Effects Of Adrenalin & Self Protection

This is a subject that to be honest I’ve avoided writing about up to now because it’s already been written about in so many other places. However, as I aim to make this website one of the internet’s most useful one-stop resources for martial artists, I decided to cover it for completeness.

Any martial artist who is interested in real world self protection (rather than just sport or the artistic side of martial arts) should know about the effects of adrenalin and how it might affect them in a real life confrontation as adrenalin (sometime spelt adrenaline) has both negative and positive effects.

First of all, what is adrenalin?

It is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands on the kidneys in response to stress. The stress can be something as simple as being stuck in a traffic queue whilst late for an appointment. In this case adrenalin is really a completely inappropriate response from our bodies, but society has evolved much faster than we have as a species. Our bodies still respond as per our cave man ancestor’s “wiring”, to modern problems that did not exist when evolution first put that adrenal response in place. In fact much of our adrenal response is the same as many animals so it pre-dates even our caveman ancestors!

What is an adrenalin dump?

When something very dangerous and/or scary happens to us, we tend to produce large amounts of adrenalin very quickly. Another stress hormone called Cortisol is also released as is a whole cocktail of hormones and chemicals into the bloodstream. This chemical cocktail has both positive & negative effects which we often refer to as preparation for “flight or flight”!

Below we look at some of the effects of an adrenalin dump. Although many things can cause adrenalin to be released, being a martial arts website we’ll be looking primarily from a self protection point of view. It should be noted that these will vary from person to person and not everybody will react the same. Some people will have several or even most of these effects whilst other (normally experienced people) may have very few of them.

 

Blood Goes To The Major Muscle Groups Of The Body

If you need to either defend yourself (fight) or run away (flight), your muscles need a lot of oxygen, which is of course transported there by the blood. This often causes the limbs to shake as they receive more oxygen than usual. Shaking is often seen as a sign of fear or sometimes even cowardice, but it is more accurately a sign of the body preparing itself for action. The extra oxygen will increase the levels of strength and speed.

 

Blood Goes Out Of The Brain

The blood rushing to the major muscle groups does so at the expense of the blood supply to other parts of the body including the brain. This means that the rational thinking part of the brain tends to shut down. When this happens, we tend to go by experience, “what did I do last time I was in a similar situation”. If the last time you were in a similar situation you cowered and begged for mercy, then that is what you a likely to do again. If last time you fought back, you are fairly likely to fight again this time! This is not a hard and fast rule, just the most likely outcome.

In more extreme cases (panic) we may resort to what is often referred to as the “Lizard Brain” which in evolutionary terms is the oldest part of our brain. This deals with survival and rhythm and has no logical capability. This is like the drowning person pushing even loved ones down so that they can get just one more breath of air.

 

Loss Of Fine Motor Control

With the major muscle groups pumped full of blood and the brain functions depleted, we tend to lose some of our co-ordination and fine motor control. Big easy techniques such as punches and kicks that do not require much accuracy tend to work better than say locks or pressure point grabs that do require accuracy. If the limbs may be shaking they may be strong and fast, but the shaking will affect accuracy.

 

Tunnel Vision/Hearing

Another possible effect is that you fixate on the threat immediately in front of you. You get tunnel vision and you tend to block out sounds coming from the sides or behind you. Your most trusted friend could be shouting to you with a solution to the problem and you may well not hear them. You may lose your peripheral vision, which leaves you open to an attack by an accomplice of whoever is the immediate threat in front of you.

The antagonist may also appear bigger than they actually are.

Emptying The Bowels

Sometimes your bowels and bladder want to empty; hence that expression that somebody “was shitting themselves”. Now going back to our caveman ancestors, this could be useful as it gets rid of any excess weight which we don’t need if we’re running away from a sabre tooth tiger. However, it’s not so useful if we’re fully dressed and then have to carry it around with us inside our clothing. Potentially very uncomfortable and distracting!

It’s another example of our society evolving much faster than we have as a species.

 

Throwing Up

Digestion takes up a lot of energy, that’s why we usually feel sleepy after a big meal. When we are about to run or fight for our lives, we can’t afford to waste that energy, so that body gets rid of it fast, allowing us to divert all our energy into the more pressing needs (running/fighting).

 

Freeze

Most people normally quote “fight or flight” as the main response to adrenalin. However, it is more accurate to say “fight, flight or freeze”. Freezing again goes back to the dear old caveman and beyond. The eyes pick up movement quicker than they pick up shapes. So if our good old caveman ancestor stepped out of his cave one morning and spots something huge, furry, with enormous sharp teeth (before it spots him), then freezing could be useful (no movement, big tooth might not recognise the shape). Many species still do this today, and we have the phrase that somebody was like a “rabbit caught in the headlights”. Of course the rabbit doesn’t realise it’s a cars headlights; all he knows is that he’s tasty to other animals and this could be one of them.

