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                        Self Defense ..... We Must Be Practical! Anything Else Can Actually Be Detrimental!

                        When we teach in the areas of safety and security, regardless of the specific topic, our emphasis is always on “practical”. A good deal of my time is spent analyzing safety and self defense related theories, techniques, and ideas. I’ve been doing this for many years. The unfortunate thing about most self defense techniques is that they are just not practical. At the same time most are universally accepted as effective solutions.

                        There is a problem here! So why is this the case? Its because those who are learning self defense are typically completely inexperienced and know very little to nothing about what they are being taught. As a result, anything seems to be better than what they start with, which is nothing. The problem is that just because someone says something is going to work, and it looks and feels good, doesn’t mean it will actually work or be effective. Remember a street fight is completely different than an organized or planned competition. Extremely different!

                        The other night, as I was watching some self-defense training videos something clicked! There was something so obvious that I just hadn’t thought about over many years of studying practical self defense. As I watched these videos, and then thought back on my own martial arts experience, I noted that the majority of the techniques that we did, start from a “squared-off” position. You know, that fighting stance that we see so many times on television and in real life when two combatants are preparing to fight; the thing that is happening during 80% of a boxing match when they are not physically hitting each other. Squared-Off!

                        So, here is my concern:

                        Why are we teaching self defense techniques that start from a squared-off position or stance?

                        Think about this:

                        We are supposed to avoid physical confrontation

                        We are supposed to escape or retreat

                        If this is truly the case then why are we teaching almost all fighting techniques from a squared-off position? (and just to qualify this I realize that there may be circumstances that might not allow for retreat and would require squaring-off. They would however, be rare.)

                        If we are squared-off, then we can retreat! Right?

                        So instead of squaring-off – GET THE HECK AWAY! More about physical confrontation in a bit.

                        Silly Acronyms?

                        Many training companies attempt to use “creative” and "catchy" phrases or acronyms designed to assist you when involved in an incident of violence. The idea, I guess, is that you will remember a “catchy” phrase and then apply the first letter of each word to something that you should do to defend yourself. Here is an example:

                        “Run to get safe”

                        R – Run

                        T – Throat

                        G – Groin

                        S – Shins

                        So here’s how it’s intended to be used:

                        1) Someone is in your building or house with a gun, or even better, someone grabs onto you in an attempted abduction, rape, or armed robbery

                        2) You are supposed to immediately recall the “simple”, “catchy” phrase “Run To Get Safe”

                        3) Next you begin to think about what the first letter in each word equates too R = Run; T = Throat; G = Groin; S = Shins

                        4) Act accordingly.

                        Now, Do we really think this will happen? Do we really think this is going to happen when our heart rates are up to 180+ beats per minute? Or when we are staring at someone or some situation that could mean life and death? We have all been taught over the course of our lives with "catchy" phrases acronyms meant for easy recall; designed to make something that might typically be difficult to learn a bit easier. How many of these acronyms have you ever really used? Under calm and controlled circumstances they MAY have SOME level of success. Under stressful conditions, however, they are just not going to work!

                        So, forget about the catchy phrases and silly acronyms! Especially those taught for use in highly stressful situations.

                        Here is Another Example

                        Police officers spend a considerable amount of time learning handcuffing and subject control techniques. As a result, I can get someone into handcuffs in fractions of a second without any problem at all. In fact, I am so good at it that you might even think that my opponent is actually helping me! Everything I have practiced for with my willing and enabling partners works perfectly:


                        Or when, for the sake of demonstration they are actually working with me to make it look easy. The same is true with subject control and all kinds of other fighting techniques. The second our opponent resists, most techniques become worthless and the situation turns into chaos. And, as a result of this chaos, we respond with chaos. Our practiced response suddenly doesn’t look so simple, and isn’t quite so effective and beautiful.

