Friday, October 19, 2007

Self Defense Tip of the Week: Trust Your Instincts

We've all been in a situation before where we just had that feeling that something was wrong. Maybe you were walking alone and thought that someone was following you or watching you. At a college party some guy may have started giving you the creeps. Maybe these things are nothing. Do you ignore those feelings and continue as if all is well? It could be paranoia. Then again, maybe someone is following you with intent to rob you, or maybe that guy at the party slipped something into your drink and is just waiting for you to pass out. Sometimes you can walk into your office and you just know from the atmosphere that your boss is having a bad day and everyone is on edge. You don’t have to think about it, you just know it.

Our brains are constantly calculating. They process everything we see, hear, taste, smell and feel whether we are conscious of the fact or not. We have some built in automatic responses, like pulling quickly away from touching a hot surface to avoid burns. This happens without a thought. The pain signals are registered in the brain and the brain recognizes the danger and responds to it for you. So why doesn’t your brain respond the same to that creepy feeling? Well, believe it or not, it already has! Your subconscious has recognized that there is a danger and has sent your conscious brain warning signs so that you can make some decisions. The warnings might come as an upset stomach, tightness in your upper back and neck, speeding up of the heart and breath, or in some cases panic. This is all part or our fight or flight response.

We have this response to allow us to assess and evaluate a threat and respond with the best possible actions for survival. The problem is that in today’s world everything is moving at the speed of thought. We are in the beginnings of the information age. With access to the Internet we now know more about what’s going on in foreign countries half way around the world than we do about what’s going on right around us. We’re all plugged in. Everyone owns a cell phone and everyone is walking around with MP3 players hard wired into their ears. We are programming ourselves to ignore pretty much anything except the very obvious. Or maybe we pass off those jittery feelings as mere paranoia? Or maybe it wouldn’t be socially acceptable if you left the party or the bar early?

Whatever the reasons are, we need to start paying more attention to the natural indicators we were born with. When you need oxygen, you breathe. When you are hungry, you find something to eat. When you get those icky, jitterbug, creepy feelings that something isn’t quite right, LEAVE! Don’t worry about looking foolish, or missing out on a few beers and some good gossip. Develop a plan to vacate, and execute that plan.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Training clothes? Martial Arts Uniforms?

Most martial arts schools require that students wear a martial arts uniform (gi, dobok, etc...). There are many merits to doing this, such as having dedicated clothing that are durable enough for your particular training style, and the feeling of belonging to something bigger when you look around at everyone around you dressed the same.

There is, however, a downside to training barefoot in your stylish martial arts uniform. How likely is it that you will be attacked, mugged, or raped while donning your karate gi? You wear it for the couple hours training each day and the rest of the day you'll be wearing something else, and so will your assailant.

Have you ever tried training in your street clothes or the suit you wear to the office or your high heels or your snow boots and long winter jacket? How did your techniques work for you?

The best way to train for street self defense is to train in something similar to what you might be wearing when you are attacked. Next time you decide to toss out that shirt, jacket, skirt, or footwear that's no longer "in style", think about keeping it a little longer and use it for training purposes. Find out if your techniques still work in that tight or baggy clothing. You may find high kicks to the head difficult wearing tight pants or a long coat. The extra padding of an insulated leather jacket might absorb some of the impact of your favourite body strike.

Suggest to your instructor that you have one day a month when everyone can wear their regular clothing to class. Maybe make it a special bonus class! If your instructor isn't open to the idea see if a few of your fellow classmates are interested and get together to practise.

Be prepared now! Don't be surprised when you can't afford to be!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Does your self defense training include Threat Assessment?

Threat assessment is an important part of reality based self defense training. While your reflex moves will stop the initial attack, your reaction moves (or follow-up moves) must consider the threat level at hand.

This means that your techniques and your training has to allow you to shift gears from a potentially high threat level to a low threat level situation or the other way around.

For example, if the initial assault was a knife thrust you may be trained to stop the attack and break a knee. However, what happens if the assailant drops the knife before you go for the knee break? Is the knee break still necessary? Does your skill-set allow you to shift to a response for an unarmed attacker?

Or, another example, maybe someone grabs you with one hand and waves the other hand in your face. This might seem like a lower threat, but what if he suddenly reaches for a knife or a gun. Can you switch modes and cause enough damage to stop the more serious assault?

