Deception in self-defense

The goal of any self-defense situation is to survive the assault. We prepare for it physically through our martial arts training but there is a mental component to it also. There is an old saying in the arts, 99% of combat is mental and only 1% is physical. Sun Tzu explains why this is true in the next section.

18. All warfare is based on deception.

19. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

20. Hold out baits to entice the enemy.  Feign disorder, and crush him.

Part of the role of humility is to not be seen as a threat. Aggressive people seek out threats to eliminate them before they in turn can be threatened. This is one of the main reasons martial artists are told not to boast about how they know Karate or Kempo. It tells would-be-enemies of your abilities. They can then take measures to defend against your skills. It is better to be thought of as weak and unable to defend yourself than give up your secret weapon.

Feign injury when you are able to attack. Hold your arm or limp so the enemy thinks you are at a disadvantage. Sneak in on the enemy from a blind side so you can surprise him by your appearance. In self-defense training, we talk about throwing things at the attacker so it can ricochet off the wall. Then the enemy thinks there is someone behind them. Of course you don’t throw it while he’s looking directly at you. You must be sly and deceptive.

Feigning confusion and panic is a great way to get your enemy to over commit with their next attack. Likewise, you must know when to show irrational behavior and rage. This tricks the enemy into thinking you are losing your rational, tactical mind. It can also be used to scare the enemy into routing the field.

We’ll talk more about this next article. Meanwhile, have you ever used some of these principles in your own self-defense situation?

Following Sun Tzu’s advice

The next section recommends that the good general or in our case, martial artist, listen and implement what he suggests.

15. The general that hearkens to my counsel and acts upon it, will conquer: let such a one be retained in command! The general that hearkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it, will suffer defeat: let such a one be dismissed!

16. While heading the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules.

17. According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one’s plans.

Even while using his recommendations and theories to guide your defense, his also recommends using any helpful circumstances that occur. If the circumstances are covered by the rules he supplies, Sun Tzu recommends making use of it anyway if it will help your situation.

Therefore, in a self-defense situation, when something helpful happens integrate it into your counter strike. For instance, the confrontation or fight takes you to a spot where you can duck into a room and lock the door to escape. Take the fortuitous opportunity. If your opponent slips on a greasy spot on the floor and stumbles, take advantage of it right away. The list is endless to a creative mind. The trick then is to spot them when they occur naturally and then make use of it.

Use the environment to supplement your skills and situation. Leave comments below if you have ever used some of these principles in your own self-defense situation.

Who wins a self-defense situation?

Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:
(1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?
(2) Which of the two generals has most ability?
(3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?
(4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
(5) Which army is stronger?
(6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
(7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

14. By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.

Let me paraphrase this list into modern parlance and in self-defense jargon.
(1) Which combatant is willing to defend themselves regardless of the danger and has the stern resolve to do it?
(2) Which combatant has strategies in place for confrontations?
(3) Who uses their environment and available tools to defend themselves?
(4) Who is trained to be more disciplined?
(5) Who is mentally, physically and spiritually stronger?
(6) Which combatant is the most trained in martial skills?
(7) Who has trained most consistently for confrontations?

As you can see from my new list, the winner of a self-defense confrontation is someone who has trained consistently in an effective art such as Golden Leopard Kempo-justu. It doesn’t really matter which art you prefer or study. All the arts provide benefit of discipline and martial techniques. Some are more applicable to actual street level self-defense situations.

What is most important is the preparation for the situation. Hoping it won’t happen doesn’t aid you when the time comes. Take charge of your life by learning how to defend yourself. This eliminates the effects of fear allowing you to focus and assess the situation.

While speaking of self-defense, preparation also includes things outside of carrying a small weapon or making your hands lethal weapons. It includes disaster preparedness — do you have survival kits, food and water, tents, cash. Do you know first aid techniques, CPR and AED? Situations are infinitely diverse. The more you learn and prepare the wider your range of effectiveness. It also provides you with a broader scope of skills that can be modified for other situations.