However, today (with very few exceptions) we don’t really have any predators that actually want to eat us. So the freeze response which is still hard-wired into us is totally and completely useless when somebody makes that impolite inquiry that we all hate to hear, “who the f**k you looking at”?

 

Pain Resistance

Somebody who is heavily adrenalised does not feel pain in the normal way (similar to somebody who is high on drugs or very drunk). This is obviously an advantage to you as you can endure more than you usually would and keep going. However, your attacker will likely be adrenalised as well (even if they started it), so they may not feel as much pain as usual either. This is why it’s important to make the first strike count.

 

Immune System

This doesn’t really relate directly to self protection, but I’ll add it for general interest. In simple layman terms, there are 2 main parts to your immune system. They are the antibody’s which fight invading germs and viruses; and the white cells which clear away damaged unhealthy cells within the body.

Now if you are unfortunate enough to have to fight/defend yourself, you risk injuries. Injuries such as cuts or any wound that opens the skin are vulnerable to infection. For this reason, when adrenalised, the body boosts antibody production, but slows down white cell production. So somebody who is under long term stress, even if it’s nothing to do with self protection, will have the white cell production depleted for a long period of time. This is why stress contributes to many illnesses where the body goes wrong from inside (including cancer), rather than from infections.

 

Aftermath

When we have been in altercation, or even threatened with one, the adrenalin can stay in our bloodstream for many hours afterwards. So your brain remains partly shut down, yet you suddenly have an urge to talk about it like you just entered the World Talking Olympics! This can get you into a lot of trouble if you have to make a statement. The police are used to the bad guy getting the best of an altercation as the bad guy normally selects people he/she knows they can beat. So if you’ve been in a fight and won you may be viewed with suspicion however justified you were in defending yourself. Check the law in your country, but in most country’s you can get a lawyer before making a statement. In the UK, you don’t even have to make a statement straight away and can defer till the next morning when you’ve had a chance to calm down.
Well I hope you’ve found this useful. If you can think of anything that I’ve missed out, please leave a comment below and let me know.

 

Fighting Is Not Self Defence

I read the following post on Facebook today by Kevin O’Hagan, one of the Worlds best teachers of Reality Based Martial Arts.  It sums things up so well that I thought I’d share it with you:-

“I read alot of posts on facebook these days about the age old question,’What is the most practical and effective fighting system.  I hear shouts for Krav Maga, BJJ, boxing, Thai etc etc.

Kevin oHagan2One of the things we must take into consideration is fighting is not self defence.  Fighting or having a fight is about two participants agreeing to engage in mutual combat.

Self defence is about one party minding their own business getting on with life when unfortunately violence comes their way unexpectedly.
These are two totally different things.  If you are prone to fighting in the street you will have a very short shelf life.  You will either be spending a good percentage of your life behind bars or eventually six feet under.
Self defence can be split into two distinct areas.  Confrontational and ambush.  That’s it.  A match fight is not in the equation.

In self defence if the situation warrants physical response and isn’t dealt with in 3 seconds it will deteriorate into a type of match fight but that is a rarity.  Normally the first person to land a shot wins.

Self defence isn’t about sparring up and feeling out your attacker before you launch your deadly attack, it is about somebody sucker punching you in the head before you even know it, or pushing a glass in your face or a knife in your guts.  There will be no posturing and twirling of the weapon or any bad ass dialogue before this happens.

It is about somebody grabbing you around the neck whilst you are checking your Iphone.

It is about being chasing down and having a pack of animals kick ten bells out of you.

In the world of match fighting it has been proved beyond doubt the big boys that stand up under pressure are boxing, wrestling, Thai and BJJ/submission wrestling. Why?  Because they are mainly practised as combat sports.

Self defence is situational and scenario driven.  It is a totally different world.  Its not to say these combat arts can’t make the change over but they need to be adapted greatly.  This is a huge topic on its own.

Having a row outside the chip shop or pub isn’t and never will be self defence if you have willingly engaged and not tried to find another solution.

Teaching self defence and teaching fighting are not the same thing”.

If anybody is interested in real world self defence, I’d highly recommend that you “like” Kevin’s page to find out when he runs his seminars.  I might well meet you there!

Self Protection: A Lesson From My Student

After teaching my Karate class tonight, I was talking to my students about the difference between a fight and self protection.  A fight being where you agree to participate (even if seriously provoked), whilst self protection is where you are given no choice and are literally forced to defend yourself.

