Protect and defend
"To protect" is to shield from an attack to prevent it from occurring while “to defend" is to resist an attack that is occurring or to initiate a preemptive attack to prevent an attack from occurring.
To protect is to cover or shield from exposure, injury, damage, or destruction. Protective actions are taken before an attack happens to help prevent it from happening.
Protective actions are those strategic actions taken to help detect potential attacks and prevent them from occurring. They are also actions taken to shield oneself from counterattacks while attacking.
Protective actions are more preemptive than reactionary. You are not reacting to an attack; you are trying to prevent your becoming a target of an attack. Protective actions may be preparatory, such as locking your doors or avoiding a suspicious group of people, or they may be actions you take to protect yourself during your counterattack, such as using a wadded tablecloth to shield yourself during a knife attack.
On the battlefield, a shield is not something to defensively hide behind, it is a protection used while attacking. Thus, a shield is designed for both protection and mobility during your attacks. Sometimes the shield itself may be used as a weapon in an attack. A shield, such as sparring safety equipment, is best used as a part of an active offense, not as a passive defense.
Although one punch may kill, it is usually a series of punches that kills. Therefore, instead of merely protecting yourself against an attack, such as a punch, you should "attack the weapon" by attacking the punching arm in a way that prevents it from being used again as a weapon. This is a protective action rather than a defensive action. Protective actions permit you to seize and keep the initiative in a self-defense situation.
To defend is to take action to prevent your being harmed by an attack against you. Defensive actions are taken as an attack occurs to prevent it from being successful or to prevent it from reoccurring.
Defensive actions are those immediate tactical actions taken at the moment of an attack to resist the attack. Defensive actions are more reactive than preemptive. To be successful, defensive actions must effectively resist the attacks, but they can also be counterattacks used to convince the attacker to stop the attack or to render the attacker unable to continue attacking.
While defensive actions are useful, one should not maintain a defensive mindset. A defense mindset means you are prepared for what to do when an attack occurs, but you are doing nothing to prevent an attack from occurring. In a defensive mindset, you await an attack and then react to the attack. The attacker takes the initiative in the situation and you merely react to that initiative. At the onset of the attack, the attacker has control of the situation. It is better to have an offensive mindset. At the first indication that an attack is imminent, you should attack. In court later, you may have to prove that an attack was imminent, but at least you are alive to make the defense.
When it pertains to self-defense, it is better to have a protective mindset rather than a defensive mindset. When threatened, instead of thinking about defense, think about attacking the attacker and taking control of the situation, while maintaining a degree of self-protection.
As an effective martial artist, you want to take the initiative in preventing an attack from even occurring, and, if when one is about to occur, you should be aware of it and take the imitative to prevent the attack or to counterattack before the attacker makes an initial move.