Be a Modern Warrior: Assertiveness and Self-responsibility

Martial artists in modern society are modern warriors. No we aren’t running to the next state to steal their cows or horses. I mean warriors in the ideal sense — the noble knight or valiant soldier. Many of us are not professional soldiers but we are a part of our local community. We are the guardians of our neighborhoods.
You should rise to the character expectations of all warriors. We are not thugs or bullies. We are pillars of the community who meet danger with action not flight. Here are some ideas that wrote using free association:

  • Stand your ground and protect your honor and beliefs.
  • Help others especially those who can not help themselves
  • Be prepared for disasters with food, supplies, medicine, guns and ammo.
  • Know CPR and first aid. Be willing to perform it on others.
  • Maintain your beliefs regardless of the situation
  • Remember that not everyone has the same beliefs as you. Americans and warriors both protect everyone’s rights to have or not have religion.
  • A secular society maintains fairness, self-responsibility, and openness.
  • Do not stand for the trampling of rights of smaller groups. One day, you may be in a smaller group.
  • Keep yourself responsible for your own actions.
  • Take actions that are responsible, noble and just.
  • Help others selflessly

This list may be high handed and a bit self-righteous but that is how one must live to be considered a warrior in my book. Don’t agree, let me know in my comments.

Dealing with a busy life and hectic schedule

caution-signI know I haven’t written in a while but life gets hectic. One thing is for sure, writing a newsletter or blog are both very time consuming. Just to catch you up, I continue to teach my classes weekly and train my own material. Like all things, my material started to degrade from lack of practice. So I follow my own advice and began hitting a practice routine with more vigor. Of course, that means writing time diminishes.

Then there are the other projects I’m working on and having children on Summer Vacation. Now that school started again, I find myself still without a lot of spare time. My advice is to schedule all your activities as if they were job related tasks. If you want to accomplish something, you need to chip away at it one hour at a time if necessary.

So I hope my lack of availability and posting inspires you to keep working. It may remind you that “Yes, I’m a regular dude” too. As always, if you have a topic idea or question, please submit it to me either by email or comments. I read both often.

Please tweet about the blog, join our Facebook page or subscribe to the RSS feed if you want to stay up to date with any new releases. There’s no reliable schedule yet so this is the best way to get notified.

Understanding Adapting, Adjustment and Gauging Points

Where a fight starts and how close the combatants are very important things to know. These ranges and the opponent’s reaction also play a part in the overall outcome of the conflict. As I said many times before, there are an infinite number of variations to a situation. No two are a like.

But then why do we practice a set routine of techniques? And why do I get corrected all the time in class if the technique isn’t going to happen that way? To get yet another answer, you need to know a few terms.

  • Adapting point is the section of a technique where you make changes to accommodate for how the opponent reacts to your initial strikes. Did you hit the pressure point just right and now the opponent has completely crumbled in front of you? Did he shake off your devastating strike or counter it, now what do you do? You adapt the technique.
  • Adjustment points are the sections of a technique where you make adjustments to the performance of moves in response to environmental and structural differences as compared to practice in the dojo. Are you about to do a jump-kick in a low-ceiling room? Is there room for you to back up in the crowd or a room full of pillars? Rethink the next few moves to keep yourself out of harms way, allow yourself room to actually perform your moves and use the pointy end of the table as a weapon or landing platform.
  • Gauging points are sections of a technique where you shuffle in or out to maintain optimal distance to the opponent. Does the opponent step out to the side to catch his balance thereby taking him out of the next counter’s optimal range? Well, you adapt by shuffling up to him or changing to a longer ranged weapon.

These three are really different sides to the same concept, making changes on the fly. You may be hurt or protecting someone else. No fight is going to occur as practiced in the dojo. No opponent is going to match your uke in size, mass and movements. Therefore it seems only natural to accommodate for these differences in your technique.

