10 Things You Can Do To Prevent an Attack

Here’s my quick list of advice you use to prevent getting attacked or mugged. As with life, your mileage may vary but these are sound, useful tips that I use daily.

Crazy bulling waving his fist

Crazy bulling waving his fist

Breath – You must breath to do anything else such as thinking, running or defending. It is first because it is the most important of all tips.

Awareness – Most situations can be avoided by just being aware of the potential for attack or attackers. Know your surroundings and watch unsavory types like a hawk.

Stay in the light – Nothing says, “attack me please” like walking around in the dark. Stay in well lit areas so others can see you and you can see them.

Stay in crowds – Nothing says, “attack me please” like being alone. You’ll less likely be attacked if you stay in a group. A mugger, like a lion on the savanna, won’t attack a herd of prey. He’ll wait until one strays from the herd and isolates herself from the mutual protection of the group.

Eye contact – Make eye contact with everyone looking at you. Don’t make faces or taunt. Just look at them and acknowledge that you see them. This isn’t a license to stare. You need to look at the other, hidden thugs in the shadows too.

Keep moving – It is easier to surround and attack a motionless target. It is difficult to out flank someone who is moving so keep walking and take corners with a wide turn.

Confidence – You need attitude and confidence. Even if you don’t have any, fake it and walk boldly wherever you go. Have purpose in your stride and demeanor. Keep your shoulders back and head up.

Preparedness – Keep the things you need for defense handy. If you are going to your car, get the keys out as you walk. If you are nervous about a room, find the can of mace you have in your purse. Do it before you need it.

Trust your Instincts – Nature built in an early warning system in our bodies called instincts. If you feel bad about something or somewhere, act on it and get away. There is probably a reason you feel that way. There’s no reason to prove yourself right and get attacked.

Train to Defend – Lastly, train to defend yourself from an attacker. You need to learn easy moves and apply them on a real person. It doesn’t have to be full force contact but working out with a real human partner is very important. Also, taking a self-defense class once a year is not proper training. Defense is a skill and like all skills, you need to maintain them and hone them.

That’s why we teach Kempo at our school, it is a solid method for learning to defend yourself from danger. There are a few methods that work faster—such as EZDefense or FAST—but don’t provide the other benefits of martial arts training. Consistent training is the best way to defend yourself. Remember that 90% of self-defense is mental and 10% is physical. Use your brain to avoid dangerous situation.

Do you have suggestions for other things you can do to prevent attacks?

Southpaw Stagnation

During classes, I’m often asked about doing the left-sided versions of techniques. Why do we prefer to practice our material against a right hand attacker? Is this realistic? The short answer is, “It’s not realistic and we should practice our material on the left.”

There is a reason for practicing the right-handed techniques at the beginning. Most of the techniques are difficult to learn on a single side. Learning the left version immediate will only complicate the learning process and slow your training down. Coordination is a tricky beast. Focus your efforts on getting one side down smoothly and effortlessly. That’s when you really know it.

Right jab and left cross punch

Right jab and left cross punch

When you begin self-defense training, you are taking steps in the right direction towards total self-defense. However, after a few short months, you are not the expert you feel you’ve become. You have false skills – only a handful of techniques for a handful of situations. Think of your left and right side as weapons. Is it better to have two unloaded guns or one loaded gun?

As with all things in the martial arts (and life for that matter), things worth doing or having take time. Don’t rush it. We stagger the left-handed side in the requirements so you have a whole rank to work on one side and learn it well. Then the left side can be learned without reducing the effectiveness of the right-hand side. You can also reference your right-handed technique to see if you are doing it correctly.

My experience from teaching students is learning both sides at the same time often gets muddled. The happy student begins the technique on the right-handed side only to end with the left-handed technique. The brain needs time to process the information.

Feel free to try it at home in your practice. Experimentation is always encouraged. However, if you see it degrading your right-handed side during class, take a break and explore at a later date. You’ll see much better progress that way.

At Black Belt, you have developed better learning skills and coordination, so you learn both sides quickly. Though the same caveat applies, it doesn’t seem to affect Black Belt level students that much after First Degree. You just “get” Kempo by that time. Don’t rush your left-sided techniques but also don’t neglect them either.

