Why self-defense training? There are many reasons for wanting to protect yourself through self-defense. You want to feel safer on the street. You don’t like being intimidated by aggressive people. You want to feel you can protect your partner, family and loved ones. You are a single woman having to deal with deal with unwanted attention. You get bullied at school, at work, at home? Real world self-defense can give you techniques that work and a valuable sense of personal security.
Opportunistic aggressors are not usually trained fighters or have hand to hand combat experience. They merely rely on shock tactics, surprise, intimidation and whatever natural strength or abilities they have. Taking a course in self-defense will give you an advantage over a random attacker or ‘threat’. It is unlikely that they’re ready to deal with someone who has confidence that comes from training.
Whatever brings you to the point of deciding to learn self-defense is wildly different from person to person. Going through bad experiences, personal assault, humiliation can do it or it could simply arise from a wish to better oneself and build inner confidence. There is no negative in wanting to protect yourself.
There is nothing that simulates being in a real fight/mugging/street assault. As people we don’t know how we will react until that time comes. A good self-defense course, class or training system must cover these following areas:
Our body language, posture and attitude send signals that we are not aware of. A ‘predator’ will assess these signals to decide if we are an easy target for attack. Simply by altering our posture from slouched to standing up straight we are sending out a different message to others.
This is the primary self-defense technique. Being aware of your surroundings at any given time gives you a chance to foresee potential dangers. This doesn’t mean being paranoid. It means being conscious of the present.
Awareness brings potential threats to light. We must then decide what strategy to use. What is the risk to ourselves? There is a time to fight and defend ourselves and others and there is a time to retreat. No matter how ready we are for confrontation, our first choice, must be escape and evasion.
Escape and evasion techniques
You need to escape but to where. Escape is always toward safety and not a dead-end. You need to find a well-lit area, a busy road, an open shop or business. You may have to escape past where your attacker is standing or blocking your way. Would you run in the opposite direction from your enemy? This could be the wrong strategy. If it leaves you with nowhere to go, have made a bad tactical decision?
Verbal self defense
Use your voice to intimidate, challenge OR attract attention. The voice is a powerful tool if you know how to use it. It is surprising how many folks are afraid to speak up, shout, ask for help or cause a fuss in front of others. Attackers relies on this ingrained social inhibition.
- Defense against grabs, bear-hugs, lunges and holds from all directions.
- Defending yourself knife attacks including glass, bottles etc.
- Defending yourself against gun attacks – both went to resist and when not to get killed.
- General weapons defense sticks, clubs, anything else.
- Ground fighting and grappling – prolonged fights always end up on the floor.
- Using found objects as weapons.
- Striking methods.
- Fitness/conditioning training.
- Finishing techniques. We need powerful techniques that can end a confrontation quickly.
Self defense and fitness
Unlike other hand to hand combat, martial arts or combat sports, a high level fitness is not a prerequisite to learning to defend yourself. The best self-defense techniques stem from natural and instinctive body movements which work no matter what body-type you have.
That said, being in good physical condition will give you a definite advantage in the execution and application of those techniques. Physical conditioning means greater flexibility, strength and endurance. Fitness improves under any form of physical training if done regularly and with correct form.
Which system is best for self-defense?
The best systems of self-defense were developed by armed forces for use in military hand to hand combat. These techniques are for one purpose – to end a fight quickly. Today’s self-protection methods draw from these traditions for the simple reason that the techniques work. They have been tested in real world scenarios, in conflict, in battle and they will work on the street.
Israeli Krav Maga and Russian Systema are examples of self-defense systems with military backgrounds. Krav Maga has become popular globally and you are are likely to find a class near you if you live in a major city. Krav Maga classes simulate real world encounters by using shock tactics such as shouting and group attacks to get students familiar to the body’s response to stress in confrontation.
Most self-defense courses will teach you easy to learn techniques that work. Your average street attacker is untrained and grab in the three common ways – from the front using your clothing, from the side around the neck or from behind either the neck/head or bear hug. As long as you learn effective escapes from the basic holds and grabs. You could spend longer studying a traditional martial art and get the same result.
Self defense training
If you feel afraid and full of fear about being attacked when you go out, this attitude reflects in your body language, movement and demeanour no matter how much you try to hide it. It works at a gut level. This isn’t easy to change but it can be done. Our conscious attitudes and feelings often have subconscious motivators and triggers. As you start training in self-defense you will begin to change these attitudes and become more confident.
If you come up against muggers or worse violent offenders on the street, an untrained person will be at a disadvantage. Why? The advantage is that they are ready for the stress and shock involved. A number of criminals have become habituated and somewhat desensitized to stressful encounters.
Sometimes though a person is just out for a fight and you happen to be the unfortunate individual who has crossed their path. Awareness of your environment and the people around you can help you avoid some obvious dangers before you get dragged into them. (See location awareness above)
For instance, do not cut through the park at night just because it saves you a few minutes if you know the park is dangerous. If you are out and you notice someone looking for trouble, stay out of the way; why look for trouble? The best self defense technique is to remove yourself from the equation.
Learning Self defense
How do we learn self defense? Taught classes are common and can be found in most cities and towns. It is a safe environment with a professional instructor who will help you to perfect the techniques. Plus pairing up with other students who have a variety of different body shapes and abilities prepares you for the real world. Self defense syllabus’ are generally short and easy to learn.
There are also quite a number of on-line courses to buy and learn at home. The advantage with this method is you can learn at your own pace and at a time that suits you, when and where you want. It is always best to find a training partner to practice with.
Self defense legality
Self defense is commonly defined thus: ‘the act of defending oneself, one’s loved ones and property’. Self defense starts with being able to recognise danger or potential threats to your person or those around you. The ideal method of self defense is not to put yourself in dangerous situations in the first place i.e. avoid an attack or a fight any way you can.
When you are learning self defense from a reputable practitioner or teacher they should also know and be willing to explain your position within the law in case you find yourself having to prove that it was self defense. Legal ramifications of protecting yourself vary from country to country so always make sure you know what your position is otherwise you might be defending yourself in court.
Self Defense vs Martial arts
The advantage of self-defense training over martial arts is time. In a very short time, you can master a number of easy to use self-defense techniques. These will give you some protection on the street.
With martial arts training, mastery of technique takes longer as you progress through the grades and develop experience. Over time this develops great discipline and focus and confidence Every style of martial arts will be effective self-defense once you have a level of skill. But this does take time.
With self-defense the goal IS self-protection. This is achieved in a much shorter time. When you learn self protection you are not concerned with the ritual of the art or style, the hierarchy of teacher and students, the long and short forms or the belt grades. Self defense is about what works on the street and not in the dojo.