We naturally do them when we change uke during class. In fact, that’s the reason you are asked to change your uke so often. Get a mix of body types, speed and range of motion to develop an understanding of these points.

By isolating the sections of a technique, you can see the best time to make changes and adaptations. This also helps you combine moves together to improvise as needed. Don’t let changes in the circumstances through off your game and unsettle your mind. Remain calm, mushin, and go with the flow.
Also read my post on the three levels to improve your technique, zone defense strategy and the can’t reach situation.

Do you have a story about how you or someone else adapted, adjusted or changed the gauging of a technique that you thought was cool? Tell me in the comments.

5 Constant Factors in Self-Defense

This is the next installment of my commentary on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War for personal self-defense. What are the five constant factors necessary for successful defense?

The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field. These are: (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline.

The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger. [Tu Yu quotes Wang Tzu as saying:   “Without constant practice, the officers will be nervous and undecided when mustering for battle; without constant practice, the general will be wavering and irresolute when the crisis is at hand.”]

Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.

Here Sun Tzu is mentioning time and weather. These play a factor in your self-defense strategy. In the cold part of the year, baggy jackets can hide pocket sticks and other self-defense weapons. During warmer times, you need to have another place to store your weapon.

Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.

Know the layout of the land, the room or alley. This is part of your situational awareness.

The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness. [The five cardinal virtues of the Chinese are (1) humanity or benevolence; (2) uprightness of mind; (3) self-respect, self- control, or “proper feeling;” (4) wisdom; (5) sincerity or good faith.  Here “wisdom” and “sincerity” are put before “humanity or benevolence,” and the two military virtues of  “courage”  and “strictness”  substituted for “uprightness of mind”  and  “self- respect, self-control, or ‘proper feeling.’”]

By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure. These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.

Total self-defense entails knowing where your supplies are and having them ready. This survivalist point of view may scare the general population but it is essential. Sun Tzu mentions that part of warfare is the maintenance of roads for your supplies. On a personal level, you need to have food, water, radio, fire starters and blankets for disasters. We all know that nature strikes on her own whim. We can not plan for a particular date of an earthquake or hurricane but we can plan for its randomness.

Therefore, I suggest that a modern warrior knows where his or her weapons are, has a survival pack, and is trained to defend himself or herself.

Help raise $350,000 for charity

Bryan’s Viral Network Challenge: raise $350,000 (or Euros, etc.) by July 1st for Mayan Families (http://www.mayanfamilies.org), a non-profit working with indigenous Mayans in Guatemala. Sponsor a child to go to school, feed a family, provide water filters and fuel-efficient stoves, repair classrooms, and ensure animal welfare. If everyone sends in $35 that reads this we can achieve that goal. Please post this on your Wall, Tweet it, Blog it and even Text it to your friends and family. Can we reach 1 million people? Are you up to the Challenge?

8 Steps to Self-defense Review

Just taught another self-defense class on Wednesday. We reviewed my 8 Key Points of Self Defense Basics , 10 Things to prevent attacks3 Things to think about before getting mugged, and demonstrated a few easy techniques.  I decided that I should really explain or recap those techniques. These techniques are designed for complete beginners. There are better methods and moves but these should serve those who have little or not training — other than my class.

Pinning the attacker

Pin the attacker

Squat
Step out in a wide stance and bend your knees. In formal training, this will be called a Horse stance, Half-moon stance, or Fighting stance. Just remember to lower your center of gravity by squatting down. This is the first move of all the following techniques and happens after you remember to breathe.

Windmill
These arm moves can be done downward or upward. It looks like you’re madly crushing crackers in a bag on the table. These act as scans to deflect in coming strikes, as blocks for incoming strikes and as hammer strikes (your offensive strike). Remember that unless you learned how to perform a front punch properly, it is better to do a hammer or elbow strike. A poorly done front punch will hurt you more than your opponent.

Secondly, this Windmill move is also a wrist escape — a grab defense we teach at White Belt. Spin your arm in the direction their thumb is pointing or on. This releases the grip. After you are free, you run away.