My new student, Paul, who is in his late 30’s relayed a recent incident that happened to him whilst shopping with his mother.  Some large young thug stole a ball from a nearby shop.  A couple of elderly ladies admonished the youngster.  To Paul’s surprise and dismay his mother joined in admonishing the thug, so Paul was obliged to stand by his mother.  As even many thugs don’t like to hit old ladies, the thug squared up to Paul instead. Continue reading “Self Protection: A Lesson From My Student” »

Self Protection: A Lesson From My Student

After teaching my Karate class tonight, I was talking to my students about the difference between a fight and self protection.  A fight being where you agree to participate (even if seriously provoked), whilst self protection is where you are given no choice and are literally forced to defend yourself.

BullyingMy new student, Paul, who is in his late 30’s relayed a recent incident that happened to him whilst shopping with his mother.  Some large young thug stole a ball from a nearby shop.  A couple of elderly ladies admonished the youngster.  To Paul’s surprise and dismay his mother joined in admonishing the thug, so Paul was obliged to stand by his mother.  As even many thugs don’t like to hit old ladies, the thug squared up to Paul instead.

The thug was much bigger and younger than Paul and towered over him.  Paul didn’t really fancy his chances.  However, with calm thinking and good presence of mind, Paul said to the young thug (words to the effect of):

“OK you’re going to hit me.  There are CCTV camera’s all around us.  What’s your best side for the courtroom”?

The thug realised that he may win this physical altercation but had little chance in court, grunted and backed off.  I congratulated Paul and told him that’s the type of result we want.  Far better than all the punches, kicks, throws, etc.  He got the thug to back off without a single blow being exchanged.

Good man!

 

Conflict De-escalation: The Broken Record

One method of de-escalating a conflict is an old technique called “the broken record”.  It can be used when somebody is being confrontational and is intent on picking an argument with you, which you don’t want to get sucked into.

Just to be clear, this is primarily for use for verbal altercations, which have the potential to escalate, rather than when somebody is trying to actively pick a physical fight (though it does have some applications there too).  The idea is basically to repeat a simple phrase over and over, rather than responding to the other persons verbal attacks.  You answer like a broken record stuck in the groove (might be before some people’s time for those born in the digital era  🙂 )

In most cases if you try to answer the verbal attacks the aggressor will simply try to shoot down your answers and come back with more and more verbal attacks.  Often he/she will have no interest in discussing the matter and finding any resolution, they simply want to belittle and/or intimidate you.  So why waste your time and energy explaining your point to somebody who has no interest in reasoning and no interest in listening other than to find a new line of attack?  They are only interested in looking for more ammunition from whatever you say to use against you.  So why give it to them?

A recent incident reminded me of this.  Whilst driving through a roundabout, myself and a car behind me were both taking the opposite exit and going straight ahead.  He tried to pass me on the roundabout and when I continued straight ahead he felt that I’d cut him up.  He tooted at me and not wanting any trouble I ignored him.  Then he continued to drive too close to my car  in an unsafe manner, trying to intimidate me.

I saw in my mirror a very young lad who looked like a strong gust of wind would blow him over.  He gesticulated several times angrily with his hands and I ignored him.  There was also a young lady beside him.

When we came to the next roundabout, I just figured that this was not worth it so I made a complete circle on the roundabout so that he could get ahead of me and be on his way.  This seemed to work and away he he went.

However, when he realised that I was now behind him, he pulled into a lay-by to wait for me, then pulled in behind me when I passed.  I kept an eye on him as he followed me for several miles down the road.  When we reached the city I pulled of into a side road where I was working and stopped to check the map.  He followed me into the side road, passed me, turned round then drew up next to me with his window down.  I wound my window down.

The conversation went something like this:

Young driver:  “What’s your problem then”?

Me:  “What do you mean”?

Young driver:  “Cutting me up on that roundabout”.

After a brief explanation/discussion, it quickly became clear that he was a boy trying to act how he erroneously thought men behaved.  I’d guess that he was trying to impress the young girl who sat silently looking very uncomfortable throughout the whole incident.

Me:  “OK, you’re a big man, you’ve made your point.  Now move along”.

Young driver:  “It’s not about that.   You ought to learn how to f***ing drive”!

I could have pointed out that I’d been driving since before he was born, that I’d driven all over this country and on the continent (where they drive on the other side of the road), that I’d driven big vans/small lorries and hardly ever had any accidents at all.  But in his youthful wisdom he’d have just rubbished all that and probably told me that I whatever I’d done before, I was a bad driver now or that I should know better!  So why waste my breath and give him more ammunition.

Me:  “Just move along”.

Young driver:  “You just can’t admit that you’re wrong”!

