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Street Savvy Self-Defense

By Scott Shaw

At the foundation of any method of effective self-defense is your own ability to read a situation, decide upon the appropriate action, and then implement successful self-defense techniques to keep yourself free from injury. In your martial art school, you are taught methods of how to encounter the various types of physical attack which may befall you: be it a punch, a kick, or a body grab. It is far better, however, for you to never be forced into a physical confrontation at all. To achiever this, “The most basic level of self-defense,” you must learn how to read physical and environmental situations and then take defensive action before a physical altercation ever finds you.

Defining an Attacker
Perhaps the most disconcerting level of this area of self-defense, especially for those who have been previously attacked, is that there is no one who can teach you a technique which will keep you safe from all physical confrontations. This is in no small part due to the fact that each person who would accost you possesses a different look, a different body language, and an undisclosed reasoning for why they would wish to instigate a physical encounter. Certainly, there are certain types of individuals who you may come upon, who look evil, speak to you with an intimidating tone, or act in a specific manner which you instantly know you must get away from. In these situation, the decision to walk or run away is obvious. It is the less defined individuals who pose the biggest problem in knowing exactly whom to steer clear of.

There are countless theories, and the word, “Theory,” is used because that is exactly all they are, about how you should behave if someone with ill intentions comes upon you. Some of these theories tell you to remain calm, in a non-aggressive mode and speak passively to the person, others tell you to be assertive and attempt to back the opponent down. Still others say you should scream or run.

When you are accosted, no theory will work. This is because of the fact that each attacker is completely different and motivated by their own set of irrational standards. As is the case with all areas of self-defense, you must confront every situation as it is presented to you, and react at your most effective possible level.

There are standard rules of common sense which can hopefully keep you free from confrontation. For example, lock your doors and windows, avoid dark isolated locations, don’t place yourself in a dangerous environment—if hostility is eminent, leave immediately before it has the ability to escalate, if an attacker come up to you in a public place, call for the help of others, and so on. All of these common sense rules can only be applied prior to a confrontation or when other people are in your presence. Often times, attackers will not come upon you in public situations. They will wait until you are alone. In these situations, absolute self-defense is necessary. You can not think or be concerned about the injurious effect you are having upon your attacker, as they certainly are not concerned with your well being or they would not have accosted you in the first place.

Victim Mentality
Being a victim is a state of mind. It is what we do with the experience of lose which determines whether or not you become a life-long victim.

A victim is an individual who has lost an altercation and, thus, the rest of their life is dominated by that experience. Everywhere they go, they are scared and expecting a similar negative experience to again occur.

The person who is not a victim, may have lost battles in the past, but they realize that life is a step by step process. Though they may not have like the experience of loosing, they have learned what they could from it, become stronger, and have moved on with their life becoming a better and more whole individual.

Winning and Losing
You cannot win all altercations. Winning or loosing is all a state of mind. If you learn from your seeming loss, you are, in fact, a winner as you have come to become a stronger, more complete individual. From another perspective, if you have won many confrontations and are constantly seeking to prove yourself in battle, there will eventually be somebody who can beat you. Thus, the conscious self-defense technician never seeks out battle. If battle is forced upon them, they proceed in the most conscious and effective manner possible.

Remaining Conscious in Battle
The question often arises, “How does one remain conscious in the randomness of battle?” There are two primary methods to achieve this: partner practice in your dojo and mental visualization. From partner practice you learn, through personal experience, the most efficient method to deal with each style of physical attack. Thus, if you are attacked, you have already worked through the scenario and know how to effectively deal with it. Through mental visualization, you detail in your mind the most effective method to encounter each type of assault, in various environments—you run the battle scenarios on a mental level and are trained from your mental imagery.

From these two practices you become a more secure individual as you consciously understand how to defend yourself in all environments and from all types of attack. Once you possess this sense of mental security, you project that mindset to the world. When people encounter you, they experience the inner power you possess. Therefore, they will not thoughtless challenge you to battle, as they know you can not be easily defeated.