Choke Defense
The key to all defenses against grabs and chokes is to start it before it makes contact. Use your upward Windmill to deflect the attack. Shuffle or step in and double hammer strike the bad guy’s collar bones. Screaming like a berserk Viking helps too. Yes, then it is time to run away.

Shoulder Grab
From your squat position, knuckle-strike the inside of the bad guy’s upper arm. Don’t hit the tricep or bicep. Strike the flat tender section in between. While he thinks about how much that actually hurt, you slap or hammer strike his face. Then you run away.

Bear Hug
Think of bears, honey and bees. This will help you remember the trick to get out. As the bad guy starts to hug the life out of you, pinch his ribs or fleshy inner upper arm like a bee. You can also bee sting (the pinch) the inner thigh area. Once he lets go, run away.

The final rule for self-defense is never, ever stop fighting. Never, ever give up unless you get your way. Punch, strike, hit, yell, and scratch until you are free. Pretend you are a cat just about to get a bath. Be the cat.

You should also read my posts about personal space and 5 ways to distract your opponent to round out your self-defense preparedness. Getting comfortable with a mugger so close to you and having a plan to distract him will provide you with ample opportunities to get away.

For those who attended my “Self-defense Workshops” long ago or more recently, I hope you enjoyed it. I also hope you never needed it. Either way, leave a comment below with questions or high praise for my class.

Until next time, train like a warrior.

Monkey style block against street fighters

One of the key strengths of the monkey is its adaptability. Therefore it behooves the student to practice in street clothes, in their normal shoes and in common environments like doorways, small rooms, and so on. This type of training is also found in our Filipino Arnis and Japanese Ninjutsu traditions. By removing the shock of a new environmental situation, you can focus on the task at hand, namely your defense.

When defending against the hook punch, it is better to fight someone trained in pugilistic arts rather than a completely untrained fighter. Someone without training is very unorthodox because they don’t know any better. His reactions can run the gambit of possibilities, often times unknowingly thwarting your defense and counter attack. A trained fighter, boxer or karateka is predictable. They know the best attack opportunities and you know where to defend against them. Effectively defending very strong positions conserves energy while defending small-value areas can lead to wasted energy.

Learn to fight from a cold position when fighting an unorthodox fighter. Let them set the pace of the confrontation and “floor rules”. This requires you to have really good timing since you need to launch an effective defense after they strike. The defense must also open the opponent up to a great counter-attack.

Against a hook punch, the traditional outward blocks won’t stop it. The fist comes around the block, still finding purchase on your head or core body.

For instance, the hook punch from the right hand travels in an arc towards your left side. Catch it with your left arm whipping the hand over and grab the biceps area. This secures the elbow and neutralizes the power of the attack. Weight it down. You can use a monkey grip or seize various pressure points on the arm. I prefer just to keep it weighted for unbalancing in the counter offensive.

With this grip defense, even if he forces or powers through your lock, it will turn your whole body not just your arm. In other words, if the defense doesn’t stop the punch it moves you out of the way. That’s a great feature of this technique. From there you have options like leg-hocks, knee-stomps or reaps.

Using this grip doesn’t require you to seize, though that’s an option as mentioned before. It is more important to stay relaxed. Dropping your weight onto the arm may unbalance the opponent. Use that in conjunction with a right slap or strike. Stay relaxed and allow the force to upset his balance. Take advantage of his new state – usually falling over his arm.

Keep them distracted with a flurry of strikes to the face and vitals. The monkey is very deceptive and flurries to the unprotected eyes can cause frustration in your opponent. By changing his emotion, you can gain even more advantage in the fight if it’s not over by that time. Always move to keep or add to your strengths in a fight. The only fair fight is one you win.

Practice the difference between a superior fighter and a regular street fighter. These modes of condition will allow you to adapt to the unpredictable confrontation you may experience. You can’t prepare for each unique fight but you can prepare for the flavor of the fight.