self defense drills


Blue Belt
Nov 2, 2009
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Noblesville, IN, USA
So there are always threads about which art is better for self defense. Let's take it a different way. What self defense drills does your dojo have you practice to prepare you for a real life confrontation? How well do these drills represent a real situation?


MT Mentor
Dec 17, 2008
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Í take the list of "10 most common street attacks" and spend most time on those. So whether that list is 100% right doesn't really matter. It serves as a reference point. Next I work on what is the student's reflex response to each attack. Final stage is to convert the reflex action into a reliable defense followed by immediate response. In some instances the response fills both rolls meaning is is that much faster.
We then reverse engineer the technique into a kata and that becomes the application of that technique for that student.

Simple example. Attacker moving in to push, grab or choke. Hands rise up to protect face, forearms pushing forward to deflect attacker's arms. So far all we have utilised is the flinch response. Now hands are brought down (heavy hand technique) onto whatever target is available. This could be temple, eye socket, side of neck, ears etc. Grab attacker and pull down while moving back.

Reverse engineer to a kata and what we have used is the "ready" or "yoi" movement from the beginning of each kata.

Now when we analyse this as a SD technique it must tick all the boxes. Reflex reaction, gross motor skill response, effective in neutralising the threat, creates the opportunity to disengage. Four ticks, now it gets pressure tested.

mook jong man

Senior Master
May 28, 2008
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Matsudo , Japan
We practice against all the normal type of street attacks , its just that we practice them at extremely close range.
The students starts to develop the awareness that he must maintain a certain buffer zone of time and distance in order for him to be able to react in time to the attack

But we are always trying to minimise that buffer zone in terms of our reaction time and economy of movement.
So we tend to be always operating in close trying to achieve faster and faster reflexes

Chris Parker

MT Mentor
Feb 18, 2008
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Melbourne, Australia
So there are always threads about which art is better for self defense. Let's take it a different way. What self defense drills does your dojo have you practice to prepare you for a real life confrontation? How well do these drills represent a real situation?

Okay, how long you got?

Our drills for self defence range from recognising certain body language cues and pre-fight indicators (including looking for the potential of weapons), through verbal defusion (which can be gentle, all the way up to aggressive), through to defensive scenarios against common attacks, through pre-emptive striking tactics, through group scenario training, and weapon defence and aviodance drills, covering such topics as street-usable kicking, throws, takedowns, groundwork, and more. This is supplemented by a working understanding of the psychology present, an understanding of the effects of adrenaline, an understanding of the law and how it relates to self defence in our country and state, and training concepts such as Protective Driving (driving skills designed to avoid roadrage assaults, car-jacking, getting cut off and attacked by another car, and more), Partner Protection (handling assaults and confrontational situations when with someone you can't leave behind), Buddy Guarding (body guarding concepts to intercept and avoid confrontation, designed with persons with small children in mind), and lot's more.

Drills used include evasion drills against weapons, free-form responce against attacks (as opposed to sparring), adrenaline-based stress training, contact-responce drills (padding up, taking a full hit, and then needing to use the appropriate responce, such as striking a pad, stopping a takedown, etc), spinning drills (spinning in a circle to replicate the effects of a sucker-hit, then employ an appropriate responce as before), and many more.

All this is in addition to the traditional training and weapons, by the way.

I'll illustrate with the "street defence" section of the last two months. November was what I was refering to as "Knife Survival", as it wasn't really knife defence. It covered 4 weeks of training.

Week 1: Basic understanding of how a knife assault works, drills included being aware of someone approaching with a concealed hand (possibly holding a weapon). The students had to maintain distance from the unknown person, preferably angling away from them. If the person followed, and continued to attempt to close distance, then the students were to try to get them to show what was hidden in the hand. Once a knife was revealed, the next part of the drill was to recognise it and yell out "KNIFE!!!". This drill continued to have the attacker slash at the defender, who's job it was was simply to avoid and get away. The safe distance for a knife attacker is 20 feet plus. The drills finished with a simple routine (that would be repeated in variations over the month) of cuts, and a jam-and-redirect method being applied, aiming for creating a gap to escape.