Learn, practice, and master the techniques of self-defense. Then, project your inner self confidence to the world. This is your best first line of defense.

Environmental Self-Defense
The unfortunate reality about life is that you can be accosted by an attacker in virtually any location, at any time. Each physical location is unique and possesses its own environmental constraints. Due to this reason, there is no singular method of physical self-defense which will universally protect you in all types of geographic locations.

For you to master environmental self-defense you must not only come to understand how to effectively encounter an attacker in each type of environment, but, more importantly, you must take precautionary measures before you ever enter any location—from these, you will learn how to judge each environment by its own physical parameters and, thus, you will hopefully never place yourself in a situation where physical danger is eminent.

Inside Your Car
To begin the study of environmental self-defense you can begin by viewing the defining factors of your car. As the car is a common place where confrontations take place, due to one driver considering the tactics of another to be less than applicable, it is a very important physical environment to master in your understand of environmental self-defense.

If an attacker rushes towards you and you are in your car, by attempting to get out, you leave yourself in a highly prone position to attack. Not only must you get up out of your seat and generally turn to face your opponent, in which case he can easily strike you to the back or the side of your head before you can confront him, but you also must open your car door and expose one or more of your legs, before you can stand up.

With your legs on the ground and your body not yet standing, your attacker can powerfully smash the car door against your exposed extremities. There is virtually nothing you can do to halt this type of attack—except to hopefully overpower his superior positioning and either get out of the car or get your legs back into your car. By this time, you will probably be injured and your self-defense options will be highly limited. Therefore, it is very important that you fully evaluate your environment before you ever begin to leave your car in a pending confrontation. If your attacker has already rushed your car, do not attempt to get out—lock your doors, roll up your windows, drive away, and forget the anger which lead you to this unsavory situation.

Entering Your Car
If you are approached by a potential assailant as you are attempting to get into your car—the car, itself, can be an impending factor to keep the attacker at bay. If you see him approaching, keep the car between the two of you. If he begins to move around it, you move in the opposite direction. Though this may appear as a child’s game, by forcing him to remain at a distance, you can ascertain his intentions and hopefully call to your aid other individuals in the area.

If out of frustration he attempts to superseded your movement and jumps over the hood or trunk of the car, this is the ideally time to deliver a powerful first strike to him as he is coming off of the car. As he will be off balance due to his exaggerated movement, he will be ideally prone to your striking technique.

Outdoors
In physical confrontation that takes place outdoors, you possess a very important advantage for effective self-defense—that advantage is space. In an outdoor situation you can move if you are accosted. This does not necessarily mean to run, though this may be your best defense. What it does mean, however, is that you are not required to stay boxed in a stationary location as is the case with interior combat.

An attacker rushes in at you—by moving backwards or sideways, out of his path of attack, his initial offense is foiled. At this point you can launch a powerful counter attack or just quickly leave the site of the altercation altogether.

The most important thing to keep in mind when defending yourself from an attack which has occurred outdoors, is to keep moving. Each time the assailant attempts to punch you, step back out of his path of attack. If he attempts to grab you, move away. If he does take a hold of your body or your clothing, immediately free yourself from his grasp in the most elementary way possibly—usually just by consciously pulling free. Thus, he will not have the opportunity to substantiate his grasp.

You must remember that any attacker is highly adrenalized. As such, his energy is quickly expended. As long as you can keep him away from you, he will be burning excessive amounts of energy and you, remaining relatively calm, will maintain your energy surplus. Thus, like the competent boxer who allows his opponent to chase him around the ring using up his energy, you too can conserve your energy and counter attack when your opponent is worn out and drained.

