In real life self-defense situations, many of the classical techniques taught in Taekwondo may not be useful. This may be due to a number of variables, such as space limitations, attire, weather, number of attackers, etc. To overcome these variables, you must use a common sense approach to prepare yourself for possible attack
Martial arts schools teach different versions self-defense. Some teach techniques that only work against a cooperative opponent, such as some release moves. Some teach outmoded techniques, such as, when defending against an attacker who is choking you from the front with both hands with arms extended, you should thrust your arms straight up between the attacker's arms to break the choke and then slam your palms onto both the attacker's ears. Some teach techniques that, even if used in self-defense, would be unlawful acts, such as multiple strikes after the attacker is incapacitated. Some teach techniques with elaborate movements that would be tantamount to suicide if used in an actual self-defense situation.
There are an endless number of self-defense techniques but the one thing they all have in common is the intended purpose of preventing or minimizing harm caused by a physical attack. Some techniques cause lasting no harm to the attacker, while others are intended to injure or kill the attacker. Most of the techniques work under the right circumstances, but the problem is in picking the right technique for a particular circumstance. No one technique will work under all circumstances. To be effective a technique must allow for changing circumstances.
Some martial arts schools teach a large number of self-defense techniques, but self-defense is not about how many different techniques you know, it is about how well you perform each one. The Koga Method of self-defense, which I taught in police tactic classes in the 1970's, was comprised of basically one technique (the twist-lock). Instead of trying to learn numerous techniques, students only practiced using one technique from all directions and under all types of circumstances. In a self-defense situation, they reacted quicker and more effectively since they did not have to think about which technique to use.
If a self-defense technique requires more physical strength, dexterity, or speed than you have, it is not effective for you. If it requires more strength, dexterity, or speed than the majority of people possess, then it is not realistic. Always keep your physical limitations in mind. Although your skills will improve with practice, there are some techniques that are too unreliable to use, so it is a waste of time to practice them.
All self-defense techniques involve body shifting (some type of movement to parry the attacker's blow) and some type of counter strike. Sometimes these two things occur simultaneously. Proper self-defense consists of four major areas of expertise:
- Knowledge of how criminals operate.
- Prevention strategies to avoid, deter, and escape would-be attackers.
- Physical defense skills and skill in the use of weapons.
- Survival consciousness and a fighting spirit.
One must be careful when learning self-defense techniques. The techniques must be effective and easy to use under circumstances one might encounter in ordinary life situations. The following are some thoughts and theories on self-defense.
It only Has to work once
Some self-defense "experts" defend their techniques by saying the techniques may seem complicated or useless but that they "Only have to work once." This is misleading. I would say that they "Have to work the first time." A super-modified 44-magnum semi auto pistol using exploding rounds is useless if it occasionally misfires. If you were a police officer, would you rather carry a 22-caliber revolver that fires every time it is used or carry a 45-caliber pistol that sometimes jams on the first shot? You do not need "deadly" techniques that may or may not work depending on the circumstances; you need reliable techniques that always work to some extent under any circumstance.
Look at the classic battle of the cobra and the mongoose. The cobra has one deadly technique that only has to make contact once and the mongoose will be dead. However, the mongoose has four legs and feet, front paws that act as hands, sharp teeth, high maneuverability, and numerous offensive and defensive tactics. The cobra has no legs, limited maneuverability, and few offensive and defensive choices. In a fight, the cobra only has to bite once to win, but all the mongoose has to do is avoid the bite, while the snake must avoid numerous types of bites, strikes, grabs, etc.
Intimidation may be worse for you than an actual attack. The effects of attack act may only last a short time, but your fear of a potential attack may haunt you for a long period. Never let a threat go unanswered. If you are threatened, then force the situation at that time on your own terms. You cannot have good life while living in fear of a threatened attack.
When faced with an opponent in a self-defense situation, you should express emotions. You may want to express your real emotions or you may want to express a false emption in an effort to confuse the opponent. The basic emotions you should practice expressing are confidence, friendly, solemn, unconcerned contempt, shock, fear, and anger.
Upon warning or indication of an attack, step back with your strong side away from the attacker. Raise your open hands to face level and tell the person to stop. Act passive but be prepared to block an attack and then to counterattack with authority. Your goal is to incapacitate the attacker as soon as possible.
Do not assume a fighting stance. It gives your attacker a warning of what techniques you may use to defend yourself and it puts them on guard.
Keeping your guard up is always important. Even when punching, kicking, blocking, or moving, you must keep your guard up. You must keep everything in your favor as much as possible. Never leave an opening for your opponent to attack. You never leave an opening. When an effective guard, there will be fewer attacks to block since the opponent prefers to attack when there is a chance of hitting the target.
Blocking areas are high, middle, and low; and right and left. You should use the correct block for each area. Some blocks are more effective in certain areas and less effective in other areas. A block to one area may overlap another area in case of an error in judgment of where the attack is headed.
The eyes and throat are logical targets for your lead hand. Stabbing with the fingernails may cause great injury and pain as will a palm heel strike to the chin. The solar plexus and floating ribs are good targets for a punch with the trailing hand. Both will take the wind and spirit away quickly from the attacker, and may cause the attacker to collapse. If this happens, remove yourself from the situation at once, making sure you cover your back while you do so. The groin or the knee of your attacker's lead leg are good targets for your lead front or side snap kick. If you are wearing boots or a hard sole shoe, take advantage of their sharp outer edges when kicking. The instep of your attacker's lead leg is a good target for a stomp kick. When executing the technique, point your toes toward the outside to increase the area your foot lands on, which should minimize slipping off the target area. Head butts to the face, elbow strikes to the face or ribs, and knee strikes to the groin or thighs are also effective techniques.
