A fence surrounds an area, shows you want to keep people away, and, when an unauthorized person breaches it, you may take reasonable action against them legally. A self-defense technique know as the fence acts in a similar manner.
Guard versus Fence
Guard: a guard is when the arms and hands are held in a defensive manner that allows you to use them to deflect or block an incoming attack quickly and deliver your own attack quickly. A problem with the guard is that, to most people, it could be construed as threatening, so it should only be used against an imminent threat. The guard is discussed in more detail in another topic.
Fence: a fence is when the arms and hands are held in nonthreatening manner that still allows you to be prepared for an attack, to deflect or block an attack quickly, or to deliver your own attack quickly. Open hands with the fingers spread appear less threatening than closed fists, but the hands still form a barrier between you and the attacker.
Which is best
In a self-defenses situation:
- A fence is used to defuse the situation before it leads to your being attacked.
- A guard is used when an attack is imminent and you must be ready to defend against it.
- When having to convince a court that you were not the aggressor in a confrontation, your having used a fence will be helpful in showing that you only acted in self-defense.
Using the fence
When confronted by a threatening person, first position yourself in a nonthreatening manner so you may instantly move to effectively defend yourself or, if necessary, attack the person. Stand in a relaxed fighting stance, which is basically a front stance with the feet just under the shoulders, knees slightly bent, with the body and feet turned 45 degrees away from the attacker. You want to look confident and be ready for action but not appear threatening or as though you are looking for fight. Hold your arms in one of the fences described below until an attack occurs or is imminent, then hold them in a guard.
Types of fences
High fence. This fence is commonly used when the attacker has a weapon. The hands are held above the head with the fingers spread and palms facing forward—the classic "hands up" position. You want to causally maneuver so you are in reach of the weapon without having to lunge. The fence permits the defender to use gravity to add speed and power when dropping the arms to deflect, block, or grab the weapon, when it is within range.
Middle fence. The middle fence is well suited for hand-to-hand fighting situations, and is the most commonly used fence. There are several variation of the middle fence:
- Close middle fence. This is basically just the standard middle guard but with the fingers open and the palms facing forward. It is not as threatening as with the fists closed, and, when used in combination with verbal and body language, it helps to portray fear, which may be useful to defuse a situation. You want to stay at a range that requires the attacker to move toward you before he or she may touch you; this you more time to react and makes him or her the aggressor. While open hands expose the fingers to injury, some martial artists prefer to fight from an open hand rather than a closed fist guard.
- Extended middle fence. This fence is similar to the close middle fence except the palms are extended forward toward the threat to help keep the threat further away and help judge range.
- One-arm extended middle fence. This fence is also similar to the extended middle fence except one palm is held in close while the other is extended forward toward the threat. Even though both hands are open, this is a more threatening fence since the attacker probably assumes that you are using the extended hand to measure and set range while keeping the other hand back to make a powerful counterattack if needed.
- Thinker fence. In this fence, the leading forearm is held vertical against the body, hand at the chin, with index finger extended. The trailing forearm is held horizontal across the abdomen with the hand at the elbow of the leading forearm. This is the arm position many people use when thinking; it is a variation of the arm position seen in Rodin's sculpture "The Thinker." It is a pensive, non-threatening fence, but it still allows the hands to instantly defend or attack.
Low fence. This is the least threatening fence. The arms and open hands are either hanging to sides of the body or they are held low in front of the body and used for hand expressions while talking. When used along with talking, the hand movements seem natural and nonthreatening, but they keep the hands in front of the body, ready for instant action. When in a low middle fence, you want to keep yourself at a range that requires the attacker to move toward you.
For you to legally defend yourself and counterattack, there should some action by the attacker that triggers your reactions. The trigger could be the attacker cocking an arm back for a punch, or it could be a challenge to your fence.
When you are in a high fence and the attacker has a weapon, the trigger is the weapon itself and you may act whenever an opening presents itself for you to control the weapon and counterattack.
When you are in any of the middle fences, if the attacker moves into contact with your fence, it indicates an immanent attack and should trigger your defenses and counterattacks.
When you are in a low fence, the trigger is an invisible vertical plane located about half way between you and the attacker. Once the attacker crosses this plane, it triggers your defenses and counterattacks. The range you maintain depends upon a number of factors, such as your size, power, and quickness in relation to those of the attacker, how much you think the attacker intents to harm you, and any other people in area, such as your family. You may adjust the range to change the location of the plane, or you may change the location of the plane without changing the range, such as by moving it closer to the attacker to give yourself more time to react, or by moving it closer to you to help prove that the attacker was actually trying to harm you.
The use of fences should be an important part of your self-defense training. Just as you practice to improve your guard and defensive and offensive self-defense skills, you should practice your fences so you may use them effectively when needed.
Thompson, G. (2000). The Fence: The art of protection. West Sussex, UK: Summerdale Pub Ltd.