You’ll need both sides eventually and it balances your repertoire as a warrior. What do you think about this training concept?

Your Sensei Needs You

After a few months or even years of training, you develop a bond with your school. It is your martial home away from home. What is the best way for you to support your school? How can you make it grow and remain strong? For the school to survive and prosper, each member should show support. It is your obligation as a student to help the dojo. Part of the help is the payment you make as tuition dues and supply purchases. But there are other ways you can help too.

Helping your dojo is in your future

Helping your dojo is in your future

Refer others people to your school so they’ll join as new students. That’s how the school grows and stays strong by having new members. A school needs a constant stream of new students to keep it operational. Don’t keep others out, invite your friends and family into the school. Referrals make the best new students because they know some of the other students.

Referrals also show respect for your instructor and his or her staff. If you believe they are giving you the best they know, sharing it with others demonstrates that value. As an instructor, I get a sense of satisfaction when my students bring in their friends. It means they trust me, and they understand the value of what I’m teaching.

Become your school’s  evangelist, its proud member who believes in the training. This enthusiasm and confidence in your school translates into a bold, strong spirit for the dojo. A dojo is nothing without students so you are the dojo. Make your instructor proud.

My Spare Brain: 1 Effective Way to Improve Memory

The most effective way to improve memory is to write stuff down, then read it later.

During my studies in Cognitive Science, I learned a lot about human cognition, memory and thinking. We talked about how people can improve their memory with simple tricks. How the brain can be fooled with visual illusions and so on. The field is a fascinating area of study and research. What struck me most was a questioned posed during class. A fellow student asked what’s the best way to improve our memories. The professor said, “Write it down.”

Get a notebook and use it.

Get a notebook and use it.

Human memory is fallible and requires something to keep it working well. That requires pen and paper. Nothing helps you retain information than writing and reading your notes over and over again. Reading someone else’s notes isn’t as productive as writing it down yourself. The very act of translating the memory of class into comprehensible words and lists does wonders for memory retention–because you are re-encoding the material. With practice and additional classes, you can re-enforce correct form and again re-encode the memory into your mind. This cycle is the best way to memorize material.

Notebooks are the best invention for memory in the world. Take the time to do it soon after each class. Don’t let more than a day or two pass before you write things down. Just jot everything down in a flood of words. Don’t try to censor the material or format at this time. Most likely, writing things down will trigger more memories and thoughts about class. Record them, even if it’s a few days later.

Later go through your notes and arrange them in an organized manner. Rewrite things to make them sound better and add simple drawings if that helps you. These are like reference notes for you, so put them in a format that works for you. Most people have different ways of storing and sorting information. Use the one that fits your method and memory style best.

Another great tip is to add comments to your older notes. If the instructor makes a comment that applies to an old technique, adding the insight to the previous version of the notes goes a long way into understanding the technique. During your review of your notes, you may have thoughts on how the material relates. Record those thoughts too. Your notebook is a living document. Feel free to add to it all the time. Don’t let it become stale because you don’t want to contaminate it with new ideas. A notebook is a workbook.

Everyone is different so not all tricks work for all people. What is your trick to remember things?

4 Types of Horrible Ukes

All martial arts require you to have some sort of partner to practice with. For arts like Arnis and Boxing, that is a vital aspect of training. For arts like tai chi, it is less important. In order to understand how any of the movements and techniques work, you need to apply it to a physical human body. That’s your partner. The trouble is, good ukes are hard to find.

The term “uke” refers to the partner who punches in for you so you can apply your technique. “Tori” is the partner who gets to perform the technique. They are Japanese terms but English terms will work just as well. These are the attacker and the defender respectively.

Some ukes are like banana peels

Some ukes are like banana peels

Just having another human doesn’t guarantee he or she is a good uke. Here are fourth types of ineffective ukes.

The Wet Noodle

The difficulty in finding a good uke is many people become wet noodles when they punch in. They don’t perform good technique with the punch or kick because they expect the defense to over come their attack. This is bad. You can’t practice on a body that is floppy. It doesn’t help your mind remember correct technique.

