By which I mean a breakdown of the elements of that now-notorious phrase, 'reality-based self-defence'.
A topic of much discussion and revision across different self-defence instructors and systems is the realities of real violence and conflict. I would like to contribute my own interpretation, which is a combination of my personal experience, lessons imparted to me through my teachers over the years, and much research.
Let us begin by considering the goal of the attacker in cases of a violent attack.
Assuming attack is imminent and de-escalation has failed or was not possible, etc, the goal is to cause as much damage as possible in the shortest amount of time. To borrow a well-used phrase, attackers look for a victim, not a fight.
Based on this it is possible to break important principles of self-defence into the following sections:
1. No Rules – targets that are not legal in competition – groin, eyes, throat, etc. – are available. There are no set rounds, as the fight will last until either the offender or defender will achieve their objective, with no round breaks, medical supervision or referee. But perhaps the most important element is awareness. Often the intended victim - through a fault of their own or not – may not be aware they are under attack until the first blow has landed. Being aware of your surrounding and being vigilant will keep you safer than any martial arts technique. These things have to be kept in mind. By initiating an attack, the offender has demonstrated they have no regard for the law or your wellbeing. By fighting the way you would in a competition, you are putting yourself at a significant disadvantage. Simply put, you have fewer, and weaker, weapons to use and fewer targets to hit than the other guy if you decide to fight fair.
2. Multiple Attackers – you are likely to face more than one person, and often with 2 or more attacking you at the same time, not just in sequence as is often practiced. This also relates strongly to your own awareness of the environment and the situation. Often one perpetrator will try to distract you in order to allow the other to throw the sucker punch and end the fight with one blow.
3. Weapons – If the attacker’s goal is to maximise damage in a short amount of time, a great way to do this is by using more powerful weapons. The other thing to remember here is that anything can be used as a weapon, which means this category includes ‘traditional’ weapons such as a stick, knife or gun, as well as improvised or happen-stance weapons such as bottles, rocks, rolled-up newspaper or t-shirt, etc.
These 3 principals are focused on achieving the intended goal in an engagement that is not competitive in nature. In this case if the goal is to cause as much damage as possible in the shortest amount of time, then one’s chances are greatly improved by using more powerful weapons, more of them and using them to hit more vulnerable targets without allowing any possibility of initiating a defence. The next two principles relate more to issues regarding the body’s natural reaction. Both the offender and the intended victim are likely to experience adrenaline dump. This will often result in the following:
4. Grappling – One of the effects of adrenal dump is a greatly diminished ability to properly judge distance. As a result most fights will end in some form of grappling, whether standing or on the ground. It therefore becomes crucial to understand wrestling principals, positions and transitions, not so you can make the other guy tap (no point in a self defence situation), but so that you can escape quickly from any position you find yourself in.
5. Mobility –Many practitioners, especially in BJJ, quote statistics about the number of fights that end up on the ground (the one I have heard most often is 80%), and the importance of groundwork in self-defence. I do not disagree that it is important. But, let’s also not forget that even if 80% of fights end up on the ground, 99% of fights start standing up. Being able to stay on your feet greatly increases your chances of success, particularly when taking into account foul play, multiple attackers and weapons. Being able to keep moving in order to spot, avoid or engage the next attacker, find a weapon, cover, an exit or assistance, or using the environment in order to move to a position of advantage or away from danger is key in improving your chances here.
Training for self-defence must accommodate for these factors. Knowing techniques is one thing, but understanding application of technique is another.
Does you training reflect what you aim to achieve?
Stay tuned, stay safe.