                        I need to say this one more time:

                        Add an unwilling subject who fights back and what you expect to work well suddenly doesn’t. In fact, they don’t work at all and we convert to highly chaotic, natural and far more practical methods of self defense. And practical and effective “techniques” are things that we really don’t have to practice. They are not actually “techniques” at all. They are automatic survival responses that we simply need to fine tune and make even more effective!

                        How About Knife and/or Firearm Disarmament?

                        Forget it! Unless you are really lucky or you are a grown adult taking the knife or firearm away from a baby, its not going to happen. You are going to get cut PERIOD!

                        Way too many fighting techniques look awesome and appear to be highly effective. And they are … when their opponent is allowing it to happen for demonstration purposes. Unfortunately, they give way too many a false and unrealistic sense of security that will, in the end, fail them.

                        Again, think about interactive self defense training and what is actually happening. The result can be the opposite of what you might think.

                        Is Hands-On/Interactive Training Effective?

                        Maybe, however consider this:

                        When you are doing hands-on training with a partner, is your goal to destroy or cripple your training partner? The answer is NO! You see, when training you have a partner and in a real fight you have an opponent. One you can and want to destroy and the other you can’t nor do you want to. As a result, training must always be done at half speed and half strength. And for training to have any value, your partner needs to allow you to gain access to vulnerable parts of their bodies so that you can practice actually striking the intended targets with your “strikes, kicks, holds” etc. The problem is that we all have something called “muscle memory”. So you practice over-and-over again, striking and kicking at at half speed and half strength, pulling your punches and kicks to ensure that you don’t hurt your training partner. Now, what do you think might happen in a real fight? Would that muscle-memory work against us? You would be better served to train using a punch/kick bag and punching and kicking and striking at full power all by yourself.

                        Further, your training partner is not trying to hurt you while you are practicing these “techniques”. They are standing there allowing you free access to your targets. In a real fight, when your opponent is not only resisting and doing everything possible to not allow you access to your intended targets, and in fact actually trying to hurt you, I promise you these techniques will suddenly become almost worthless. And where your targets are ALWAYS accessible when practicing, they certainly wont be in a real fight. Again, think about how we practice. We typically practice either offensive or defensive moves individually. We practice striking OR blocking but rarely striking AND blocking.

                        Finally, in any type of organized fight, there are rules. Rules that say you can’t bite, gouge eyes, pinch, pull hair, etc. Why? Because these things hurt, cripple, break, blind, etc. They are highly effective, AND they don’t wear shoes in organized fighting, and, in most events padded gloves are required. Shoes and bare knuckles would create a ton of damage. If these things were allowed these types of events would be quickly outlawed.

                        So, this being the case, what types of things should we be focused on during a fight for our lives? The very things that are not allowed in organized fighting events.

                        Let me take this down yet another level:

                        How many have to actually practice biting, poking, pulling hair, pinching, etc? No one! Its all stuff that we know how to do very effectively. All we need to be able to do is recall that we have these tools available as weapons.

                        “Pepper Spray”, Firearms, and Other Weapons

                        Just remember this:

                        If you don’t have it out and in your hand ready to use, its worthless. Even pepper spray out and in your hand is likely not going to do you any good. Why? Because there is a safety on it. And when you are surprised, scared, and your heart rate is through the roof, manipulating that safety will be extremely difficult.

                        A good strong pen designed to create damage (tactical pen) that is in your hand and ready to be used can be extremely effective and practical. Nothing to manipulate, it doesn’t look sinister like it would if you were carrying around a firearm or knife, and it can be used in multiple ways, on multiple targets by doing nothing more more stabbing, slashing and poking chaotically. Your weapons have to be as practical as your techniques.

                        So When You Are Preparing Yourself to Survive:

                        Always think practically. Always ask yourself if what you are being taught will work under highly stressful situations. Be cautious of anything that trains in impractical ways using highly technical techniques that only work in controlled environments. Fighting is absolute chaos. There is nothing choreographed or pretty about it.

                        Published Mar 26, 2016

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