Self-Defense: It’s about Getting the Ideas Right

I have seen a lot of videos about self-defense, and I have to say, people are generally too hung up on performing techniques rather than getting the ideas right. Applying the wrong ideas leads to the using of wrong techniques in the wrong contexts, and that would expose the defender to more risks than necessary.

Take, for example, I have recently watched a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu demonstration using the below method to escape a two-handed arm hold:

The idea of this kind arm-slip is simple: the arm is stronger than the thumbs, and by leveraging the entire force of the arm, one can slip away from the thumb joints easily.

But what if the attacker pulls you towards himself? The demonstrator would tell you to maintain and find a stable footing by pulling your balance backward, and once you have found your footing, you can perform the move and slip away.

We can test that idea. My student and I weight about 180 lbs and 150 lbs respectively. As we have shown here, despite being 30 lbs lighter, I can pull my student away rather easily, and he wouldn’t be able to perform the arm-slip.

Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that a 130 lbs woman cannot escape this way against a much heavier male attacker holding and pull her. Trying to escape this way would put the woman in danger, because she would have wasted the best opportunity to defend herself by launching a counter-offensive at the same beat at the exact moment when the attacker wouldn’t be able to do anything else due to his own momentum and hands being occupied, as we have shown below.

When the attacker holds and pulls you forward, he is actually helping you to generate momentum without you spending any energy. That means, you are using his force to hit him, and the harder he pulls the more it hurts. In addition, both of his hands are holding one of you arms and that leaves him undefended and his face wide-opened. The best thing to do in this scenario is to perform a sweep towards his face, attacking his eyes or nose. The take-down is actually a more friendly way of attacking since he won’t get severely injured.

Once you have injured him or taken him down, he would have to let you go, because physics. Job done. On the off chance he reacted fast enough to intercept your attack, he would have to use his hands and thereby releasing you from his grip. Job done. And in this case you have put him on the defensive where you can and should follow up with a series of attacks on your terms and initiative. You win either way.

Therefore, launching an offensive at the same beat using the attacker’s momentum is the sure way to get out of danger in this scenario. It is easier to do and more efficient as well, since you don’t need to waste one beat to find your footing, one beat to get you other hand between his arms, another to lift your arm, and another to run away. Even if you could slip away, the attacker could still continue the fight since you haven’t done anything to impede him. The arm-slips works only when the attacker is holding you without pulling with force, and both of you are relatively stationary, or when the attacker let you do it. This scenario is not realistic at all.

By launching a counter-offensive at the same beat, not only you would get out of his grip, you would be injuring him at the very same moment. Once you have done so, you’d have all the time you need to run away, or don’t, as you have the chance to op end the fight right there.

Sun Tzu said (I paraphrase), “One can dictate the terms of the battle if he attacks where the enemy is obligated to save”. We should apply the same idea in martial arts.

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