The Alley
It is often detailed that you should back yourself up against a wall if you are attacked in an outdoor location. This is especially case if you find yourself in a narrow outdoor placement such as an alley. The belief is that by backing yourself up to a wall, your attacker or attackers cannot come around behind you. Though there is a logic to this form of self-defense, the biggest down side to it is that once you back up against a wall, your movement is highly limited and your attackers can close in on you and strike with multiple attacks. Additionally, your defensive blocking techniques are highly restricted, with your back against a wall, as you can only move effectively from side to side. If you attempt to push out from the wall, you then must meet the blows of your attacker’s head on.

For these reasons, moving against a wall should only be employed when it is to your advantage. This situation would occur when your attacker is rapidly rushing in at you—by side-stepping his attack, redirecting his aggressive energy, and guiding his face or body into the wall, you will have then save yourself the necessity of striking out at him, as you have used his own force to cause him to powerfully impact the nearby wall.

In virtually all other cases, it is to your advantage to keep moving if you find yourself accosted in a walled outdoor location. Even if your movements must be linear, due to the confined configuration of the space, your attackers will still need to chase after you to grab or to strike at you. As the case with a more exposed outdoor location, if you are grabbed immediately pull free, if a punch is launched, step back out of its path—keep moving until you are free.

Up Against the Wall
There is the attack scenario when the initial altercation occurs when your back is already against a wall. In these cases, immediately strike to a vital point on your attacker, such has his knees. his groin, his throat, his eyes, his temples, and so on—then immediately move off of the wall. From this rapid style of self-defense, you may have foiled the attacker’s intentions. If not, additional self-defense can be employed as necessary.

The ATM
ATMS have become a very common place for individuals with ill intent to accost would-be victims. Though most ATMS now have video surveillance, this has not seemed to halt these attacks, as criminals know it takes several minutes for the police to arrive. During this time, they can rob their victims and in some cases injure or kill them. Knowing this, you must be very cautious whenever you go up to a ATM.

The obvious first line of ATM self-defense is only go to ones located at indoor locations, such as in supermarkets, convenience stores, shopping malls, and so on. If this is not practical then use an ATM in a well-lighted, highly populated outdoor location.

The second level of ATM self-defense, even at the previously described inhabited locations, is to check your environment thoroughly. Visually scan the area for shady looking individuals before you get out of your car or walk up to the machine. If you see an individual who looks out of place, you should never give them the benefit of the doubt, as it may cost you your life. Instead, leave the location; go find another, safer, ATM.

At times, you may have viewed the area and surmised that there was no apparent danger. As you are beginning your ATM transaction, someone walks up behind you.

Many ATMS now have mirrors so you can see the approach of other people. These are an important tool of ATM self-defense.

Face-to-Face
One of the primary fundamentals to successful self-defense is to encounter an individual face to face. With this, you can quickly ascertain their intentions and see if attack is eminent.

If you are alone at an ATM and someone comes up behind you, immediately turn around to face them. If it turns out that they are only waiting to use the machine, smile at them and all is well. If, on the other hand, they intend to rob you, then your self-defense can instantly begin and you will possess a more clearly defined ability to emerge victorious.

Your Money or Your Life
An important factor to calculate into any self-defense scenario is that if all the person who has accosted you wants is your money or your jewelry—give it to them. Too many people have needlessly died attempting to fight over a few dollars which can be replaced. Though being robbed is certainly not right, dying because of a robbery is never necessary.

The other case to consider is that many attackers possess no value for human life and they may take your money and then injure you, as well. In these situation you must defend yourself to your utmost, defeating them by any means necessary.

As each situation is different, there is no method to define what a specific criminal has in mind. To this end, you must read any altercation you find yourself involved in, make your own judgments, and defend yourself as you feel necessary.

Bus Stops, Subway Stations
Many people travel by means of public transportation. Whether this is motivated by environmental consciousness or due to financial constraints, locations such as Bus Stops and Subway Stations have become a hot bed for criminal activity. This is primarily due to the fact that potential victims are there waiting. Thus, they are not only available for attack but are stationary targets.

The obvious preliminary self-defense strategy at these locations is to check your environment before you enter it. If you are alone and there is a person or persons present who you feel look suspicious, leave the station.