Cocky Counteror

Another trait of an ineffective uke is countering or fighting the technique. Now I understand that there is a time and place for countering drills and such. But most of the time, the tori (defender) is learning the technique. They are attempting to absorb the sequence of events so they can start to build up accuracy and flow. When the uke (attacker) immediately starts to counter or resist the technique, the tori (defender) doesn’t learn from the practice. The uke has wasted everyone’s time.

Slippery Seals
Some ukes anticipate the attack and start to avoid the counter attack. They step off the line before they actually make contact. They turn their bodies to protect themselves and disrupt the counter attack’s flow. They slide around and start rolling before there is even an attempt at a throw. Like the Cocky Counteror, they are wasting everyone’s time because no one can grasp the body mechanics of doing the technique correctly.

Dead Duck
Then we have those ukes that provide dead weight when we attempt to trip, reap, hock or throw. As soon as they feel their balance disrupted prior to the takedown, they relax and become dead weight. This sudden shift in weight distribution can cause injuries to the tori (defender) and uke (attacker). It also changes the application of the technique so the tori doesn’t learn how to adjust the uke’s weight. Like most poor ukes, this wastes time.

When you practice your techniques, be a good partner. Strike in with intent, good posture and solid basics. Let your partner work the technique out so they can learn how to do it. Avoid the common pitfalls of a sloppy uke. Not only can it lead to injuries but also it is not courteous. Eventually, you will be a tori and will want to have a nice uke help you. Once you and your partner feel comfortable with applying the techniques on a cooperative uke, you can decide mutually to start adding uke defensive measures and counters. This should be a drill for later sessions, not early sessions. As always, respect your partner and have fun with your practice.

Tell me your “bad” uke story. I’d love to read it.

The Practice Priority: Commitment to Practice Leads to Success

There are some beginning students who believe that all the practice they need occurs at class. This is a recipe for failure. You must practice to get better and you must practice at home. When you make practicing a priority, you are paving the way to improvement. We have an old saying around the dojo, “If you’re not getting better, then you’re getting worse.” Don’t allow yourself to get worse than you are now.

Break down your practice into interesting bits. Do katas on one day. Then do combinations the next. Do your material at the park on sunny days. Next, do your material in the pool mostly underwater. Wash your car in stances or in deep stretches. Watch TV shows in the Horse Stance and do push ups during the commercials. Your only limit is your imagination.

Practice leads to success in all endeavors, not just Kempo. Take your ability to practice and enjoy the art with all your activities like basketball, flower arrangement, art, or crafts. You can use your Practice Priority at work too. Is there something hard to do or something takes a long time to finish – practice doing it in small bits or make it streamlined. A ouch of prevention (and planning) is worth a pound of cure.

Use class time to refine and clear up matters uncovered during your personal practice. If you don’t review your material, how will you know where your difficulties lie? Your instructor can clear up confusing points or help you recall tricky techniques. But if you don’t know what to ask, then you can’t fix it. Remember, don’t wimp out and find excuses to skip class. Make practice a priority and you will be successful.

Body Contact Theory

“Practice hard and get use to the contact because you can’t block everything.”

Often lauded in training forty years ago, arduous training with plenty of bumps and bruises is not as vogue as it used to be. Body Contact Theory (BCT) emphasizes hard practice, getting use to physical contact and the occasional bruise. For real self-defense applications, it is a necessary training theory. But what is the benefit of all that discomfort?

Punch in the Face Impact

Punch to the Face

You must condition your body to the contact experienced in a real fight. Getting hit and hitting something hard are very unusual sensations. When you are unfamiliar with such things, your body will freeze or stall as you attempt to comprehend what’s going on. You need to hit and get hit to ignore those things. Your focus for combat or self-defense situations is attack and defense – not how your knuckles hurt or the new bruise on your face hurts. Deal with those emotions later when it is safe.

