When Avoidance Fails

Threat
When looking at personal security we constantly preach the importance of awareness, avoidance and prevention over reaction or physical response. The last article discussed the limitations of physical self defense and the importance of avoiding a situation when these types of skills might come into play.
While awareness and avoidance are the best and most proactive approach, we have to recognize that there may be times when they fail us. Maybe despite our best efforts we are still caught unawares or maybe do to good planning by our attackers or physical conditions we are not able to detect preincident indicators.
If we find ourselves in a situation where we need to defend ourselves what are the best methods to use? While Protective Concepts generally focuses on soft skills, we would be remiss not to consider what to do if preventive measures fail.
There is so much about physical self defense that is misguided or just wrong that it might be useful to look at some concepts of effective physical self defense that hopefully will assist the reader in selecting training or if already training evaluate what they are doing and whether they need to augment or adapt it. This is not a “my style/system is better than yours debate” – which is all too common when this subject comes up. Rather it is a high level discussion of principles and concepts to consider.

  • Gross motor movements: Techniques should be practiced which can be employed using only gross motor skills. Technical, fine motor techniques that may work in controlled training are not likely to work in a high stress, adrenaline – fueled event
  • Use high probability techniques and tools: Keeping with the theme of gross motor movements, techniques should also have a high probability of success while limiting vulnerability. This means having a core of tools that will work in multiple situations, are difficult to defend against and do not leave you too exposed.
  • Soft tissue targets: Attacks should target the eyes and throat and in some cases when accessible the groin. A strike to the eyes will likely cause a flinch response at the very least and create an opening for you. This does not mean you should seek pinpoint targets as this is unrealistic in a dynamic situation.
  • Train against resisting opponents: While it may be necessary to learn fundamentals by practicing in a more controlled way – as soon as possible training should be against a dynamic, resisting partner. Training partners should conduct realistic attacks to allow you to pressure test your skills.
  • Add emotional content: Role playing and introduction of realistic emotional content such as cursing, insults and aggressive body contact help replicate the feelings created in a real situation.
  • Use of preemptive striking: Train to gauge when and how to strike preemptively. There are legal and ethical as well as tactical considerations to consider but realistically striking first, when appropriate, may be the difference between success and failure and even life or death. Too many self defense programs base everything in reacting to an assailant’s attack. Many if not most times this is too late, especially against a hardened, experienced attacker.
  • Use of distraction techniques: Whether throwing hot coffee in the eyes, feigning illness or using a verbal pattern disruption – distraction techniques can provide the opening needed to launch a preemptive strike.
  • Training against multiple opponents: It’s important to recognize that in a real situation there are likely to be multiple assailants and they may be armed. This should be reflected in training scenarios.
  • Use of improvised weapons: Training should include identification of improvised weapons in your environment and their use. Improvised weapons usually fall into three categories: impact, edged and flexible although this can be expanded to include projectiles and sprays. Improvised weapons should be items you can realistically use with a minimum of training and practice. Flexible weapons as an example can be difficult to master. Conversely a palm stick or kubotan type weapon such as a pocket flashlight or pen can be employed using the same movements and body mechanics that you would use for striking with a hammer fist in empty hand combat. This allows for greater transferability and less training time.

Unfortunately good training in realistic combatives can often be difficult to find. For a variety of reasons this type of training often doesn’t translate well to the commercial environment. For that reason you may need to seek out informal groups the train in garages, basements or parks or train in a combat sport or traditional martial art and augment your training with the principles discussed here.

As always – avoidance and prevention are best – but should they fail be prepared by training as realistically as possible.

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4 Responses to When Avoidance Fails

  1. Another excellent post. Couldn’t have said it better myself 🙂

  2. Greg Burns says:

    One of the best defensive summaries I have seen. Being aware is often not enough if you are not prepared to deal with violence.

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