Kathy Long — aikidoka, kickboxer, kung fu san soo stylist and BJJ practitioner — drew from her vast martial arts experience to compose this concise guide to self-defense for all martial artists.

Being able to defend yourself isn’t just a matter of knowing which technique will stop an assailant in his tracks so you can get away. It’s also about being physically able to execute the move and being mentally prepared to do it. The following are some defensive components that will help you do that by enabling you to make the most of what you’ve learned in the dojo.


Awareness It's essential to walk with confidence, and keep your head up and your shoulders squared. Always scan your environment. When a predator sees that you’re in touch with your surroundings, he’s more likely to think: “She’s a little too aware of what’s going on. She doesn’t look like the meek, mild, timid type. She doesn’t look like the type who’ll try to get into her car without paying attention.”

Kathy Long has studied aikido, kung fu san soo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kickboxing.

Commitment The most important — and the hardest — thing to learn is how to commit yourself to fighting back violently. That’s because you won’t know if you can do it until you’re in that type of situation. To help you and your classmates understand what you need to do in an extreme encounter, your teacher may need to discuss it in terms that are somewhat aggressive. He or she will explain what’s involved in jabbing your fingers in an attacker’s eyes, crushing his groin and punching him in the throat hard enough to make him gag. You need to learn how to switch on this ability at a moment’s notice. You have to program yourself to do whatever it takes to keep an assailant from raping you — or worse.

Reality-Based Training When you go into a dojo or any facility where they claim to teach self-defense, investigate how realistic the training is. You don’t want to acquire a false sense of security by learning fancy techniques that aren’t practical. At some schools, they put the “aggressor” in a padded suit and let you beat on him. That kind of training teaches you an important lesson: It's possible for you to hit a target with sufficient power to produce a debilitating effect.

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Attire What you wear while you work out is another crucial component. A gi can be comfortable to train in, but realize that you probably won’t be wearing one when you’re attacked. Therefore, it’s good to occasionally train in street clothes: a dress, nice slacks or a suit — even high-heeled shoes, if you wear them. My kung fu san soo instructor used to occasionally have his students come to class in clothes they wore to work or to the theater so they could see what it felt like to execute their techniques while dressed up. If your teacher doesn’t do that, ask him or her to start.

The clothes you wear can affect your ability to defend yourself, says Kathy Long.

Physical Fitness Upper- and lower-body strength is important for executing techniques, and cardiovascular conditioning will enable you to run. If you don’t have the time or money to join a gym, get a set of dumbbells and lift at home. It’s fun to gauge your progress by noting how long it takes for a certain number of repetitions with a given weight to become too easy. That’s a sure sign you’re building useful strength. (As long as you’re using weights that are lighter than 25 pounds, you need not worry about developing a bodybuilder-type musculature.) To hit your lower body, walk up and down stairs or run.

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Nutrition Eat everything in moderation. Stick to good sources of protein and carbohydrates, and supplement them with loads of vegetables and a little fruit. Stay away from fried foods, and don’t consume too much dairy because it’s high in fat. Avoid overloading on pasta and white rice because they turn into glucose and fat if you don’t exercise enough. Limit your intake of sweets. The better you eat, the better you will function. The better you function, the better you will feel. The better you feel, the greater endurance you will have and the happier you will be. When these factors are combined with increased awareness, proper mind-set and realistic martial arts skills, you will have maximized your personal security.

Kathy Long is a five-time kickboxing champion and a member of the Black Belt Hall of Fame.

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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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