The pre-emptive strike
If your choice is a physical response, my advice is to be pre-emptive and strike first – very hard – preferably on the jaw (it’s a direct link to the brain). The concept of defence at the point of contact is not only unsound it is dangerous and extremely naive. Waiting for someone to attack you is strategic madness because blocks don’t work! The Kwai-Chang-Cain theory of block and counter-attack is even more absurd, especially if you are facing more than one opponent. There is no finesse about fighting multiples, they do not line up and attack you one at a time they strike like a swarm of bees and luck is the only thing that’ll keep a beat in your heart. If you look at any contemporary CCTV footage of street attacks you will notice the immediate and ferocious nature of this kind of attack. It is merciless and it often leaves people dead.
If you honestly believe that you are about to attacked, hit them before they can hit you. Once you have landed the first strike, run. Many defence gurus advocate a second strike, a finisher. I advise not. Your first strike buys you vital getaway time. If you’re dealing with a determined attacker (many are very experienced in the street) and you don’t leg it after the first strike, chances are he’ll grab you and snap you like a twiglette.
Self-defence is about doing the minimum a situation will allow to ensure your own survival. It’s not about defending a corpulent ego or misguided honour.
Having been involved in thousands of live encounters the pre-emptive attack was the only consistently effective technique I could find. As for the current trend in ground fighting, forget it! Grappling is an amazing art, I spent 18 months as a full time player in Neil Adams’ international judo class, and I loved every minute, it became a magnificent back up for me, but a supplementary support system as far as self defence is concerned. It is a match fighting and competition art, not suitable for a concrete mat – and if you face multiple opponents (and cowards always usually come teamed up) and choose to grapple the chances are you have just chosen to lose, and in an arena that is as brutal and explosive as it is unpredictable to lose often means ‘to die.’
My advice is to stay on your feet, hit first, hit as hard as you can, using your fists (or your head). These are (usually) the closest naturally available weapons to the target (your opponents jaw), and offer the safest and most direct route. At this point it would be a great advantage to have a heavy investment in a punching art – preferably western boxing. Most people think they can throw a good punch. From my experience – and certainly under pressure – few can. A great way to learn is to go to a boxing club or do focus pad work with a friend to develop the skills.
If you do employ the pre-emptive attack make sure you know your legal rights (a little more on this later) or you might be in for a double jeopardy when you have to defend them against the second enemy – the law.
You dictate reasonable force; although you may have to defend your interpretation of reasonable in a court of law. If you are so frightened by an assailant that you have to hit him with everything but the girl on your arm, then that is reasonable force. If, however, you knock someone to the ground and then do the fifty-six-move kata on their head, you might well be stretching your luck.
I can’t guarantee that you won’t end up in the dock, but I feel that it’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.
Forget the films where the good guy – using empty hands – prevails over the knife-wielding psychopath without ruffling his own hair or popping a shirt button, because on celluloid is the only place it’s going to happen. Someone once asked me at a self-defence seminar ‘what could you do against a knife?’
‘About 50 miles an hour’, I replied.
I’ve faced a few blades and I’ve been stabbed some in my time and on every occasion I was terrified. If your antagonist is carrying and you have the option, run. Even with 40 years of martial arts training under my belt, it was providence and not skill that kept me alive.
If you are facing a knife, the best-case scenario is that you don’t die. If a knife is pulled and running away is not on the option list, throw anything that isn’t nailed to the floor at the attacker, and then run. If projection range is lost your only other option is to blitz the attacker with head strikes until he is unable to continue his attack.
The rule of thumb here is that stabbers don’t usually show the blade, they just sneak up and insert it when you’re not aware. If they do show you the knife they are usually just posturing. Always check the hands of your antagonist – if you can’t see the palms, or a hand is concealed, you have to presume they are carrying.
If the attacker does have a weapon and doesn’t respond to your verbal dissuasion, your options are two-fold: give them what they ask for (and just hope it’s not oral sex) or be prepared to get cut in the affray.
As important as the law may be, contemplating the legal implications of defending your self in the face of ensuing attack would be unwise. It can cause indecision, which usually leads to defeat.
I call the law the second enemy: this is not meant disparagingly, but, having been on the wrong side of it a few times I feel duty bound to highlight the inherent dangers of dealing with – what can be – a sticky judicial system, post-assault.
Many people are convicted for what they say and not what they do. This means you could legally defend yourself and yet still be convicted and sent to jail (do not pass go…) if you don’t claim self-defence (correctly) when giving a statement to the police. Many of my friends ended up in prison because they didn’t understand the law. Paradoxically many known criminals have avoided prison because they (or certainly their solicitors) did. So, if self-defence is your aim, then an appreciation of this judicial grey area has to be an imperative.
Post-assault, you’ll probably be suffering from what is known as adrenal-induced Tachypsychia. This can cause time distortion, time loss, memory distortion and memory loss. You may also feel the innate urge to talk, if only to justify your actions (Logorrhoea). All of the latter affect your ability to make an objective statement if the police become involved. When/if you do make a statement it is hardly likely to be accurate considering these facts. Six months down the line when you end up in court to defend your right to self-defence, everything will hang on your statement. So make sure you’re clear about your rights. If you’re not clear, insist on waiting until the next day before making a statement or ask to see a duty solicitor (or your own). It’s your right. Don’t put pen to paper otherwise. A police cell can be a very lonely place when you’re not used to it, and the police can often be guilty of rushing, even pressuring you for a quick statement. This pressure can be subtle but effective; being left alone for long periods of time, being told that you might be sent to prison, even the good cop-bad cop routine (yes, honestly). Many a tough guy has turned from hard to lard after a few hours surrounded by those four grey walls. Under these circumstances it’s very easy to say things you really don’t want to say, just so that you can go home.
If you have to defend your self and you damage your assailant my advice is not to hang around after the dirty deed has been done. This minimises the risk of legal (or other) repercussions. Attack victims (especially those who successfully defended them selves) often feel compelled to stay at the scene of crime post assault. Do your self a favour; make like Houdini and vanish? Your life and your liberty might be at stake. Better still don’t be there in the first place, that way you won’t have to worry about long months waiting for the court case and the possibility of suffering from a sever loss of liberty.
Almost there! Part Four coming at you very soon with a special offer from Geoff Thompson! Peace, CTK