I write this article to demystify a little of what is sold out there as courses, workshops and self-defense classes. In my opinion, “buying” (believing) 90% of these courses is more dangerous than not knowing anything at all.
The reality of it is simple to understand. A man or woman who has never practiced sports, or practices the occasional race or gym, is not physically, technically and psychologically prepared for a “no rules” violent confrontation with a more experienced, more aggressive and accustomed to violence opponent. To be clearer still, regular martial arts practitioners with 2 weekly training sessions are also not prepared for this type of confrontation.
Being convinced otherwise, or worse, convincing a group of students that knowing one or two disarming techniques, a couple of punches and a kick during a 2 days course prepares them for a real situation of self-defense is at least irresponsible. And can lead, one of those students, to be involved in a violent conflict with a very small chance of success.
In fact, what you see on sale all around are courses of one or another martial art, where they approach (show) the techniques they consider most applicable in armed or unarmed confrontation, against 1 or several opponents, and in the case of what is sold to women, confrontation against stronger opponents.
I see nothing wrong with making technical specialization or introduction to martial arts courses. I myself have participated in some that were interesting …
In Esgrima Lusitana Cascais we also train some combat situations with and without protections in response to armed and unarmed attacks. However these courses of limited duration are not factories of fighters capable of defending themselves from everything and everyone, and should not be sold as such, at most they may have the commendable aim of drawing students attention to the various aspects of what can be involved in self-defense and martial arts in general, and engaging the student’s interest in learning more and starting a life partially devoted to martial arts training.
What is Self Defense / Personal Safety
First of all, a basic principle for general situations of assaults, conflicts, etc., if you get to the physical confrontation, you left behind 95% of the work of solving this situation without injury. If you only work / train combat techniques, you are training for those 5% of what would be an effective and safe approach to a potential conflict.
Let’s start by abandoning the name “self-defense” and use a more accurate term “personal safety”, this designation implies a state and not an action limited in time, and as such our main objective should be to maintain a personal security state, avoiding situations that make it insecure.
This state of “personal safety” that we all enjoy begins long before a potential conflict presents itself, you may even consider that is starts before you leave home.
If you go to the street with tight pants or very wide and falling, or 15 cm’s high heels that will not allow you an escape or limits your movements, surely you will not be prepared to ensure your safety. I know, concerns about the image and presentation may be important to your work or social life, but maybe in traveling you could walk more comfortably.
Let me explain what I understand to be the best approach to situations that include risk to your personal safety, including matters that should be regularly and methodically trained for anyone who wants to effectively reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim.
Basically a list of what you should consider, learn and train until your natural state is the application of these principles, and you can use them when all physical and physiological body reactions are working against you. From the injection of adrenaline to paralyzing fear, everything will be against you.
- 1. Avoid situations of conflict. Keeping your attention on your surroundings allows you to identify and avoid potential dangers, sometimes simply choosing another path because something does not seem to fit, allows you to avoid situations of danger. Most victims describe the situation as “they appeared out of nowhere”, fortunately Luís de Matos or David Copperfield do not walk on the street robbing or assaulting people, so in principle, what happened was a distraction or not realization that they are entering a dangerous situation, this state of “attention” has to be practiced, trained and applied continuously
- 2. Escape. If you can, and as soon as you can, it’s no shame, it’s survival. Run, scream, ask for help, launche flares, do whatever it takes to get attention drawn to you and get away from the situation of eminent danger … By the way for how long can you run? And how far? I’m not talking about running on a slow pace, on a track or by the beach walk … I mean running away, running at high speed and through obstacles with a suitcase in hand, an umbrella or a heavy backpack with a computer inside.
- 3. Negotiate / Talk your way out of it. Most conflicts can be resolved or reduced through dialogue, there are various techniques and methods of conflict resolution, as a basic principle if you can win “sympathy” or “empathy” on the part of the potential aggressor, the probability of escalating to the physical confrontation decreases considerably. In the final analysis if the end result is to loose your wallet, cell phone or watch, is it worth risking your life? Anyway, at the very least you have to gain time and opportunity to apply the previous option (point 2 – Escape)
- 4. Attack first with force and violence. Everything up to now has failed … The physical confrontation is eminent, you can not help or solve this well, so attack with speed, strength and with great fuss, all small advantages help, surprise, fear, … But the most important is to gain a small advantage, an opening, that allows you to escape (back to point 2). Violent situations in the street are rarely based on 1 to 1, you will probably be in numerical or strength disadvantage, the best option is to try to surprise and usually a violent response is not expected, anyway the chances of success are not great .
These options are valid without regard to the potential use of weapons, but this is the subject of another article, because beyond the law of “mine is bigger than yours” the use of a weapon also requires the mastery of a technique and psychological preparation to use it.
An individual attacked in the street by multiple opponents, manages to defended himself and leave all the opponents on the ground applying various techniques of combat with or without weapons and without getting touched or hurt, only happens in the movies … If you enter into physical confrontation, you will hit and you will take hits, the result becomes a game of odds and many times of luck, it is best to avoid the physical confrontation.
Personally as a Portuguese Stick-fighter a stick or baton always came in handy, even if it is just as a walking stick.
Author: Ricardo Moura (Esgrima Lusitana Cascais)