The rather boring reality of self defence (for some)

Paul_D

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Judging by some of the posts which are made in the name of self defence, it seems some members live in very hostile (and indeed possibly historical) parts of the worlds. The realities of self defence where I live however are slightly more dull, and so amidst the posts about learning to defend yourself against attacks form Ninjas, military knife fighting special forces, or highly skilled combat sport athletes, I thought I would share with you an incident which typifies self defence for those of us who don’t live in live in a warzone or 16th Century Feudal Japan:-

Can you help to identify four youths who robbed a man as he walked along *******?

The incident happened at around 7pm on Wednesday, February 10, near the mini roundabout at the junction with ********.

The 57-year-old victim passed a group of four youths - who he said were all aged around 16-years-old – and was assaulted from behind.

He fell to the floor and his wife’s orange purse – which he was carrying – was stolen.

The suspects were said to be white, around 6ft tall and of medium build. All wore grey jogging bottoms with hooded tops in various colours. All had their hoods up.

The victim was treated for minor head injuries at ******** General Hospital.

Anyone with information is asked to call *********.

So what skills would have been most useful (not useful full stop, but most useful) to this gentleman in such a situation? If you are on the floor before you even knows what’s gone on, and if they have run off with your possession before you have been able to right yourself and give chase (not that you would give chase anyway, are you really going to risk possibly being stabbed for the contents of your purse?) then it would seem your physical skills have been effectively removed from the equation.

Whilst Ninjas, elite special forces and highly skilled combat sport athletes may indeed attempt you fight you, this is how criminals will instead chose to operate. They remove your physical skills from the equation, they do not attempt to fight you as this introduces the possibility that they may lose. They will use a combination of the four Ds’ (dialogue, deception, distraction, destruction) superior numbers, or any advantage they can get to stack the odds in their favour, or take you out of the game before you even knew you were in it.

Whilst physical skills of course have their place, what are often forgotten are the non-physical skills of self defence. Which, would have been far more useful to this gentleman.

Threat Awareness & Evaluation/Coopers Colour Codes/Situational Awareness
Being aware of what, and who, is going on around you is key. Seeing four hooded youths standing in the street should be a red flag to anyone who notices them, allowing you to either avoid them, or at the very least look over your shoulder after passing them to see if they have decided to follow you. Giving you advanced warning and if nothing else allowing you to hand over your purse standing and intact (if that is the option you chose) rather than it being taken from you while you are on the floor with head injuries.

If you don’t notice them, then there was a gap in your awareness. As Lee Morrison says, people will often say “He came out of nowhere”. But he didn’t just appear out of thin air, this isn’t Star Trek, he was there all along you just didn’t notice him (or in this case “them”).

Engaging in your environment and the people in it is key. During the victim selection stage criminals avoid people who are aware, who are looking around, people who are switched on. Instead they look for people who are disconnected form their environment, switched off, unaware, what is known in Coopers Colour Codes as Code white or what the FBI call victim state.

Of course there will be people who will reply that their art has a jumping spinning triple head kick that allows them to take out three people in one go (or some other such nonsense) but unless your art also endows you with the Spidey Sense to know you are about to be blindside from behind, then it isn’t going to hurt to add the non physical SD skills to your armoury.

Target hardening
Pretty much does what it say on the tin, and in this incident a very easy one. Carrying a bright orange purse in plain view is pretty much asking to be mugged. Keeping it out of site makes you less likely to be selected as a victim.

It’s the same reason you don’t wave your cash in the air when you withdraw it from a cash machine, or you don’t take that short cut through the woods or down the dark alley. Making yourself a more difficult target removes their opportunity to make you a victim.

Non physical skills are able to prevent situations like this occurring during the victim selection stage, or keep you form position yourself in potentially dangerous situations in the first place. Not always no, but in a lot of cases yes. It is a lot like protecting your house from burglars. If they really truly want to get in, then they will. That is not what alarms, security lights, or owning a dog are for. They are simply there to persuade criminals to go and find an easier house to burgle.

The very boring reality of self defence for a lot of people means nonphysical skills are more (not only, but more) important than spending 15 years becoming an elite fighter, that sort of skill is simply not necessary for the majority.

Once again I apologise that I live in a very boring part of the world, and am not prone to attack by bands of masterless Ronin looting and pillaging, MMA fighters starting bar brawls, or special ops forces slitting my neighbour’s throats as they sleep :)
 

Bill Mattocks

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Learning how to fall safely would also be helpful in the situation you described.

