‘Sense’ible Ways to Increase your Chances of Successful Self-Defense

I split self-defense into 3 types:
• Passive - you want to protect yourself but not hurt the attacker.
• Active – you don’t mind causing the attacker a little pain.
• All-out defense – lethal force is justified to stop the attacker.
Your senses are important to all three.

More important than anything else in successful self-defense is awareness – if you know what’s likely to happen you can take steps to avoid it. As our primary sense organ the eyes are hugely important to awareness. The obvious ways are just like a good driver uses the side and rear view mirrors every few seconds: look around you! See possible threats, see the exits, see the confined areas to know which way(s) you might be able to retreat.

You can also use your eyes in non-obvious ways, using reflective surfaces like storefront glass, hiding your eyes behind sunglasses, and using your peripheral vision. You have two types of sensors in the eyes; cones that are in the center that deal with details and colors, and rods at the sides that deal with shadows and movement. You don’t need to be looking in the direction of an imminent attack to see it coming.

Your ears are also a very important sense organ. If you jog with headphones on, you won’t hear the blaring horn of the runaway car coming up behind you.

Listening also gives you chances to de-escalate situations of conflict before they become physical. Possibly that’s empathizing (at least outwardly) with what the other person’s saying. Most people have to work themselves up to violence. Usually it’s words first, then shouting, then swearing, then pushing, and only then a punch. The right words on your part (I’m sorry; I didn’t understand, can you explain what you mean?, why are you upset?) may keep it to words.

Practice grab reaction techniques. When someone grabs you they almost certainly think they are stronger physically than you are. If you are stronger instead, you can escape a grab by simply overpowering his grip. If not, there are four general ways in which you can react to deal with the grab:
1) circular motion escapes - sliding out of the grab by rotating the grabbed area. Done correctly this works against even the strongest grip because it pits your body weight against the attackers hand strength. This is very passive; you get out but aren’t doing anything more (yet).
2) pull escapes – reversing the grab, grabbing him and pulling to unbalance him. This is a setup, you haven’t done anything to him (yet) but are in an excellent position to. This could lead into joint locks, throws, strikes, kicks, etc.
3) attacking the grabbing hand – Using pressure points or strikes to the attacking hand to escape, causing the attacker pain so he releases the grab. This is actively causing pain, but not causing lasting damage.
4) ignoring the grab and attacking elsewhere – Doing serious enough damage with the attack to cause the attacker to release the grab. IE a kick to the groin and he’s thinking about grabbing himself instead of you.

Trust your feelings. It’s ok to be a little paranoid. You may be picking up on something that’s not obvious. If something seems wrong don’t just tell yourself it’s nothing and dismiss it; we have thousands of years of evolution that tell us when to be scared. Take some precautions. Example: you’re at a club, just met someone, and you’re on the dance floor. Your drink has been out of your sight. Something could have been put in it; so get a fresh one. Another example: A common technique for a mugger or rapist is to ask for the time, a cigarette, spare change, etc. He may be looking for an opportunity to sucker punch you, or it may be a distraction for a partner in crime coming up behind you. You can fail the ‘interview’ if you place a hand in your purse or jacket as they come up and keep looking around.

Biting techniques are of course possible, but with today’s dangers of disease that should be a last resort. No, I’m talking about doing things with gusto, passion, flavor. In terms of self defense I’m talking about attitude. Whatever self-defense technique you do, do it with full commitment. You can not rely on hitting someone in the jaw just hard enough to knock him out without risking hitting him in the throat and possibly causing his death. You need techniques in your arsenal that deal with all kinds of situations, including those where lethal force is not justified. Example: Stopping drunk Uncle Charlie from driving home. Evasion, blocks, escapes, unbalancing throws, and joint locks can be done with full speed and full power; ie full commitment; without the threat of lethal force. Choose the technique based on the level of force required. But for the technique to work you can’t do it half-heartedly; you need to be able to use the natural adrenaline dump in conflict (the ‘fight or flight’ response) to enhance the technique.

Self-defense is more than physical technique. You don’t have to master the thousands of techniques in a martial art such as Hapkido to be effective. You may study something more limited that focuses on conditioning like aerobic kickboxing or competition for medals. Or you may just take a self-defense course and not train beyond that. You probably don’t need more than one passive, active, and all-out defense for each situation. But you do need to practice them and be ‘sense’ible!

Author's Bio: 

David N. Beck is an expert on Korean and Filipino martial arts, certified 6th degree black belt in Hapkido, 4th degree in Taekwondo, and 1st degree in Modern Arnis and Arnis de Leon. He teaches in Richardson, Texas. See http://www.beckmartialarts.com for more information.