We can surely say that the skill of self- defense is as old as mankind. People have always intended to find and develop this skill in order to defend themselves from the attacker. Death is surely man's greatest fear. This fear and the will to overcome it resulted in the fact that men obtained a strong motive to perfect martial arts skills and to strengthen their bodies as well as their spirits with the goal to defend their own lives and survive. Humans have been acquired martial arts experience over centuries and have accumulated it so they could later use it in various conflicts and battles. Up until recently, man was sure that other people would respect him if he showed to be more powerful or skillful than they were.
Today the life of a human community is somewhat different and people do not resolve their quarrels by fighting each other. There are different institutions that exist in today's contemporary society and their role is to protect citizens as well as their civil rights. However, martial arts knowledge is not redundant. A man who can protect himself from an attack will know how to keep his composure in such a situation. Such a man will know how to talk with people who wish to attack him in a fearless and peaceful manner. His calmness and confidence are his best protection and can help him to be rarely or never attacked. Self- defense includes the preservation of one's own physical and mental integrity. Although various experts that deal with the topic of conflict exist, by analyzing the origin of conflict or finding a suitable solution to the problem, its problem is still present.
Of course, fights are more rare nowadays, but conflicts are sometimes resolved with aggression which is often a result of today's way of life. Sometimes the man is exposed to sudden violence without a real reason. Using force against the attacker is, in those cases, necessary. Every person has the right to protect himself when necessary so having the knowledge of how to use a certain martial art can be of great help. Today's modern self- defense techniques need to keep track of the time in which we live in; they need to be efficient but always defensive in their character because acting in self- defense is not a felony.
A lack of understanding is the reason why most conflicts happen. Many of them end in a physical fight between individuals or groups of people. People define violence as an application of force in the purpose of abuse. Most people have an idea of who their friends and enemies are. We usually think of our enemy as a person that we don't know, someone who is hostile and has evil intentions. This is usually found to be true, however, abusers can be many other, different people. Conflicts between friends or peers sometimes happen, too. It can happen among younger or older persons. Various conflicts may happen at work or school as well as among family members which affects whole families.
The general opinion states that the victims of an attack or abuse were physically weaker persons, for example, seniors, disabled people, people of a smaller build, children and usually female. All of those stereotypical opinions are partially true. If we would take a look at today's statistics of victims of violence, we would come to a surprising and somewhat shocking conclusions. According to them, the victims of violence are almost evenly distributed between the male and female gender. However, it needs to be emphasized that women are usually attacked with a different intention and motive than men.
Women were always convinced that their fathers, brothers, husbands or protectors would keep them safe from attackers. Women are usually smaller and physically weaker than men and, hence, from the attacker. However, that won't bother a determined and brave woman who knows martial arts and who wants to defend herself from an attacker. This is why it is necessary to educate women in self- defense.
Children are exposed to both direct and indirect violence. Direct violence means the application of physical force. Children are often bullied at school, on the school playground or on the street. This is why it is good to motivate a child to take up a martial art.
Ofttimes the victims of an attack are individuals of various professions who, thanks to the nature of their job, need to step into contact with other people among which are those who represent a certain threat or who might be a potential bully. There is a great number of such "risky" professions so those people who work in those areas of expertise should train a martial art or at least know a self- defense technique.
Contemporary self - defense techniques are surely based on various martial arts. Everybody is well aware of most of them. Each new period in history brought and expanded new knowledge as well as some new techniques and self- defense strategies. Today, many of them are improved based on personal experience. Certain techniques were rejected because they showed to be ineffective, while others are modernized. Some old techniques have become popular again as well as some grips that were not emphasized enough before.
Attack is an attack, not self – defense
The basic principle which is valid for self- defense is the following: less is more. The more simple the technique is, the better. By respecting that principle the choice of self- defense techniques will always be appropriate and efficient for the general population. This is why we need to pay special attention to the time and circumstances in which we live in when choosing modern self- defense techniques. We need to pay attention to the broad and diverse population, their age and gender. Also, we need to be aware of the diversity of the techniques which are appropriate for specific groups of people. Techniques need to be modified and adjusted to a specific group or individual. Contemporary techniques need to be effective, but not too complicated, especially if they are aimed at the general population. Special awareness need to be directed to the fact that most people possess no knowledge in the field of martial arts as well as in self- defense.
Some experts will say that the modern self- defense skills are certainly based on Eastern martial arts techniques. Such a claim is only partially true because up until today every country developed its own martial art and, consequently, its own self- defense technique. Saying that a certain technique is better just because it originated in the East or the West is not reasonable or correct. Many efficient self- defense techniques can be found in countries across the globe, some of which are very suitable even for today's usage. Some techniques need to be modified or modernized a bit, but they are essentially very good and useful for the general population.
It is certain that Eastern martial arts skills such as judo, karate, aikido, ju jutsu, kung fu or tae kwon do represent the basis for most self- defense techniques. However, it should not be forgotten that many other martial arts originally existed even before the aforementioned techniques and that their basic aim was to self- defend. Skill such as wrestling, boxing or French boxing (savate) fall into this category. Other martial arts should not be neglected, for example, those that originate from Brasil, such as capoeira or Brasilian ju jutsu (BJJ), or Russian self- defense skills incorporated into the combat sport sambo (self- defense without weapons).