I agree with your assessment.

This happened recently:

Brazilian MMA fighter shot, likely paralyzed after armed robbery

The point you make is valid. Most of us (hopefully) will never confront the type of 'street fight' scenario in which we would square off with another human being, "West Side Story" style, and be able to calmly and dispassionately engage our training to defend ourselves.

However, more basic self-defense skills, such as situational awareness, avoiding dangerous people, places, and events, and staying in a group, can be the biggest part of self-defense; and martial arts fighting skills *may* be useful in some circumstances (providing the assailant doesn't have a gun and decides to use it).

Fortunately, I do not train solely for self-defense. That's just gravy for me. I train for far more important things.

Keep training, keep your head on a swivel, and stay safe. Running away is a self-defense skill too.
 

Mephisto

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Good points, this addresses the more educated evolution of the definition of what is considered self defense. In years gone by self defense and fighting ability were synonymous terms. Traditional martial arts commonly referred to their styles as self defense arts. The same guys also claimed their tradition was centuries old, but I doubt they were talking about situational awareness hundreds of years ago.
 
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jks9199

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Learning how to fall safely would also be helpful in the situation you described.

From a practical self protection position... many of us are much more likely to use the ability to fall and land safely than any other "self defense" skill...
 

Bill Mattocks

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Good points, this addresses the more educated evolution of the definition of what is considered self defense. In years gone by self defense and fighting ability were synonymous terms. Traditional martial arts commonly referred to their styles as self defense arts. The same guys also claimed their tradition was centuries old, but I doubt they were talking about situational awareness hundreds of years ago.

Oh, I beg to differ:

Memoirs of a Grasshopper: The Eight Laws of the Fist

The so-called "8 Laws of the Fist" from the Bubishi, has been translated many different ways, but often enough, one sees this:

7. Me wa shiho wo miru wa yosu.
The eyes must not miss even the slightest change.
8. Mimi wa yoku happo wo kiku.
The ears listen well in all eight directions.
I'd call that 'situational awareness,' wouldn't you?
 

drop bear

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Not really self defence as it is defined as a use of force. But yes there are many skills you need in life that are not martial arts.

Eg. This happened recently.

Two stung by irukandji, four box jellyfish found

Knowing not to go swimming arroung during jellyfish season would have helped these people a lot more that physical skills.

Mabye there is a colour code or something.
 

Mephisto

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Oh, I beg to differ:

Memoirs of a Grasshopper: The Eight Laws of the Fist

The so-called "8 Laws of the Fist" from the Bubishi, has been translated many different ways, but often enough, one sees this:

7. Me wa shiho wo miru wa yosu.
The eyes must not miss even the slightest change.
8. Mimi wa yoku happo wo kiku.
The ears listen well in all eight directions.
I'd call that 'situational awareness,' wouldn't you?
It depends on the context, the rest of the poem is your typical martial arts philosophy stuff. It's not very specific and doesn't put the lines you quoted into any particular context. "The eyes must not miss the slightest change..." In what? Is he talking about the opponent? Your surroundings? It doesn't really put it into context, the same for the next quote. We can look and find something that sounds reminiscent of self defense taken out of context, like how some traditional arts claim they have anti grappling techniques that of been there all along
 

Bill Mattocks

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It depends on the context, the rest of the poem is your typical martial arts philosophy stuff. It's not very specific and doesn't put the lines you quoted into any particular context. "The eyes must not miss the slightest change..." In what? Is he talking about the opponent? Your surroundings? It doesn't really put it into context, the same for the next quote. We can look and find something that sounds reminiscent of self defense taken out of context, like how some traditional arts claim they have anti grappling techniques that of been there all along

Nice try, but no. You can't wave it away, it's perfectly clear. Self-defense training from the earliest days of martial arts has taught awareness as a vital aspect of that training. It's not a new thing.
 

drop bear

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Nice try, but no. You can't wave it away, it's perfectly clear. Self-defense training from the earliest days of martial arts has taught awareness as a vital aspect of that training. It's not a new thing.

Yeah that story about the samurai and the pot above the door. Or the one where the master just ambushes the student all the time.
 

