What is Self Defense?
Self-defense is the act of defending
ones person against attack by the use of physical force.
In order for a person to defend themselves
properly against a variety of attacks, it is necessary to analyze the various types of
attacks, and the techniques available to defend against them. Also important, is to know
the strengths and weaknesses of these different techniques, as well as your own
There is a story of the cat and the fox, which
illustrates how self-defense should be approached. The fox was a master of evading the
hounds and had a thousand and one ways in which to "out fox" the hounds. The cat
met the fox and was truly in awe of the fox and his many ways to escape death, for he knew
of only one. So while the fox and the cat were talking one day, they heard the sound of
hounds and the bugle. Immediately, the cat ran up the nearest tree. However the fox, while
trying to figure out which of the thousand and one tricks he would use was killed by the
hounds. The lesson to be learned from the story is a valuable one for all martial artists.
One should have at their disposal, one or two simple techniques which will work in all
circumstances. Keeping self-defense as simple as possible will keep you alive. However, to
learn which defenses work best for each individual, then a variety of techniques need to
be learned so that one may pick those techniques that are most suitable.
Self-defense, just like the martial arts,
should be learned in a progressive manner. The very simplest techniques are learned first,
then later once more proficiency is gained, more advanced techniques are taught. The
defenses against the most simple of attacks are learned first and then the more difficult
attacks later on. One does not learn to run before they walk, neither should one learn
attacks against knife attacks before the student has gained proficiency in defending
against unarmed attacks. You will find that in many instances the very same principles
apply against a grabbing attack can be used in defending against a punch. In other words,
the techniques and principles learned at the very beginning stages make up the building
blocks that apply to more difficult attacks.
Another important reason for learning
self-defense progressively is the endless variety of attacks that must be defended
against. The two types of physical attacks that can be directed toward you are: violent
and non-violent attacks. A violent attack is an attack that would kill or gravely injure
you. An example would be the knife attack, a choke, kick or punch, headlock, etc. A
non-violent attack is one that will not directly cause great physical harm. Examples would
be a wrist grab, lapel grab, a push, etc. Often non-violent attacks are preludes to more
violent ones. Since there are a variety of attacks than could be directed toward us, we
need to have a variety of defenses that are appropriate to the different intensity of
these attacks. In other words, we should never respond with more force than is necessary
to adequately defend ourselves. If a student were to defend against a wrist grab in the
same manner he would against a knife attack, then you could be facing a lawsuit or
criminal prosecution. Use of excessive force in a self-defense situation may be personally
gratifying, but would be viewed by law enforcement officials and a jury in a very negative
The rules of self-defense are very simple.
Self-defense is after all; common sense. Common sense goes a long way in the prevention of
attack. So the first rule of self-defense is avoidance. Common sense dictates that a
person should avoid placing him or herself in a situation so that attack is unavoidable or
invited. In other words, dont go walking down a strange neighborhood alone, and
dont flash large sums of money. Avoidance also means that when an attack comes,
avoid the weapon by moving yourself outside the line of attack.
Another rule to remember is that in a
self-defense situation, one should take advantage of their surroundings, being careful
that you are not cornered or flanked by your opponents. Look around the area. Is there
anything that can be used as a weapon? Remember; basically anything can be used as a
weapon to give yourself the advantage. Keys, pencils, a brick, trash can lid, or even
throwing grass or sand into your opponents eyes may be the only edge you need to escape
Now back to the avoidance of the
opponents weapon. Moving outside the line of attack can is always the first step.
Then what? After you have moved yourself outside the line of attack, then seize and
control the opponents weapon. Next, disarm the attacker, and then neutralize the attacker.
These principles work whether the opponent has a knife or is empty handed.
When facing an assault, the most simple
techniques are usually the most effective. Remember the fox! A person may have the
training and ability to kick an attacker in the head, but it is much safer and more
effective to kick to the knees or groin. The higher the kick, the less power and hold on
the ground you will have.
The defender has a wide range of natural
weapons at their disposal. The human body has two hands, two feet, two knees, two elbows,
and the most important weapon of all, a brain. Even the forehead can be effective at close
range. It is important that you learn to strike effectively with each of your natural
weapons. Striking at the bodys weak points and not just randomly punching and
kicking at the attacker will make you strikes much more effective and end the
confrontation much quicker. The human body has a number of pressure points and nerve
points throughout the body. Each should be struck in a different manner as to have the
maximum effect. One should learn and practice as many of these as possible so that your
counter-attacks are quick and decisive.
Hand strikes, can be performed with either the
open or closed hand. Punching with the closed fist, generally the striking area will be
with the first two knuckles. This striking area is utilized when performing a straight
punch, hooking punch, of the backfist. The bottom, meaty portion of the hand between the
bottom of the little finger and top of the wrist can be used for a hammerfist strike. For
open hand strikes, various parts of the hand is used. Most popular of these strikes, the
knifehand (commonly known as the Karate Chop) uses the meaty portion of the hand between
the bottom of the little finger and top of the wrist with the hand held open and rigid.
Other open hand strikes include the palmheel strike, the ridgehand strike, and the
spearhand and spearfinger strikes.
Kicking techniques can be performed using the
ball of the foot, the knife edge of the foot, the heel (both bottom and back edge), and
the instep. Kicks that should be emphasized for self-defense are the front kick, side
kick, back kick and stomping kick.
Elbow strikes are your close in weapons and
can be performed to the front, rear and side in both a vertical and horizontal manner.
Knee strikes are the other close is weapon,
and can be executed in both a vertical and horizontal motion.
All joints of the human body can be
manipulated for self-defense. However, primary focus should be given to the wrist, elbow,
shoulder, fingers and neck. Although other joints such as the knee and ankle can be
manipulated, these areas are stronger and more resistant to manipulation than the other
joints. Under special circumstances such as defending while on the ground, the knee and
ankle can be quite effective.
Joint manipulation is intended to disable an
attacker either by breaking the joint, making it painful enough that the attacker will be
placed in an less than advantageous position or just has a change of heart and
discontinues their attack. Although an opponent may be larger and stronger, by utilizing a
striking technique prior to applying a joint lock, it will "loosen" them up and
allow you to apply the technique. Also, striking the opponent will draw their attention
always from your preparing to apply the joint technique. Surprise itself is often times
enough to successfully employ a technique. By using your opponents motion against him and
going with the attack rather than against the momentum, you can use this as additional
leverage in applying a joint manipulation.
Counter attack means that you will either
block or evade your opponents initial attack, and then immediately counter with a
controlled attack of your own. The focus of the counter should always to render your
attacker incapable of further aggression. Defensive techniques and counter attacks are
taught in a progressive manner and should be learned in the following order.
- Wrist Grabs both straight, diagonal, and double.
- Elbow and should grabs
- Lapel grabs and chokes- both front and rear
- Hair grabs
- Hand Attacks against a roundhouse punch, overhead
strike, straight punch, backfist and upper-cut.
- Kicking Attacks Front kick, "sucker" groin
kick, side kick, roundhouse kick, etc.
- Club Attacks overhead, backhand motion, inside
strike, and jab
- Knife Attacks Overhead, slash (inside and outside),
- Multiple Attacker scenarios
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