Dog attack

I'll admit it. I'm afraid of big dogs. I have good reason to be. I've been attacked by them. Plus, as a former police officer I have seen firsthand the damage they can do to human flesh and bone. As a self-defense instructor the question that is asked from time to time in my courses, and I was just asked it again two weeks ago, is, "How do you defend yourself against a large dog that attacks you?"

t's a good question because dog attacks are common. Approximately 4.5 million Americans are bitten every year, 6,000 to 13, 000 result in hospitalization, and approximately 30 to 50 deaths. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, the breeds that cause the most damage each year are pit bulls, German Shepherds, terriers, and Rottweilers; in that order.

I'm no dog expert, and I haven't had a dog since I was a kid, but I know from my own personal experience what I would do if a big dog were to attack me. However, before I give you my techniques and tactics, I'll present my qualifications.

My first introduction to attack dogs was when I was a recruit in the police academy. During the course titled Use of K9s for Policing, a fellow recruit volunteered when the instructor, a police K9 handler, placed a bite sleeve on his right arm. Then, from some distance away the handler unhooked the leash and released his dog. The dog shot towards the "suspect" in mere seconds, leaped into the air, and clamped down on the bite sleeve. The dog had so much force that he wrestled the recruit to the ground. The K9 handler had to pull on the dog several times before it would let go.

Some years later, at my police department, a K9 officer asked me if I was willing to put on the bite suit and help him train his dog. Since I was able to wear an entire bite suit, I agreed. I would have never volunteered if it were just the sleeve. With greater protection I saw it as an opportunity to experience a dog attack for myself should I ever have to defend myself against a large dog.

The reason that K9 handlers tell those willing to put on a bite suit to offer an arm is because if they don't, the dogs go straight for the groin or the throat. Of course, I did exactly that when I was attacked. As the K9 charged me I offered it my forearm. I held it out from my body as if holding an imaginary shield up. My next move, once the dog's jaw clamped tightly onto the thick padding around my forearm, was to immediately pull my arm close to my body so it couldn't yank my shoulder out of the socket as it thrashed about. It had the strength to do it.

After a couple more attacks I discovered what worked, and here's the result of my "research."

1. First, try to scare the dog with exaggerated aggressive hand gestures and shouting. I've had several big dogs back down by intimidating them in this manner when, as a police officer, I had to go into people's backyards unannounced.

2. Pepper spray is a good weapon against dogs, but it doesn't always work against the most aggressive ones. Even if a dog gets a good dose of pepper spray in its eyes, it could take a few seconds for the chemical agent to take effect, and there is a lot of damage a vicious dog can do to you in three to five seconds. Of course, the trick is to have the pepper spray deployed and ready to use before the attack. The same is true for any weapon.

3. If the dog continues to charge you, and you're unarmed, you may be able to do a front kick to its nose, provided the conditions are right for a kick: non-slip surface, good foot ware, and a low kick that easy that's easy to recover from. Of course, the kick had better land, or the dog may slip past your foot and latch onto your groin with its sharp teeth.

4. Offer your secondary arm (that should be shielding your body) so the dog will take it, because you don't want it to go for your groin or throat.

5. Before the dog thrashes around, pull its head to your lowest rib of your chest, while maintaining a deep fighting stance to maintain balance. This puts the animal's eyes right where you need them. Then shove your thumb or finger into the eye of the dog. I'm talking dig all the way into the eye socket! Any animal that gets an eye poke, even a shark for that matter, will let go to protect itself from further injury. Yes, you may lose some flesh on your arm, but it's the only way line up the target and keep it within reach.

6. If the dog does not let go, and that's always a possibility, then there is another eye on the other side of its head within reach, as long as you keep your forearm close to your torso and don't panic because of the pain.

7. If the dog stops biting you, you can then kick it away if it is still within striking distance.

8. If the dog manages to take you to the ground, and it's still biting down on your arm, you'll still pull in your secondary arm close to your torso and go for an eyeball, but you had better do it fast before it releases, maneuvers, and then goes for your neck or throat. Attack dogs are extremely fast, and they are natural predators.

As a self-defense instructor I've heard many opinions from my students over the years, like, "I heard you make a fist and then ram it down the dog's throat to make it stop," or "you just keep slugging it in the side of the head until it lets go." Of course, my question to these students is always, "Have you ever been in a bite suit and experienced an actual attack?"

Experience is always superior to theory.


Police dog

This police recruit keeps his secondary arm out, which the muzzled K9 wants to latch onto.

Police Dog Training

The dog has enough force to knock the recruit down to the ground, and the K9 handler must come to the rescue so that the recruit is not injured.

Police Dog Bite Injury

This is a police dog bite injury. The suspect was given a warning, he refused to surrender, and the K9 was released.

Pit Bull Mechanical Jaw

This is a mechanical jaw of a pit bull, which simulates the exact amount of pressure that can be exerted by this breed of dog, to demonstrate to citizens how they can crush the bones of an arm.