JowGaWolf

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Awareness and physical ability to defend yourself are not 2 separate things. One does not trump the other. Being aware helps but that's all that it does. It makes you aware. Being aware doesn't mean that you won't be attacked. It just helps you stay a couple of steps ahead of a potential attack. The sooner you are aware the sooner you can add more steps between you and the attacker.

In a simple biological example, just because the prey is aware of the lion means that they are safe. It just means that the prey is aware of lion. In most cases that's enough for the prey to position itself to get away. But in other cases it gives the prey a chance to better position themselves for a fight or to defend against blows.

Self-Defense is a 2 part system: Being aware and being capable to physically defend. Unfortunately many people think one or the other is enough to keep them safe instead of embracing both methods. Be aware to help prevent and better position yourself for a bad situation and then be capable for when the "crap hits the fan."

The saddest part is that many people don't think they need to learn how to physically defend themselves, until they find themselves actually having to do so, but by then it's too late for the classes.
 

DaveB

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Judging by some of the posts which are made in the name of self defence, it seems some members live in very hostile (and indeed possibly historical) parts of the worlds. The realities of self defence where I live however are slightly more dull, and so amidst the posts about learning to defend yourself against attacks form Ninjas, military knife fighting special forces, or highly skilled combat sport athletes, I thought I would share with you an incident which typifies self defence for those of us who don’t live in live in a warzone or 16th Century Feudal Japan:-

Can you help to identify four youths who robbed a man as he walked along *******?

The incident happened at around 7pm on Wednesday, February 10, near the mini roundabout at the junction with ********.

The 57-year-old victim passed a group of four youths - who he said were all aged around 16-years-old – and was assaulted from behind.

He fell to the floor and his wife’s orange purse – which he was carrying – was stolen.

The suspects were said to be white, around 6ft tall and of medium build. All wore grey jogging bottoms with hooded tops in various colours. All had their hoods up.

The victim was treated for minor head injuries at ******** General Hospital.

Anyone with information is asked to call *********.

So what skills would have been most useful (not useful full stop, but most useful) to this gentleman in such a situation? If you are on the floor before you even knows what’s gone on, and if they have run off with your possession before you have been able to right yourself and give chase (not that you would give chase anyway, are you really going to risk possibly being stabbed for the contents of your purse?) then it would seem your physical skills have been effectively removed from the equation.

Whilst Ninjas, elite special forces and highly skilled combat sport athletes may indeed attempt you fight you, this is how criminals will instead chose to operate. They remove your physical skills from the equation, they do not attempt to fight you as this introduces the possibility that they may lose. They will use a combination of the four Ds’ (dialogue, deception, distraction, destruction) superior numbers, or any advantage they can get to stack the odds in their favour, or take you out of the game before you even knew you were in it.

Whilst physical skills of course have their place, what are often forgotten are the non-physical skills of self defence. Which, would have been far more useful to this gentleman.

Threat Awareness & Evaluation/Coopers Colour Codes/Situational Awareness
Being aware of what, and who, is going on around you is key. Seeing four hooded youths standing in the street should be a red flag to anyone who notices them, allowing you to either avoid them, or at the very least look over your shoulder after passing them to see if they have decided to follow you. Giving you advanced warning and if nothing else allowing you to hand over your purse standing and intact (if that is the option you chose) rather than it being taken from you while you are on the floor with head injuries.

If you don’t notice them, then there was a gap in your awareness. As Lee Morrison says, people will often say “He came out of nowhere”. But he didn’t just appear out of thin air, this isn’t Star Trek, he was there all along you just didn’t notice him (or in this case “them”).

Engaging in your environment and the people in it is key. During the victim selection stage criminals avoid people who are aware, who are looking around, people who are switched on. Instead they look for people who are disconnected form their environment, switched off, unaware, what is known in Coopers Colour Codes as Code white or what the FBI call victim state.

Of course there will be people who will reply that their art has a jumping spinning triple head kick that allows them to take out three people in one go (or some other such nonsense) but unless your art also endows you with the Spidey Sense to know you are about to be blindside from behind, then it isn’t going to hurt to add the non physical SD skills to your armoury.

Target hardening
Pretty much does what it say on the tin, and in this incident a very easy one. Carrying a bright orange purse in plain view is pretty much asking to be mugged. Keeping it out of site makes you less likely to be selected as a victim.

It’s the same reason you don’t wave your cash in the air when you withdraw it from a cash machine, or you don’t take that short cut through the woods or down the dark alley. Making yourself a more difficult target removes their opportunity to make you a victim.

