Self Defense

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.", said Albert Einstein.

Of course, quotes can be fickle and are wont to be misattributed. Regardless if the words truly came from the big brained man himself or not, the quote remains valid and wise.

The simpler a complicated idea can be made, the better it can be easily integrated.

Unfortunately, especially when it comes to combat and self-defense, many people like to over complicate simple ideas. This happens for many reasons.


Sometimes it's to make the "master" appear that much more advanced and impressive to the students. If the most effective answer to a threat is also the most simple, it's unlikely to impress the custo--er, the students as much. Many people, especially upon just beginning their martial arts studies, like seeing complicated locks and disarms.

My advice: K.I.S.S.

No, I'm not telling you to kiss a frog and attempt a royal transformation. I mean the acronym: Keep It Stupid Simple.

The human body has many common strengths and weaknesses. When you recognize these commonalities without the lens of complicated ideas, you better create opportunities to upgrade your training--regardless of the martial art you study.

These are three of the vulnerabilities to be found on a human body. As you drill your bunkai applications and self defense tactics with a partner, consider if you are attacking one of these vulnerabilities!

I'm not telling you to do specific techniques to specific targets. The idea is much more broad than that. Attack these vulnerabilities in a self defense situation and your odds of survival go up. Preserve these in your training and you will find yourself becoming a much more capable and effective martial artist.

1) Vision

Eye Poke Self Defense

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If an opponent is coming towards you, seek the ways you can disrupt their vision. Whether this means an eye-gouge or a hot drink thrown to the face, this is an opportunity to insert another, perhaps more effective strike.

You see this to varying levels even in sport combat. A jab will flash to the eyes and momentarily stick, not to damage the opponent but rather to briefly obscure their vision before landing a powerful, more decisive blow.

This is an effective tactic that has also been utilized in the ring for many years now. Simply watch a fighter such as Thomas "Hitman" Hearns and you will see this tactic used with staggering results.

The flip side of this is that we want to maintain good awareness. Understand where your obscure zones are while training tactics and actively work to minimize the threats that are capable of coming from them. Beyond this, when adrenaline starts pumping and tunnel vision sets in, actively search your surroundings as you get away from an opponent.

2) Breathing

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Experimentation time!

Try to throw fifty punches in a row. Oh, was that too easy? My bad, I forgot to mention one thing: hold your breath until you finish your last punch. Unless you are Superman, holding your breath while trying to throw even fifteen punches severely reduces your energy and speed. Most people struggle to launch that final punch.

Unfortunately, when a stressful event occurs, tension easily begins to creep in and we often hold our breath. This is true whether we are watching a horror movie, mustering up the courage to talk to a crush, or trying to come to terms with a violent event.

Understand that if you can't breathe very well, you can't fight very well. If you can land a strike on the solar plexus, throat, or even nose, you are affecting their effectiveness. Even if it is only briefly, that is a moment your chances of survival have improved. Now you can either follow up with another strike or better get away, situation depending.

Even when simply drilling forms, recognize that your movements perform best when married to proper breath control. Proper breathing brings proper relaxation, with proper relaxation comes improved acceleration, with improved acceleration comes better force (at least, according to Sir Isaac Newton).

3) Movement

Knee Kick

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If we are trying to neutralize a threat, we can categorize an opponent's movement as either local or general.

Local movement would be their ability to move a limb. For example, if you have somebody in a wrist lock. They can still move around with their feet--to a varying degree--and can try to maneuver to a position that allows them to escape the lock however.

General movement encompasses their ability to move around in the environment. For example, if you take that wrist lock and force them to the ground, this now impedes their general movement for a moment.

To give a different idea, imagine executing a kick to their knee and damaging their joint. If their leg is now hyperextended, their ability to move--and thus, chase after you--is hindered for the moment.

The flip side of this is why we train stances in a dynamic way. Footwork is what delivers your attacks and enables your defenses. As you train, ensure you are also capable of good movement at any time.

Application of Knowledge

Just because attacking these makes it more difficult for an opponent to effectively attack doesn't mean it is impossible for them. An opponent struggling to breath or trying to recover from a blinding finger jab can still attack with desperation. Beyond that, an opponent high on a substance or in an extremely disturbed emotional/mental state can brush off injuries that would typically be fatal.

Talk to a Law Enforcement Officer and you'll hear stories of shots being fired center-mass at a drug addict that just continued towards them and ignored the injuries. Talk to the security officers of a mental hospital and you will hear horror stories of near superhuman strength from resisting individuals.

Here's the truth: there is no tactic or technique with guaranteed results. What we can do, however, is increase our chances of survival.

Understanding, in the most simple terms, what to protect and what to attack is a step in the right direction. Streamlining our options to be decided in a simple process in a life-or-death situation is one of the most powerful things we can do.

At the end of the day, you and your opponent are only human.

How will you perform at the moment of truth?

What's going to happen to you physically and emotionally in a real fight where you could be injured or killed? Will you defend yourself immediately, hesitate during the first few critical seconds of the fight, or will you be so paralyzed with fear that you won't be able to move at all? The answer is - you won't know until you can say, "Been there, done that." However, there is a way to train for that fearful day.

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