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Two-Time Black Belt Hall of Famer Hayward Nishioka has been campaigning for judo in the United States to harvest more shodans (1st degree black belts) Shodan literally means student. It's analogous to being a freshman in college. It's not the end but the beginning according to Jigoro Kano, the Founder of Judo.

A very dear friend and sensei of mine the late Allen Johnson, may he rest in peace made a home at Emerald City Judo. In Redmond, Washington.

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Destinee Tartuffe

My friend Destinee Tartuffe a 4th dan and Head Sensei at Good Time Judo in Santa Rosa, CA has always been a pioneer and developer in all her life endeavors. She first took over the judo program at Santa Rosa Junior Collegestarted by my old friend Terry Kelly upon his retirement then went on to complete getting her law degree, JD.

Recently Destinee contacted me about a new training tool she’s invented. Upon my investigation, I was so impressed with this product that I asked her to write something about it for this week’s Black Belt Blog.
Judo Equipment

Members of Good Time Judo using Judo Jaime Training Tools.

As judo practitioners we know judo is an exciting dynamic Olympic or recreational sporting activity that offers social interaction, stress relief, and tons of fun. However, we also know that judo can be a dangerous, and potentially deadly activity when used for self-defense or when not practiced safely.

For all the fun and benefit that judo provides an enthusiast it seems to be the world’s best kept secret from the general populace. My coach and mentor taught me that judo is an inclusive, not an exclusive activity. So, I look for ways to get more people interested.

One of the biggest issues relates to the very idea of inclusiveness, which for me translates to one dojo cannot be everything to everybody. The age old saying jack of all trades, and master of none comes to mind.

Recently, I watched YouTube videos of three respected Judo coaches discussing the state of Judo in the United States. One of their common observations is that students who come to train with them lack the fundamental skills which would allow them to actually help those students reach a level of Judo expertise whereby the student could compete at an elite level of competition.

While I was disappointed to hear their dire opinions, they were similar to what I was experiencing in my college classroom. Honestly, I have been concerned for many years about how to continue when so many of the students come to class with an attitude of being a “super ninja” when in actuality they are often uncoordinated and seemingly unwilling to follow even the simplest of instructions. This creates a situation or environment where “bullies” prevail, injures occur, and students are lost. This attitude seems a direct conflict to the principle of Mutual Benefit and Welfare, and it made me think about hanging up my judogi.

Then, COVID caused programs to close, but as a college Judo instructor I was tasked with creating an online curriculum for my students and doing so within one week! I knew my students did not have the proper safety equipment in their homes to continue with the rolls and falls that we were practicing in class. We spent the last eight weeks finishing out the semester via Zoom class. I found the biggest challenge to be communicating to the student how they needed to correct their postures, or their ability to visualize the skill and apply my instructions for any given lesson.

The last night of class of had a vision of how these issues could be addressed. That’s when I created the Fundamental Directional Movement Mat and a Proximity Training Device that I call Judo Jaime: Your Training Uke. These tools can be used together or separately. The benefits conferred to the user by using the tools together can greatly excel the beginning students understanding of the application of Judo.

These tools are not just for beginners, it is important for even the most experienced judoka to review the fundamental movements regularly. Think about it there are pre-arranged forms (katas) that specifically address movement!

The Fundamental Directional Movement Mat is a durable vinyl mat with an elliptical design (mapping the movement of the Judoka in the plane of applied Judo). The instructor whether in-person or in an online class can assist the student by directing them to orient either along the horizontal or vertical 180 degree lines, which are also used to demonstrate and solidify 90 degree turns/pivots that are important to the fundamental movements for application of Judo. The mat also has indicators for the student to see the 45 degree angle of technique application easier.

Judo Jaime: Your Training Uke is a proximity training device that allows beginning Judoka to develop the proper posture and understanding of the proximity for applying judo techniques without the resistance, frustration, or fear that working with a partner initially brings. My years of teaching adults have shown me that despite what the student says, they often approach contact with another with fear and the mistaken belief that over-powering or resisting their partner is the proper thing to do; however, one-half the goal of Judo is that someone falls down! With Judo Jaime the student has the opportunity to develop the confidence and skills to make an actual attack when they are ready to engage with a person.

The device weighs no more than five pounds and is approximately 53” in height (when assembled). It is easily transportable and fun to use vs. the usual training dummies which are awkward, heavy and unsafe to use without proper instruction or direct supervision. While either product can be used alone we recommend using the tools together. This allows the student to fine-tune visualization skills and apply techniques, here again, without resistance from a partner. The student will develop an understanding and integration of the techniques for proper response timing more quickly.

The Fundamental Directional Movement Mat and Instructional material is copyrighted by Destar Productions, Inc.

Judo Jaime: Your Training Uke is a proximity training device with a patent pending by Destar Productions, Inc. For questions regarding orders and other product descriptions email Destinee Tartuffe at or visit our online store directly.

Judo Jamie

Judo Jaime

Fundamental Direction Training Mat

Fundamental Training Mat

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I’m always looking for new subjects to write about regarding judo as well as contributions from my readers. Please send them to, thanks.

Gary Goltz
Xiaolin Gruv
Photo Courtesy: Carmichael Simon

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