down. Instead, we learn to endure. We tighten our lips, furrow our brow, and plod through our daily routine. But holding on to our disappointment and frustration only puts us on track for a heart attack.
Thankfully, there is another alternative to tantrums or enduring…it’s called smiling.
Is it really possible to walk around in a state of joy or quiet confidence no matter what happens? Can you permanently install an iron-clad smile on your face and in your heart?
I say yes. Not as a sappy, rainbow colored-dream, but as a purposeful strategy to get the most out of your life.
If you could give yourself a 10% raise in salary, you would do it. Well, you have the power to give yourself a psychological, emotional, and physical raise right now–just smile. It’s tax-free and there’s no cap on it.
Joy and anger are both heightened emotional states. Either one can make you more capable of enduring pain, pushing harder, and feeling stronger. But there’s a crucial difference between anger and joy–anger leads to tension, shallow breathing, and inflexibility of body and mind.
Joy, on the other hand, leads to relaxation, flexibility, and openness. You can see, you can think, you can breathe, you can flow. Those qualities are always advantages. Always. Even in a fight.
Bruce Lee warned about tension and anger in the Tao of Jeet Kune Do. He wrote:
“[The mind of a student in actual combat] must be calm and not at all disturbed. He must feel as if nothing critical is happening. …His eyes not fixed and glaring insanely at the enemy. His behavior should not be in any way different from his everyday behavior.”
You may also remember heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. Iron Mike was famous for fierce knockouts, fierce words, and the occasional nibble on an ear. Here’s what Kid Dynamite said about happiness:
“There’s nothing more deadly and nothing more proficient than a happy fighter.”
Did you get that? Nothing more deadly or more proficient.He went on to say that it’s not “the mean and the surly fighter” who’s dangerous, it’s the fighter who’s the most relaxed and who loves what he does.
See? I told you—feeling joyful or happy is no joke. It’s your greatest shield and self-defense weapon. And you polish them both by smiling.
Despite the wisdom of Bruce and Mike, the world of martial arts is still full of ugly faces. Look on the cover of any martial arts magazine, or poster promoting a fight, or a fight on TV, and you’ll see someone scowling, snarling, or screaming.
I get it—they’re trying to look fierce and powerful…even scary. But the way I see it, they look like children throwing tantrums. They look like they’re trying to convince themselves they’re tough and in control.
They think they’re getting focused and building strength, but really, they’re only half-right. Yes, they may be in a more powerful state than someone lying on the couch watching TV, but not more than the guy who is calm, attentive, and quietly confident. That guy doesn’t have to sell you on his competence. You just feel it.
I’m a big fan of quiet confidence. The most successful and capable people I know, in any field, don’t beat their chest and snarl like wild animals. Quite the opposite. They’re usually quiet. Serene, even. They don’t worry and whine and make work look like drudgery. They just get things done.
So, how do you go from being fearful and tense to cool and collected? How do you find a smile even when everyone around is miserable? Practice. You don’t wait around for a reason to smile, you simply take action and make yourself happy.
Get started today. Right now. If you can only manage to force an inward or secret smile, fine. Maybe tomorrow it turns into a smirk… then a grin. Before you know it, you’ll have a full-blown, open-mouthed, happy smile.
Be an ambassador of good will, of confidence, of comfort. Take pride in carrying that spirit into every room and into every relationship. My first hope for anyone is to be a fighter. But not an angry fighter--I want you to be a happy fighter.
Happy because you have confronted your fears, embraced your experiences, made peace with your limitations, polished your skills, and accepted life on its terms, both good and bad.
When you do all of that, you will feel the tension disappear. You will feel lighter. You will have more room in your mind to see things you’ve never seen before. You will have more room in your heart to forgive others and forgive yourself. You will hold on to less bitterness, usher out resentment, and welcome in more love.
Sure, all that sounds corny, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Love is more powerful than hate. It really is. And joy is more powerful than anger.
I think it’s fair to say when you’re old and gray, you’ll look back on your life and laugh about almost everything. Even the things that hurt you today. So, why wait till you’re old and gray to laugh? See the big picture now.
Get to your happy ending sooner than later so you can enjoy it longer.
Create a new “base face”. Soon, when people think of you, they’ll smile because that’s the memory you left with them.
Before you see another doctor, pop another pill, lift another weight, drink another mojito, try another diet, try this prescription:
Smile once a day, as soon as you wake up, and keep smiling, no matter what, till you go to sleep.
Do that seven days a week, for the rest of your life. It’s all-natural, organic, and absolutely free.
If that dosage seems a little high, try some physical therapy. Smile four times–that’s four reps–every time you leave your home, every time you step out of your car, and every time you’re about to meet someone. Every day.
Pump up the power of your smile. Get it in your veins. Get high on smiling. Get addicted to smiling.
Final thought. If you want to help build a happier, more peaceful world, you don’t need to start a charity, you need to start smiling. You don’t need to raise a million dollars, you need to raise the corners of your mouth.
Be brave. Be the first to smile.
Be a smile leader and you’ll not only change your life, you might just change the world.
Michael Rowe is the Founder of Alpha Omega Martial Arts and has been dedicating his life to the study and teaching of self-defense. It is his goal to motivate, inspire, and transform the lives of all his students; young and old!