However, in order to possess a comprehensive knowledge in self- defense techniques, certain skills should be highlighted, such as the Japanese ko- budo martial art or the French la canne skill. Asian skills such as kali, escrima, bando, Vietnamese viet vo dao or the Burmese caliradman should also be mentioned. Certain skills are not as familiar or even almost forgotten, such as the English skill of fighting with a stick- cudgelling.
Some self- defense techniques also include various handshaking techniques with certain handy devices, such as a fan, pencil, needle, something that could amplify a blow (a kongo- yavara or a boxer), a whip (belt), a sickle (or a sickle- shaped weapon), or objects such as an umbrella, a broom, different sprays, keys, clothes, shoes, bags, newspapers etc. Today, other popular devices are used in order to defend oneself. Those are usually irritating sprays (tear gas) as well as electro shockers (previously called cattle beaters because of their primal purpose).
One part of the self- defense techniques is identical to several various martial arts so it comes to no surprise that the same grip is often claimed by different martial arts. Numerous exist and this article has mentioned only a smaller number of those whose techniques are applicable in self- defense. Of course, many others can be found under the same category.
Many grips are modified and accustomed to today's circumstances in which we live in. Each new era brings new information and research as well as new "modern" techniques. Or, better to say, old and modified techniques which are shown as new and modern bearing a new name or title. Such an example is the Israeli Krav Maga or the Russian Systema and so on.
The conclusion which says that the attack is the best mode of defense could be effective in a sports way of fighting and sometimes between street groups of bullies. However, this is not the case when it comes to self- defense. The person who attacks first is surely in a certain advantage, but an attack is not a way of defending oneself and it never will be perceived as such, only a counterattack. The one who attacks first will have a problem when trying to prove that he was defending himself. This is why he (as an attacker) takes the blame and consequences. It is crucial to be ready for different types of attack when defending yourself. Also, one should prevent the attacker with an appropriate measure (various ways of blocking or catching a punch) after which a counterattack is possible.
If someone finds it easier to catch or push you, it is not necessary to defend yourself in the same way. This is also an advice in case he attacks you with a punch with the fist or foot. The attacker will most likely be stronger than you and this is why you will have to kick him as forcefully as possible in order to defend yourself effectively. If you are not the first to punch, but only to defend, do not be afraid to cross the line of necessary defense, but rather defend yourself bravely, strongly and fiercely. If you did not punch the attacker strongly, his second attack will follow and it could be even more powerful and disastrous. Never underestimate the attacker.
Supposing you have estimated that the attacker is overpowering, immediately try to find some sort of weapon or tool which might come in handy for self- defense. It is extremely difficult to simultaneously defend oneself from two attackers. This is when you must follow the basic advice in self- defense: defend yourself from one attacker and then turn to the other. To clarify: the basic technique of a man who is faced with an attack of two or more assaulters is to convert his defense into two fights with one man instead of leading one fight against two or more attackers.
An attack with a tool or weapon is the most dangerous type of an attack. Sometimes the tool can be as dangerous as the weapon. There is no difference if an attacker is holding a knife, scissors, scalpel, screwdriver, hammer, axe, iron pipe or if he is attacking you with some other sort of tool or weapon. This kind of an attack is extremely perilous and it needs to be taken seriously. A man who is attacking you with a tool or weapon surely has the desire to seriously harm you or maybe even kill you. Do not think of how determined the attacker is, but be prepared to defend yourself.
If you are a witness to an attack on an elderly person, woman, child or any person who is not capable of defending him or herself on their own you may be forced to help them. If there is no one who can or wants to help, you will need to make the decision of how to help the person on your own.
Most people do not know that tools can be used as weapons for self- defense. Some tools- weapons can be used by anyone at anytime, however, most people do not even notice them and do not know how to use them in self- defense. An ordinary pencil, book, belt, hair pin, umbrella, keys, shoulder bag, shoe, broom or some other handy tool can be turned into an excellent device in self- defense.
Women's nails can also be turned into a great tool, as well as rasp, brush, scalpel or small scissors. The choice is extremely big, but we need to know how to use a certain object. Numerous specialized shops that sell different utensils exist. This is where you can find different sorts of boxers, spreys, electro shockers, bats and many more objects which can be used in self- defense.
It is crucial that, in the moment of an attack, you know how to use the things and objects you are surrounded by and not to think about what you could have found in your car or at home. It is very likely that you won't be able to pick the tool for defending yourself and that you will need to use that which is the closest to your position and whereabouts. The right choice of your tool and the right moment in which to use it will have a decisive role in the outcome. Some weapons are better to use at a greater distance, while others function better in close combat. Make sure you use wisely that which is in you vicinity because sometimes, for example, a cup of hot tea or coffee can make a great tool for self- defense. If you throw a hot liquid in the face of an attacker, his reaction might give you a desired advantage and might confuse him.
Self- defense techniques are in most cases the same for both men and women, but are by no means identical. The differences can be found in small, but very important details. It is best that each individual adjusts certain techniques to himself and his own skills as well as his current abilities to implement it in self- defense.
David "Sensei" Stainko – Prof. of kinesiology
Master 8th Dan - mixed martial scientists
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