The time between realizing an attack is imminent and your defensive response may be fractions of a second, says Kelly McCann. It's what you practice long before those milliseconds that may make all the difference.

How fast is your processor? No, this isn’t the place to find information about personal computing — but it is the right place to talk about personal confrontations. I’m asking how fast you recognize potential threats and process threat information. A lot of people evaluate their “street readiness” based on their hard-skills prowess and allocate far less training time to developing the “soft skills” that are so useful immediately before an attack. The most obvious soft skill, of course, is situational awareness. It’s a cumulative alertness to threats, environment, movement and anomalies. Those anomalies are called pre-incident indicators, the visually unlikely circumstances that collectively indicate an attack could be imminent. Being adept at quickly determining threat potential — without looking like you’re about to implode — is invaluable on the street. It’s one of the few things I (grudgingly) use the new-age term “empowering” to describe. Gawd.


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All right, no epiphany there, but what about in the seconds preceding an attack? Having used your situational awareness to identify a developing threat, what the hell are you supposed to do? What’s the most efficient use of your time when you can’t avoid a physical confrontation and find yourself tensing up and saying, “Uh oh, here it comes”? How good are you at multitasking? Let’s go by the numbers to make this easier (and it’s not easy). Kelly McCann's Threat-Processing Tips — #1: Avoid Paralysis Don’t be a deer in the headlights. A biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources suggests, “They (the deer) don’t know what to do, so they do nothing.” Truly, if you’ve ever seen this happen to someone, it’s amazing — the word “dumbstruck” comes to mind. To avoid this, think about (and embrace) the fact that you could be attacked. It’s not too hard — people are attacked every day, so why not you? Second, visualize yourself successfully dealing with an attack. Not obsessively, mind you, but you should internalize, visualize or just own that you will defend yourself and think about what that means in some detail. If you don’t, look for a salt lick instead of venturing out on your own. Kelly McCann's Threat-Processing Tips — #2: Profile the Potential Attacker Yeah, I said it. Profile the threat (potential attacker) for weapons. And quickly. How? Find his hands ... anything in them? Is either hidden from view? Notice any unsightly bulges? A weighted windbreaker pocket? An outline under his T-shirt? Any of these might add up to a much bigger issue for you. Knowing or suspecting that an attacker might introduce a weapon into a physical altercation is critical to your success — whether it drives you to get the hell out of there, act pre-emptively or pull out all the stops if it does go to blows. Kelly McCann's Threat-Processing Tips — #3: Position, Position, Position Where are you in relation to the attacker? Take immediate action to put yourself in the most tactically advantageous position relative to escape avenues, improvised weapons, and physical obstructions you can put between yourself and him. If you’re this deep into feeling threatened, you obviously don’t need more information, so don’t wait for it. You don’t necessarily have to attack at this moment, but you certainly need to move into the next mindset: Kelly McCann's Threat-Processing Tips — #4: Become the Predator Assume the predatorial mindset and run through the if-he-does-this-I’ll-do-that scenarios in your head. You’re much more likely to take effective action when you’ve visualized it before an attack — even if it’s only milliseconds. Shut out the distraction of hope and don’t think you can wish yourself out of the situation. It’s literally up to you at this moment. Kelly McCann's Threat-Processing Tips — #5: Pre-Emption If you know it’s coming (applying the “reasonable man” standard), waiting any longer just means the attack will fully manifest and your opportunity to disrupt it will be lost. This is tricky. You’ve got to feel that you’ve seen enough to warrant the pre-emptive use of force in self-defense and that you’re in fear for your life. The time to startle your attacker and derail his momentum is now. Don’t half-step. Your initial attack will define the threat he feels and trigger his own fight-or-flight response. Make sure he feels the need to flee. None of this is formulaic. None of it is absolute. You’re always at risk of making the wrong call. To minimize the chance of that happening, spend as much time thinking about the circumstances in which you may have to use force as you do thinking about the use of force itself. Incorporate it into your training by devising drills with ambiguous triggers. Become an expert at discerning reliable pre-incident indicators. Perhaps most important, remember that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. About the Author: A former officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, Kelly McCann has studied and taught combatives for 25 years. His company, Crucible, provides training to U.S. government, law-enforcement and military personnel. For more of Kelly McCann's hard-hitting combatives instruction in print and on video, check out these best-selling products:
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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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