When it comes to self-defense, the more simple the better. Under stress you must rely on gross motor skills and an instinctive reaction. A training regime involving complex techniques and prolonged decision making cycles will not serve you well. Keep in mind the KISS acronym – keep it simple, stupid.
Understand Your Reaction State
Your response must be based on your natural reaction state. Understand what your body will be doing when it’s in a startled, reaction state. Your knees will be bent with one foot in front of the other. Your hands will be up protecting your face with your body slightly crouched. Your head will be forward with your eyes locked on the threat. You may have tunnel vision, diminished hearing and loss of fine motor skills. Having said this, it’s critical that you keep your response simple, both in a mental and physical capacity.
Basic Self-Defense Decision Making Cycles
There should be no grey areas, or areas of uncertainty in your decision making cycles. Do not introduce a bunch of “what ifs” into your decision making cycle. When time is life, hesitation will get you in trouble. In order to make quick, actionable decisions try to see things in black and white. Define parameters which cause you to act well before you find yourself in harm’s way. For example, let’s say someone is quickly approaching and you feel threatened. You need to clearly define the process that will indicate to you when the threat is real. Know when it is time for you to take action. Remember, keep it simple. In this example you could verbally warn the approaching individual in a command voice to stop and back away. If they continue to approach, escalate the situation. Draw pepper spray and issue a final warning in an aggressive command and control posture. If they continue to approach take offensive action. Use your pepper spray, make noise and create an avenue of escape. In this example there is no hesitation as to when you should act. Two warnings and then action before the distance is closed and you are in a defensive posture.
Combatives Based on Gross Motor Movement
As a full-time martial arts instructor I have been exposed to a lot of self-defense techniques over the last three decades. Some are practical, many are not. It is easy to get emotionally invested in a martial art, self-defense technique, or a particular instructor. You must have a “litmus test” for the practical application of your self-defense techniques. Here are some criteria you can use to evaluate what you practice:
- Reaction State: Can you easily execute this technique from your reaction state? Self-defense techniques should be executable from a diminished state. Think gross motor movements. Any technique involving multiple steps will likely fall apart in a real-world application.
- Effective Against a Variety of Targets: Test your skills against people of different height, weight, gender, strength and overall levels of physical ability. Vary your training partners.
- Understand Your Environment: You may practice your self-defense techniques at home or in a gym with loose clothing and stable flooring. However, is this really indicative of the environment in which you will use these techniques? Are these techniques effective when wearing dress shoes, restrictive clothing, eye glasses, etc.? Practice techniques outside on wet pavement, sloped walkways and other conditions. Analyze the environments in which you live and train accordingly.
- Defense Should Lead to Offense: Do your defensive techniques shield you from additional strikes and set you up for an offensive counter-attack? Your self-defense techniques should flow, setting you up for your next objective. Techniques should not be limiting and should drive your towards your end game, either disabling your adversary or creating an avenue of escape.
Develop a plan for handing situations before you encounter them. Keep things simple, tested and well-defined. Be assertive and execute your plan without hesitation. You will find that having a plan will give you the confidence needed to handle situations that would otherwise be overwhelming at best.