In is an important first step in environmental self-defense that when you enter a new location, you do so in a stealth mode. Do not flamboyantly walk in; see trouble, turn, and leave. For if you have entered and a criminal has taken notice of you, they may well follow your exit. For this reason, study an environment with each step you take towards it. See everything, before it has the opportunity to see you.

For obvious time constraint reasons you may not always be able to walk away from a location of public transportation once you have arrived. If this is your case, and you must remain even though you have taken notice of potential danger, stand back in a position where the suspicious person or persons cannot see you. Once the bus or subway train pulls up, rapidly move towards it and get on. In this way, you have not given a potential attacker the time to formulate and execute their assault.

When you are awaiting publication transportation placing yourself in a well lighted, populated spot is clearly your first choice. You must keep in mind, however, that many crimes take place while bystanders watch and do nothing. This is a sad fact of modern society. Though screaming and asking for help is appropriate, you must immediately launch into your own self-defense, if you are accosted, even in a public place—as this may be your only chance to defeat an attacker.

Environmental Determinants
The savvy self-defense technician learns to use whatever environment they find themselves in to their own defensive advantage. Thereby, making all landscape and physical objects their ally and not a hindrance to emerging unscathed from a physical altercation.

Outdoor Determinants
There are numerous environmental determinants that should be evaluated if you find yourself in an outdoor confrontation. For example, are you on a hill? If you find yourself on a hill, it is to your advantage to place yourself in the higher stance, above your opponent. From this, you will possess the superior positioning, where he must travel uphill to you. Powerful, low level kicks can be effortlessly unleashed at him, from this position, with easy access to his head and upper body region. This upper positioning placement is also important if a confrontation is taking place on stairs.

If you find yourself at the lower level in the encounter and exchanging places with your attacker is not possible, then your best strategy is to move downhill, away from him, and make him come to you. As he will be required to move in a descending fashion, he will be off balance. You can take advantage of this by striking him as he moves in on you with a powerful punch to his groin, knee, or shin. You can. additional, quickly take him from his feet by grasping his forward leg, at ankle level, and rapidly pulling it downhill towards you. Once he is on the ground, a secondary counter attack can be successfully unleashed.

Indoors
A similar style of movement orientated environmental fighting can take place in smaller locations such as bars or rooms where you have space to travel. Though you are much more confined in these interior locations, by continually moving away from your attacker, not only does he becomes drained of energy, but he may become frustrated, as well. A frustrated attacker is easily disabled.

If you find yourself engaged in a close contact indoor fighting situation and movement cannot be your first line of self-defense, then immediately striking your attacker to one of his vital points is a viable first line defense. These strikes can be substantially aided by picking up any near by object, such as a bottle, a glass or anything with weight, and striking him in the head with it. Though this may seem less than sporting, if you are being attacked by an unknown assailant, your survival is the only desired outcome. Thus, protect yourself by any means necessary.

Available Weaponry
One of the key factors to environmental self-defense is to use whatever is at your disposal to secure your victory in the confrontation. As you did not instigate the fight, there should never be a second though about this process.

There are untold objects at your self-defense disposal if you are targeted by an attacker. There is your backpack or purse to hit his with. The hot coffee from you cup thrown in his face. There are your keys to put between your fingers to punch with, your credit or ATM card that can be used for slashing across an attackers face. Sand or dirt from the ground can be picked up and thrown in your attacker’s eyes. Doors can be closed on his arms. Doorways can be used to retreat behind, concealing your oncoming punch. Nearby flashlights, lamps, pipes, boards, trash can lid can be used to block or strike with. Even a rolled up newspaper can be used to strike at an attacker, momentarily startling him as you launch a counter attack.

In all self-defense situations, use the environment to your advantage. Train yourself, as you walk down streets or enter unknown rooms, to study what elements are at hand and could be used to aid in your defense. See all landscapes and objects as a friendly helper to keep you safe.

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