I am a lifetime marital artist and former combat instructor in Special Forces. I
have developed, written and taught combat and self defense courses around the world
to more than 100,000 students and instructors. Even after more than 35 years of
experience in martial arts training and combat survival experiences, every time
I enter an unknown environment, I always question myself on "What if
No matter how experienced you are in the martial arts or how confident you feel
in defending yourself, awareness is a far more powerful weapon than any other you
practice in the training hall. Don't be an easy prey. Watch for signs that signal
danger during the following stages of interacting with a potential assailant:
Stage #1: Approaching
Approaching is the first sign of potential danger. An assailant may walk toward
you casually, follow you from behind or jump out of nowhere. This is the time for
you to prepare for avoiding the assailant or running away.
Remember: Don't Run Away from Danger; Run to Safety. You don't need
to beat or defeat an assailant - there are no winners in self-defense. Your only
goal is to escape safely.
Stage #2: Closing
If you feel even slightly uncomfortable about a person approaching you, do not allow
the assailant to get closer than 5-6 feet. If necessary, give a stern verbal warning
such as "Stop there" or "Don't come any closer."
Stage #3: Trapping
An assailant intent on harming you, will ignore a verbal warning and continue toward
you. At this point, there is no doubt about the assailant's intent and this is your
cue to flee immediately and without hesitation. Be aware that if you begin to flee,
an assailant may try to drive you to a confined area.
Stage #4: Attack
When physically attacked, there are a number of things to keep in mind that might
mean the difference between life and death. The most important lesson that I learned
in military combat is the power of the mind. Stay calm and alert. Don't Panic.
An experienced assailant will use your mind against you, taking advantage of your
panicked state to control the situation.
The second lesson is that everybody makes mistakes. Look for Mistakes. Even
the most overwhelming assailant, no matter how indestructible he appears, can make
a mistake. That's when you will find an opening to break though.
The third lesson is that every physical confrontation is fluid and the changing
nature of the conflict will create a number of opportunities for you to escape or
counterattack. A physical assault has a goal. An assailant wants something from
you, whether to injure, rape, rob or kill. Until he obtains his objective he will
continuously progress toward his goal. This means that the situation will continue
to change as the assailant progresses toward his goal.
Think ahead: Sometimes waiting can be better than acting immediately if you
think the changing situation will give you a better option. Try to figure out what
the attacker needs to victimize or dominate you (i.e. Space to attack, a free hand
to assault you) and don't let him have it.
Example: You are pinned on your side (lateral cobra twist) by a rapist and cannot
escape, don't panic. A rapist cannot achieve his goal from this position. At some
point, he will have to change position. When he loosens his grip, shifts his weight
or tries to gain a better position for his legs, his momentary distraction provides
you a chance to escape or counterattack.
The fourth lesson is don't dwell on your mistakes. Move on. Quickly. We all
make mistakes but they are just a part of the whole process. Keep your sight on
the entire spectrum, which is your survival. If a technique is not working as expected
it, don't fight it. Change your plan, look for a better opening, move in the opposite
direction or use a distraction technique.
The final lesson that I learned through experience is that you need to have a plan.
Before you enter any unfamiliar circumstance, take a moment to size up the environment
and to practice an Emergency Mental Rehearsal. Know how to protect your body.
Know where to strike. Know where to look for help.
In any violent situation, you just never know what is going to happen and where
the situation will take you. You never know when you have to get extremely violent
and when to choose life and death decision. By mentally rehearsing how far you are
willing to go in defending yourself and what types of defensive tactics are available
to you in a given environment, you gain a powerful added weapon: a plan of defense.
Stage #5: Aftermath
In the aftermath of an attack, such as a mugging or assault, the assailant may decide
to kill the victim. Do not let down your guard until you have escaped to safety
or the assailant has completely left the area.
Practicing self-defense scenarios, both in your mind (visualization) and with a
partner, is essential. Rehearsing situations helps you think through how you might
handle a potential threat.
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