What we are looking at here is the ability to injure to degree according to the perceived level of danger. Your techniques need to be kept simple to allow you to move easily between one mode and another.

Integrating threat assessment into your training will ensure that you are responding appropriately to save your life. You will force yourself to deal with the person, the complete and dynamic threat, not just that right punch coming at you. It will also ensure that you are adhering to use of force laws by always using reasonable force.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Women's Self Defense: Breaking His Balls

The groin strike is an all time favourite line of defense for women the world over.. It's a great target for knees, kicks and grabs. The pain from a strike here can be crippling to an assailant. There are however a few things that you need to know about this target that could save your life.

For several reasons the groin should be considered a secondary target unless it's the only target available to you:

First of all, men are used to being struck there and have built in defenses to protect their "family jewels". They will close their legs, pop their hips back and get their hands down as a shield at the first indication there may be danger.

Secondly, under normal conditions it takes about 5 to 8 seconds for the pain from a strike to the testicles to register in the brain. I know what you are thinking: "when I knee someone in the balls they go down right away". What you are seeing is the body's natural reaction to any impact in preparation for the pain to come. This is part of every human being's natural survival mechanism. If you hit your leg on the corner of a table you will instictively bend at your knees and hold the point of impact with your hands. The testicles are no different.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, under the influence of alcohol, some drugs, and adrenaline the nerves carrying the pain signal from his package up to the brain can be numbed or turned off altogether. That's right, that big obnoxious drunk at the bar who won't take his hands off you probably won't feel a strike to the groin at all. The damage is certainly done and he will wake in a world of pain and bruising in the morning but in the moment the best you've done is made him angry.

For these reasons, try practicing the groin shots as a second or third hit. When you need to get out of a bad situation concentrate on strikes, pokes and gouges to the eyes and throat. Strikes to these areas will often cause sufficient enough damage for him to release his grip on you and bring his hands up to this face, opening the door to groin strikes and escapes. When you can, RUN!!

Of course, if your hands are pinned down and you can't reach him to bite, strike that groin as hard as you can. It may cause him to change positions or shift his weight opening up other opportunities.

HELPFUL TIP: If you can't get a clean shot at the groin, the insides of the upper legs are vulnerable to kicks, knees, hand strikes and pinches or grabs!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Training Tip of the Week: Gross Motor Skills

This is an area where most martial arts and self defense systems can make improvements. A lot of classical martial arts moves require fine motor skills to be executed with perfection. These fine motor skills can certainly enhance your techniques by adding additional pain and compliance through joint locks and nerve manipulations. However, the core movements that stop a would-be attack need to be based on gross motor skills in order to be called upon under stressful conditions.

IT'S A FACT: adrenal stress causes fine motor skills to diminish significantly!

Your self defense techniques and tactics should be based on the reflexive gross motor skills that your body will respond with to protect itself. We all operate basically the same at the reflexive level. We all instinctively flinch, bring our hands up to protect our face and body, and we all move our bodies out of danger without thinking. Harness these automatic responses into your training and let your learned skill-set take over from there.

Train SMART, not just HARD!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Willing to Survive?

Sometimes when I teach self defense techniques for situations that involve a higher level of threat such as an assault at knife point, chokes, or attempted rape, I will hear "I couldn't do that to a person" or "I don't want to hurt him permanently"! This is when I have to get into a discussion on the willingness to survive. It's also an opportunity to discuss the "rules of self defense". So here is the list...

Rules of an assault:

  • There are NO RULES

That's right... your assailant is not fighting "fair". Someone attacking you is not what you would consider a "reasonable person". They will be WILLING to hurt you, cut you, poke you, tear your, break you, poke out your eyes, burn you, beat you, drown you, rape you, piss on you, and kill you. So now that we understand the rules the assailant will be playing by, what rules are you going to go by? Are you willing to do what it takes to stop or prevent this morally twisted individual from harming you or your loved ones?

Are you willing to break his bones, poke out his eyes, strike or cut him with a weapon or opportunity, bite, kick, punch, or drive his head or body into an obstacle?

By nature humans don't want to cause anyone undue harm. I'm not advocating that you punish or brutally destroy anyone who attacks you. But are you willing to be as brutal as is neccessary to escape the situation and contact the authorities?