Principles of Self-defence


 Human Nature

It is important to realise that people are not basically good. Everyone is motivated by a certain level of selfishness. This selfishness can cause people to do shocking things. This can been seen in the fact that babies and young children are very selfish but learn compassion as they grow older. Different people develop different levels of control over their selfish nature. Some people have a high level of control, and these are the friendlies. Others don’t, and these are the un-friendlies. It is important to remember, however, that anyone can become violent or dangerous given the right circumstances. With this in mind, every person out there, in particular some of the badly adjusted people you may be dealing with directly, are a potential threat to your safety.

We should cultivate awareness of this fact without living in fear of people or becoming paranoid. Essentially, keep your eyes open, don’t daydream when you’re dealing with people or when you’re in a dangerous situation, and always be aware of your surroundings and the people around you.

Self-Defence Truths

What do you think you need in order to be safe in a physical confrontation?

  • 1001 combat techniques
  • A gun
  • Extreme physical strength and speed
  • 20 years of experience in a martial arts system

The truth is somewhat uncomfortable. In a real combat situation, learned techniques too often are not remembered. Gun owners are often the victims of criminals using their own guns against them. Without the will to act, speed and strength are just decorations. Experienced martial artists are often left questioning their own abilities after being incapable of defending themselves.

The truth is that all the weapons and physical training in the world are next to useless in self defence without the appropriate mental training. The will and mental control to fight and survive is of paramount importance. Without it, physical training is like carrying a pistol without any bullets loaded in the clip. It is counter-productive because it gives you a false sense of security.

What is Self Defence?

Actual combat is of minor importance in self defence. Self defence is predominately the avoidance of dangerous situations. A self defence situation can be compared to a long chain with a meat-hook on the end of it. The chain represents a chain of events leading to a physical confrontation, which is represented by the meat-hook. The physical confrontation can be avoided by breaking the chain at any point before the meat-hook. This could involve apologising to someone for spilling their drink, crossing to the other side of the road when you see a potential situation occurring, or choosing a safer route home from work.

Don’t forget your OATS

I have identified 4 prime principles of self-defence:

  • Observation
  • Acceptance
  • Tactics
  • Safety

Observation – The more observant you are, the smaller the chance that you will find yourself in a physical confrontation. Observation can be visual, social or internal.

Visual observation includes visually noting people, events, and places. This includes noting suspicious behaviour, learning about dangerous areas and avoiding them or being cautious when travelling through them. This also includes being aware of unfolding events that may bring danger such as a fight happening on the street or a client becoming anxious or using abusive language.

Social observation includes awareness and understanding of social dynamics such as body language, gang mentalities, ego issues, clothing and appearance. It also includes using social dynamics to diffuse or mitigate self defence situations before they become physical. It is important to never let your own pride or ego cause you to place yourself in harms way.

Internal observation includes paying attention to any feelings that you have. Feelings are often a communication tool used by your subconscious to feed information to your conscious mind. For example, if you have a bad feeling about someone or something, treat that person or situation as a threat until you find otherwise.

Acceptance – The next key step in a self defence situation is acceptance. Remember that your first opponents will be internal. You will be assailed by adrenaline overloads, fear, self-reproach, existential questions, anger, resentment etc. It is important to accept what is happening to you and then do what is required. Adrenaline gears you for action – do NOT interpret it as fear. Accept it and work with it. You will feel sinking sensations in your stomach. You may loose bowel/bladder control. Your heart rate will increase rapidly. These are all NATURAL. Do not think of these as symptoms of fear. They are your body preparing for action. Training in mental control techniques such as meditation can assist in accepting a situation and removing unnecessary and negative thoughts. During your martial arts training, ensure that you are focused and that your thoughts are clear and concise.

Tactics – It is important to realise that actual combat or fighting should be automatic, not a tactic. You should never have to think about HOW to fight. Combat/fighting is just a tool to help you to become safe. Don’t get distracted by silly ideas about the ”glory” of combat. There is nothing ”glorious” about it. It is brutal, fast, dangerous and dirty. Combat is a meathook. Combat is only applied in order to assist in the application of your tactics. I have identified 2 types of tactics involved in a self defence situation– Microtactics and Macrotactics.

Microtactics are minor advantages which help you to achieve your goal. These answer the question, “How can I make my journey or task easier?” or “What can I use to increase my chance of success?”. This could involve use of the environment eg. Stairs, walls, doorways, high ground, rough terrain, other people and obstacles. This could also involve the use of psychological/social controls eg. confusion, distraction and emotion. Finally this could involve the use of combat approaches, tools or weapons eg. fast movement, rocks, sand, hats etc.

Macrotactics are broad tactics or goals which answer the questions, “Where must I go or what must I do to be safe?” and ”What is my final destination or goal?”. This should involve identifying the nearest possible place of safety or the easiest way to achieve a state of safety. These goals should be as simple as possible eg. Get to a doorway, get to the end of the street, get to the nearest phone, or get to a large crowd of people. It is always best to avoid combat/fighting but it might prove unavoidable, for example if you identify that your macrotactic is to physically disable an opponent because escape is impossible. When faced with a self defence situation, immediately identify your macrotactic, and then use microtactics to help you achieve this goal.

Safety – Once everything is over and you are safe, you can evaluate the event and think about it.

Remember that if you used combat/fighting, you may have a court battle to fight as well. Perhaps there are injured people that need medical assistance – call the relevant authorities. In any event, you should report the event immediately and use all the proper channels (police/medical authorities) to follow up.

taken from a recent seminar presented by Si Xiong Lester Walters of the Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre Australia