Week 2: A review of the previous week, then going into the cutting routine drill, but this time with a jam-and-push-away method added. The intensity was increased over the course of the drill, again with the aim of escaping. Then jam-and-catch was added, giving three methods of dealing with the incoming cuts. The next drill involved catching the knife arm from the outside (safer), and employing strikes to disengage and escape. This was then drilled as a free-form exercise, with the intensity kicked up again.

Week 3: Similar to week 2, with the same cutting routine drill, but giving the students free reign as to which method they were going to use (jam and redirect, jam and catch, jam and push away), again with the aim of escaping. If the student didn't escape far enough, the knifeman would turn and pursue, forcing the defender to stop and re-engage. This was followed with drilling catching from the inside, and employing strikes to disengage and escape. In these cases, there were examples of strikes being given, but they were guides, rather than formal "this is the way it must be done!" style techniques.

Week 4: Same again, but the catches were this time turned into simple, gross-motor takedowns. Other than that, same kind of things, with evasions added to the cutting routine. At the end of the month, the students should have developed some skill in evading, deflecting, recognising, disengaging, and escaping from knife assaults. And, due to the way it was drilled, none of them thought it was a safe thing to try!

The last month (December) we focused on escapes from the ground. There were only three weeks to work with here (due to the end of year break we're now on), so I had to look only to what I felt would be the most relevant, and the most usable for them. As a result, I decided to only really look at two situations, and drill the life out of them!

Week 1: Starting with an explaination of what it is we do, and what we don't do (looking at various things, including the distinction between what they may face in a real encounter as opposed to other style methods (such as sporting-style training and attacks), we then started looking at one of the main situations they may find themselves in, which is on their back with the opponent "in their guard". We went through exactly what this meant, and then looked at a simple method of reversing the position (a scissor-style sweep) and drilled that as a mechanical approach. This was followed by adding punches from the attacker (to begin with a set number of punches), allowing the student to defend against them, and capture an arm to perform the reversal. Then some chaos was added in the form of resistance from the attacker, and getting them to constantly punch (in other words, they didn't stop until you caught their arm and stopped them). Once the opponent was reversed, the focus was to get up and escape. This was finished by putting it in a scenario (the attacker shoves your chest hard, and comes in for a tackle, in which you both end up on the ground in the "starting" position, then the attacker starts raining down punches, resists the takeover, and you escape), again with resistance and intensity. The shove adds adrenaline, as well as putting it in a realistic scenario.

Week 2: Basically the same thing, but this time the attacker has the mount, and a different reversal is used. The same drilling routine is used (mechanically preform the reversal/escape, add a set number of punches, make the punches continuous and add resistance, put into a realistic scenario).

Week 3: Recoup of the previous two weeks, each drilled seperately, then resistance added not only in the beginning, but also to the end (during the escape) to ensure the students could get away proplerly. The scenario drill could end up as either mount or guard (depending on how you went to ground, and how they followed you), so the students wouldn't know which one they had to use until they were in the situation. This was finished off with a game, whereby one person started on top, the person underneath had to reverse them and escape.... but once reversed, the person who was on top, and was now underneath would try to reverse and escape themselves. This made sure there was resistance on both sides, and obviously the winner was the one who managed to get up and away.

As I said, this is just a couple of examples, the drills can and do change depending on what the subject we are covering is. But it's a good indication of how we approach these things. Hope that helped.

Gaius Julius Caesar

Black Belt
Jun 25, 2009
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Woodbridge, Va
Short of actually being attacked or fighting, all drills will have a training flaw, so you must recognize what it (or they) are and then compensate through another tye of drill.

We like to cover alot of ground.

From doing your technique drills with focus and increaeing speed and intensaty.
Even a prearanged attack should be as close to the real thing as possable, within scale.
And onece you are cofrotable, you have Uke come for you for real.

Then you have Immidiate Action and Scenario drills, where you are confronted and or attacked differnt ways and have to respond appropriatly, again with verrying intesaty and varius levels of protectective equipment depending on the intensaty and type of attackls and respnses we want to drill.

We go into common attacks and some worse case scenario to downright Kode Asha Maru, no hope stuff.

We also spar using Boxing rules, Modified MMA rules, Randori (Throwing and grappling sparring)

Then all the weapons work helps as well with the empty hand v empty hand and the empty v weapons.