Friday, June 21, 2013

Essential Skill: Defend Yourself

Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.
- Gen. James Mattis USMC(ret.)
I started off with a rather aggressive quote but my ultimate goal with this post is to help you avoid getting hurt by someone acting aggressively towards you. Gen Mattis' quote above is from the perspective of a warfighter, but I think it applies to the realm of self-defense in everyday situations as well. We don't generally live in a hostile environment with bodily threats happening in a normal day. We do have a rather thin veneer of civilization though and people tend to behave poorly in times of turmoil. You should not underestimate the speed at which a seemingly peaceful area or situation can turn ugly and have a plan to avoid harm to you and your companions.

MCDP-1 Warfighting publication that guides the overall philosophy of the Marine Corps. Replace the word "war" in the pub with "life" and you'll find this to be an excellent guide for the civilian world as well. MCDP-1 is not about specific tactics, techniques or weapons--it is about mindset. I had an instructor tell me to look at the world through a lens of MCDP-1 and that message stuck with me. Self-defense is also first about mindset. Here are some of my suggestions on how to cultivate self-defense into your daily physical training:

Be a hard target
First of all, be aware of your surroundings and avoid situations that are dangerous. Whatever your training level, don't foolishly spoil for a fight. If you look for a fight, you'll probably find one with someone meaner, tougher or more skilled in fighting than you.
She has confident posture; not sure the clothing is practical though.
Walk confidently with your head up and shoulders back. Look around as you walk. Make eye contact with people. Move quickly and decisively. Project a body language that you belong and that you are comfortable in your own skin. Staring at the ground as you walk, crossing your arms in font, hunching your shoulders or being immersed in your phone all highlight you as an easier target.

Wear practical clothing that doesn't restrict your ability to walk easily, run briefly, jump or climb. Bring along more stylish shoes or clothing to wear when you get to your destination if necessary.

Defuse the situation
Be cool to defuse a situation
Keep your distance and don't be threatening in response to a perceived attacker. If someone is verbally aggressive, a response in kind will likely escalate the situation to a physical confrontation. Be polite and calm in the face of hostility. Keep moving away from the situation steadily.

If you become trapped in a confrontation, abandon property to the attacker without hesitation. Stealing from you may not be the ultimate goal of an attacker but give them any property they may ask for. At the least, it could distract the attacker and give you an opening to flee. Never comply with going to another location with them though--relocation never works out for the victim.

Practice for physical confrontation
Drill punches, elbow & knee strikes and kicks in your physical conditioning program.  Work to be quicker, stronger, and more precise in all your movements. Where you hit someone is more important that how hard you can hit someone. Take courses on grappling, striking and general self-defense to develop skills but more importantly, help develop more self-confidence thus making you a harder target. Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ)JudoMuay ThaiKrav Maga are all practical combative disciplines. My limited background with fight training is in wrestling and ground fighting techniques based on BJJ while in the Marine Corps.
Practice techniques that are designed for real-world situations
You don't ever want to fight for real but if you can't avoid the physical confrontation, you have to work on fighting skills. Fight training is hard but it's also fun and empowering. It's a total body experience where physical & mental weakness quickly manifest. Embrace your fear. Bravery is acting in spite of fear and it's an acquirable skill with practice.

Respond ferociously
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
- Isaac Asimov, Foundation
While the mongoose is really the aggressor towards the cobra, channel its ferocious spirit when necessary
The Constitution specifically mentions our individual right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You don't have to be a victim and there should be no moral dilemma to hurting someone who wishes to hurt you. If attacked, respond quickly, explosively and violently while working to get away as soon as possible.  You did not create the situation and it is your right to defend yourself.

You can't rely on the police or anyone else to respond quick enough to keep you from getting hurt. Channel the spirit of a caged monkey and react ferociously. Strike weak parts on your attacker hard and often. Withdraw just as decisively and aggressively. Return to your hard target posture as quickly as possible and calm your mind.
You chose to be a victim if you don't seek out ways to avoid being one.

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