Non physical skills are able to prevent situations like this occurring during the victim selection stage, or keep you form position yourself in potentially dangerous situations in the first place. Not always no, but in a lot of cases yes. It is a lot like protecting your house from burglars. If they really truly want to get in, then they will. That is not what alarms, security lights, or owning a dog are for. They are simply there to persuade criminals to go and find an easier house to burgle.

The very boring reality of self defence for a lot of people means nonphysical skills are more (not only, but more) important than spending 15 years becoming an elite fighter, that sort of skill is simply not necessary for the majority.

Once again I apologise that I live in a very boring part of the world, and am not prone to attack by bands of masterless Ronin looting and pillaging, MMA fighters starting bar brawls, or special ops forces slitting my neighbour’s throats as they sleep :)

Paul. 100% agreement. Good post!
 

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So, the physical element of SD is important too..

So you are the 60ish year old, you check behind you just in time to spot the punch.
What aspect/technique from your chosen art do you employ to defend against it?

Then, facing four larger opponents each around a quarter of your age and an eighth of your morals, what do you do next?
 

JowGaWolf

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So, the physical element of SD is important too..

So you are the 60ish year old, you check behind you just in time to spot the punch.
What aspect/technique from your chosen art do you employ to defend against it?

Then, facing four larger opponents each around a quarter of your age and an eighth of your morals, what do you do next?
you defend yourself to the best of your abilities. There are many articles and news reports of people older than 60 defending themselves.
There is an assumption that old means helpless and that one no longer had the ability to fight back after a certain age and that's just not representative of those in their 60's and 70's who have done that against the odds and against a younger attacker.
Bernard hopkins is in his 50s and still has good movement. Watch a couple of videos of people in their 50s and older hit heavy bags.

Everyone has the same 2 options when being physically attacked, you either fight back or you don't. If the only reason that you don't fight back is because you think you are to old then that's a bad mindset for self defense. There's a big difference in being capable to fight back and unable to fight back. As for fighting multiple attackers sometimes you only need to beat 1 to keep the others from jumping in. And for the technique that will be used, it be the one he felt was the best move either by reflex or thought.
 

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you defend yourself to the best of your abilities. There are many articles and news reports of people older than 60 defending themselves.
There is an assumption that old means helpless and that one no longer had the ability to fight back after a certain age and that's just not representative of those in their 60's and 70's who have done that against the odds and against a younger attacker.
Bernard hopkins is in his 50s and still has good movement. Watch a couple of videos of people in their 50s and older hit heavy bags.

Everyone has the same 2 options when being physically attacked, you either fight back or you don't. If the only reason that you don't fight back is because you think you are to old then that's a bad mindset for self defense. There's a big difference in being capable to fight back and unable to fight back. As for fighting multiple attackers sometimes you only need to beat 1 to keep the others from jumping in. And for the technique that will be used, it be the one he felt was the best move either by reflex or thought.

Agreed. For example, Relson Gracie is 62. Heaven help anyone who decides to attack that guy.
 

JowGaWolf

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The biggest problem with many old people is that they allowed themselves to get "old" and it started when they were in their 30s and 40s when they decided not to be physically active. There are many people in their 30s and 40s who are so out of shape that they couldn't run away if they wanted to. Many couldn't punch the air as fast as possible for a minute without stopping. By the time my friends reached their 30s they had already made up their minds that they will just accept being out of shape and that they will be out of shape when they turn old. unfortunately for them that won't make being old easier.
 

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That's great but it skirts around the question. I wasn't asking to be difficult. I can see the other side of the argument that this is a martial arts forum so let's discuss the application of martial arts.

There's your scenario, you are armed with the knowledge of your chosen ma, what do you do? I am genuinely interested in the answers, especially in comparing different styles.

That being said if your answer is "try to talk my way out or run" it does validate the op's point, that attitudes to ma and it's applications in life can be far apart.
 

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Awareness and physical ability to defend yourself are not 2 separate things. One does not trump the other. Being aware helps but that's all that it does. It makes you aware. Being aware doesn't mean that you won't be attacked. It just helps you stay a couple of steps ahead of a potential attack. The sooner you are aware the sooner you can add more steps between you and the attacker.

In a simple biological example, just because the prey is aware of the lion means that they are safe. It just means that the prey is aware of lion. In most cases that's enough for the prey to position itself to get away. But in other cases it gives the prey a chance to better position themselves for a fight or to defend against blows.