Do not use high kicks. They leave you vulnerable, may be hampered by your clothing, and make you susceptible to falling. Do not try to grab your attacker for a throw, but, if in the course of events, you do get a grip on the attacker or the attacker gets a grip on you, do not hesitate to throw the attacker. Be careful of grappling, there may be rocks, glass, etc. on the ground that may injure you ort may used as a weapon by your opponent. Grappling also limits your escape opportunities and it leaves you vulnerable to kicks from friends of the attacker.
Speed v. Power
Do not try to hit hard when you punch. You will just tense up your shoulders and back, and quickly wear yourself out. Instead attack with relaxed speed, but with your body aligned into the technique; alignment is your power. Plus, tense fighters tend to telegraph their intentions..
Fighting A Larger Opponent
- You cannot stay outside and trade punches with an opponent with a reach advantage. If you are a kicker and opponent is not, you can punish opponent's legs while he or she flails away with his hands at the open air, forcing him or her to over commit forward so you fight from the inside. You can fight inside with power and leverage while the opponent cannot get power behind his or her long arms. If you are a good boxer, use your overhand punch. This is a well-covered punch that can knock a taller fighter out.
- Learn to grapple. Since your center of gravity is lower, you have more leverage in close. Learn takedowns which lead directly to the back mount. From there, it is all elbows and naked chokes.
- Beware of coming inside and holding on to the lower body or legs while opponent pounds away at you. If you clinch at the waist, move around to opponent's back, where he or she cannot hit you.
Do not let opponent get a hold under your arms or on your legs, since he or she may easily dump you on your back. If you are shorter, do not go to the guard position. Opponent's reach and wide base will make it difficult to sweep and opponent's punches reach further than you can remedy by holding off. If you end up on your back, use the guard to get back to your feet, or to climb on opponent's back.
One of the best cinches against such tall person is a seatbelt and bicep tie-up. Move off to opponent's left side, reach around the back and grab belt/pants at right back hip. Put thumb-index arch of your left palm on right bicep/inner elbow. From here, you have control, you are halfway to opponent's back, opponent cannot hit you, you are out of the firing line of his knees, and you are halfway around to opponent's back for a back mount. When you are off to the side, you only have to fight half the opponent.
Dealing with Law Enforcement
Notify authorities of an attack as soon as possible. Cooperate with law enforcement officers and be polite. However, do not make any statements until you talk with an attorney. Any statements you make may be used against you, even if you were not at fault. Be careful of apologizing are saying you are sorry. This may seem the polite thing to do but it implies guilt. Some states have make laws that say apologies may not be used as admissions of guilt.
- Uppercut, Turn the lead heel out. Shift your weight. Your heel turns your hip and shoulder into the punch. Never uppercut a person whose head is above yours, opponents eye level should be equal to yours, or below.
- Hook. Generally, horizontal fist works well in close (palm down), and vertical fist works well at a greater distance (palm toward you). Turn the lead heel out on the lead hook, rear heel out on the rear hook. Shift your weight. Same for the cross, overhand, etc. When you double hook, do not turn your heel out until the second hook. The first one is a diversion.
- Jab. Remember, the jab is used mostly to set up other attacks. The jab must be fast, and reliable. Insert it into every gap. Use it to probe the opponent's reactions. Use of the jab ranges from pawing with it to load up your cross to using it to conceal your low entry to a powerful punching weapon. Power has to do with how much you bring your lead hip in line with the shot, and how much you shift your weight into it. Before you can even use your jab as a feint, you have to make it believable. Otherwise your opponent will not respect it. A jab to the abdomen is a great way to get the opponent to lower the lead hand and expose the chin. If opponent will not lower the hand, use the punch to strike the floating rib. Use it as opponent comes toward you and you slip outside or sidestep, i.e. your head moves on the same first beat that your punch did.
- Lag Punch. The lag punch is a boxing method for loading up your hook, getting a reaction, and then attacking with the other hand. Works well in the ring but no so well in the street.
- Head Holding Clinch. Holding the head is not allowed in the ring, but it is effective on the street. Also, holding the collar or lapel works well. Muay Thai fighters clinch with both hands securing the back of the head and neck. This clinching method facilitates knees pretty well, head butts, and elbow shots. Since you have control of the top of his spine, you may dictate his movements. Better still is control of the head and one arm. This will give you more angles on the head, and make it more difficult for him to fight back in some cases. Also enables you to angle off to his blind side, take him down, etc.
- Takedowns are easy from this position. Use downward pressure with your head hold as you step back and out on a circle.
- You can add in a knee block or trip, or just use it to re position the opponent him so you can land your cross to the temple. With one hand holding the neck, the other over-hooking a arm, bring you inner elbow in under the opponent's jaw and throw your shoulder into it. This lifts up his head and loads up your other arm, which comes across with an elbow. Follow up with an upward elbow, or in some cases a downward angular elbow.
- Also use a head butt from the clinch. Turn the top of your head in toward opponent and hit with back top corner against the side of his head. Follow up with an upward head butt to set up a bear hug/backward bend takedown.
- From the clinch, you may knee to the groin if opponent is upright, and to the ribs or head if bent over. Be careful, though, not to give opponent a single leg takedown when you do it. You may also use a shin kick to the leg. You can go to the thigh, knee level, even to his shin.