Second, you must know that you can’t block everything. A punch or kick will get through your defenses and hit you. The better you are, the fewer times you’ll get hit but you will always get hit. Usually, it is the first hit the sucker punch. As martial artists, we don’t start fights but we do end them. You know you’re in a fight when someone hits you.

Third, you must overcome the contact, the pain, and ignore it. Keep pushing on in the fight. Yes, you hit the ground rather hard but that doesn’t matter. The fight matters. Fights only last a few seconds and you can’t spare them for unproductive whining. Stay focused on the matters at hand.

Also, hard contact is a great teacher. When you block and miss, the following hit will teach you to block better next time. Your body has a natural aversion to getting hit and you can use that to teach yourself martial arts. After a few blows to the head, your body will put the technique into muscle memory quicker. It needs to because it doesn’t like to get hit.

Finally, you’ll surprise yourself one day when a big thug hits you square on and you only scoff. You’ll realize that you’ve been hit harder before in class. Or you’ve hit the floor harder in the dojo. All your training pays off at the most critical times of your life, when you’re defending yourself.

Remember that you must gradually introduce your self to this theory. White belts need to avoid contact until they develop the skills to absorb and deal with it. Intermediate ranks begin to experience that contact in a limited way. By Brown Belt, there should be a lot of body (and ground) contact. Like all things in training, one step at a time leads to your goal.

The Grandma Rule

One way to remember things is to associate with silly things. That’s why I call our environmental awareness the “Grandmas Rule”. You should be aware of those around you. Who are they? Are they a friend or a foe? It also requires you to know what physical objects are around. Are there stairs, tables or chairs near you? Is the floor wet? Are you on a rocky slope? This is environmental awareness.

As martial artist, we must maintain our cool and focus on the battlefield. Don’t attack in a blind frenzy. There may be innocent bystanders around you who shouldn’t be hurt. There may be allies next to you in a supportive position. You need to think during a fight. Breathe and stay calm.

When I say, “Watch out for your Grandma!” what I’m really telling you is to keep track of the non-combatants. You may need to protect them and identify the bad guys. Always look around you and identify potential dangers and strange people. Knowing who to be careful of is half the battle and eliminates surprise. Awareness of what is around you helps keep you safe.

No one likes to accidentally hit his grandmother.

Kempo Marinate and Black Belt Stew

Or what black belts don’t understand about advanced training, time in grade, seeping in.

Black belt takes time

Black belt takes time

There’s lots of disgruntled whispering at the Black Belt ranks when they see the long times between ranks and testing. Why is it so long? And what value does it have when compared to the four-month average at the lower ranks? It doesn’t seem to translate well at these advanced levels of training. What’s more frustrating is the work includes a lot of the same material in a new light. It seems like starting from scratch. That’s an accurate statement. Black Belts need to relearn their early material with new insights. This is all valuable.

The time between ranks is something I like to call Kempo Marinate. Just like a nice steak or Carne Asada, you need to let the juices soak into the meat. One of the key elements of becoming very good at martial arts is doing repetitions a lot. By the Black Belt level, you need to do it much more than at the lower ranks. In the kyu ranks, a little change is quite noticeable. At the higher levels, change takes longer. It takes thousands of times to work it in deeper into muscle memory. The time in grade requirement reflects this marinating time.

One of the benefits of this level of dedication is you work on the material in different lights, angles and situations. You work on the variations and the no-mind principle. Work continues with different types of attack styles, adapting it on the fly, and spontaneous work.

This age-old tradition works better than most students think. Don’t fight the tradition just because it doesn’t reflect our society’s “instant gratification” syndrome. Let the material soak to the very marrow of your bones. Great ways of doing this is to become a part time or full time instructor. Teaching opens many little doors in the mind and really improves your art. Thinking about why you do things, explaining it to others and then doing them again is a great way to practice.

Karate Instructor teaches Kickboxing

A good article on how Kickboxing is not the end all, it needs Karate.

Master Haymore tells the reporter that many young men join to be MMA fighters and want to study kickboxing. Yet to be ready, they need more than that. They need the whole art. I interpret this as adding the mind and spirit to the body. He articulates what many martial artist know, the sport is not the whole package. It’s just a small part.