Self-Defense is a 2 part system: Being aware and being capable to physically defend. Unfortunately many people think one or the other is enough to keep them safe instead of embracing both methods. Be aware to help prevent and better position yourself for a bad situation and then be capable for when the "crap hits the fan."

The saddest part is that many people don't think they need to learn how to physically defend themselves, until they find themselves actually having to do so, but by then it's too late for the classes.
Agreed. I've seen SD schools that seemed to entirely ignore the mental awareness aspect. I've also heard of SD seminars that seemed to entirely ignore the physical defense aspect.
 

gpseymour

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So, the physical element of SD is important too..

So you are the 60ish year old, you check behind you just in time to spot the punch.
What aspect/technique from your chosen art do you employ to defend against it?

Then, facing four larger opponents each around a quarter of your age and an eighth of your morals, what do you do next?
Both of those are highly situational.

For the first question, it might be a kick, a counter-punch, a block, a "body block", a throw, etc. It depends upon the distance, speed, posture, and position of the attacker. That's why we train so much.

For the second, the preferred response should be "get the hell outta there!" That's not always possible. If I can't escape, I'll hurt whichever I can get to first, hopefully in a way that either renders him unconscious or makes him scream in pain. Success beating all 4 is unlikely in any realistic scenario, but maybe I can hurt one bad enough to make the others slow down and gain an escape. If not, I'll try to hurt the next one, and so on, until either I'm down or they all are.

In every self-defense situation, escape is the priority, unless it is low-percentage, impossible, or outweighed by another priority (a small child in the room, for instance).

EDIT: in re-reading your post, I assumed the second was an imminent attack. It doesn't appear so, so the first order of business (if immediate escape isn't possible) would, of course, be to try to de-escalate the situation (or even confuse them with a thought-pattern interrupt). That's part of the "escape" focus.
 

drop bear

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So, the physical element of SD is important too..

So you are the 60ish year old, you check behind you just in time to spot the punch.
What aspect/technique from your chosen art do you employ to defend against it?

Then, facing four larger opponents each around a quarter of your age and an eighth of your morals, what do you do next?

You get bashed.

They are going to stop because you are convincing is as likley as you are going to win that fight
 

JowGaWolf

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Agreed. For example, Relson Gracie is 62. Heaven help anyone who decides to attack that guy.
exactly. Not all old people have crippled wrinkled bodies that can barely walk.
That's great but it skirts around the question. I wasn't asking to be difficult. I can see the other side of the argument that this is a martial arts forum so let's discuss the application of martial arts.

There's your scenario, you are armed with the knowledge of your chosen ma, what do you do? I am genuinely interested in the answers, especially in comparing different styles.

That being said if your answer is "try to talk my way out or run" it does validate the op's point, that attitudes to ma and it's applications in life can be far apart.
I understand.
The best plan is always try to walk away from conflict or avoid the conflict no matter the age. But if walking away is your only plan then you are missing half of what is needed for self-defense. Running or walking away does not guarantee an escape from the conflict. If plan A fails then things are going to get Physical and at this point. Sometimes running away is only possible after fighting off an attacker. There is no rule to being assaulted saying that the attacker has to give you the opportunity to run away or the time to talk your way out of the attack. In a real self-defense situation there's no guarantee that things will happen in a particular order or that one action of self defense is a solve all. Some self-defense tactics could be to talk if not for the purpose of delaying an attack long enough for you to put yourself in a better position to defend. Sometimes the opportunity isn't there to do that.

As for what applications will be done in the heat of the moment, there's just no way to determine that because it all depends on the environment, the moment of attack, and the level of awareness that the victim had before and during the attack. There's no instant solution of "Hey do this, then do that." There is only fight or flight. You will either fight back or not fight back.

The only thing that I can really see about self-defense is that those who are trained in self-defense (both the physical and non physical aspects) do a much better job with handling violent situations than those who have been trained in physical self-defense.

I guess I look at it like everything else we do in life. Those who are trained to play tennis do better at tennis than those who aren't trained to play tennis. Those who are trained to fight do better than those who don't train to fight. Those who are trained to remain calm during chaos do better than those who are aren't trained to deal with Chaos. I don't see why those who are trained in self-defense would do worse than someone who wasn't trained in self-defense.
 
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