I could of explained/argued that I was not in the wrong and corrected him, but he wouldn’t have accepted any of it and just argued that I was in the wrong.  So why waste my breath?

Me:  “Just move along”.

Young driver:  “You’re just a knob” (British slang for part of the male anatomy).

I could have returned the insult, because if he got physical he was clearly no match for me.  But he would have continued to give even more abuse; then what do I do, continue hurling yet more and more abuse back at him?

Me:  “Just move along”.

At this point, the young driver did move along.  He probably felt satisfied that he’d given some older guy a piece of his mind (not that he had much to spare) and impressed the young lady with how tough he was.

OK, with hindsight there was a couple of things that perhaps that I could of done better.  I could have simply apologised right at the very start, even though I didn’t think that I was in the wrong.  It’s only a matter of pride, but it saves time and energy.  I could have probably left out the comment about “OK, you’re a big man, you’ve made your point”, as that was unnecessarily provocative.  But then it’s always easy with hindsight.  And yes, I admit that I did let my pride get in the way a bit!

But the most important thing is, I just kept repeating a simple phrase in a nonchalant manner so that no matter how hard he tried, he was not able to escalate the confrontation or use anything else against me.  He very quickly ran out of things to say.   Wanting to beat the other person in an argument is only a matter of ego and as martial artists we should be above that.  I could probably have argued with him for a good half hour.  I might even of won the argument, but so what if I did!  How would it improve my life by spending a lot of time and energy getting one up on a cocky young lad with no real life experience?  The best result for me was simply to get rid of him quickly and efficiently without taking up too much time or energy and the broken record was the best way.

Whatever phrase you use will depend on the situation.  It just has to be something that they can’t take anything from and use against you to escalate things.

Review Of Kevin O’Hagan’s Anatomy Of A Street Assault Seminar

Kevin O’Hagan, 7th Dan Combat Ju Jutsu and author of numerous books is undoubtedly one of the very best Reality Based Martial Arts instructors in the UK.  On Sunday 2nd Sept, I attended one of his seminars on the Anatomy Of A Street Assault.  As per usual, Kevin’s seminar was very informative, practical and thought provoking!

Kevin O’Hagan demonstrating with son Jake

The first section looked into the different types of assault, perpetrators motivation behind each type of assault, how to identify them and how to avoid being selected or how to defuse a situation once you have been selected.  This is the part that this review will cover.  There was a very pragmatic physical side to the seminar as well, but that is not covered here.

Firstly, it was made clear that we were not talking about fighting.  Kevin defined fighting as either combat sport, or when 2 people decide to step outside and “sort it out”.  A fight is basically where 2 people, for whatever reason, both consent to having a fight.  A street assault (subject of seminar) is where one person initiates violence and the other is unwillingly drawn into it.

There are only 2 real types of street assault, which are:-
*      Confrontational
*      Ambush

Confrontational

Otherwise known as “social” violence, where the perpetrator is generally showing of to an audience; trying to intimidate the victim and make himself look tough.  It is easy for the victim to be drawn into this if not careful and then it could degenerate into a fight (where the victim is provoked to the point of consenting to fight).

Generally this consists of staring and excessive eye contact.  When the eye contact is met and matched (which the perpetrator is looking for), then threats are made (usually accompanied by a lot of profanities).  This can escalate into pushing and shoving, more profanities and louder shouting, then eventually (if one of them does not back down) a big hay-maker is usually thrown, followed by a full on fight.

Going back to the first stage (staring), Kevin explained that the you simply do not meet the stare.  You glance around at the perpetrator, you can even nod at him in acknowledgement, but you do not hold and return his stare.  But you don’t turn your back on him either.  This way you let him know that you aware of him (he can’t launch a surprise attack), but you are not returning the unspoken (at this stage) challenge.  This may be enough to avoid escalation by not giving the perpetrator an excuse to escalate.  However, if he does escalate and aggressively ask who you are looking at, you simply apologise and say that you were looking at somebody near or behind him who you thought you recognised.  Either way, it is better to simply apologise than to end up in a pointless fight.

Perpetrators tend to de-humanise their victims, so try to make yourself very human to him.  You could say something like “sorry mate, I’ve just lost my job and wife’s left me and I’m having a really hard time right now, I really don’t want any more trouble”.  It might be enough!

Each situation will be different, so you have to make your decision at the time.  Another possibility is to try to put doubt into the perpetrators mind that he might be picking on the wrong guy by saying something like, “sorry mate I really don’t want any trouble.  I’m still on probation from the last fight I had and I really don’t want to go back to jail”!

If this still does not work then it could progress to the pushing and shoving stage.  At this point, if you don’t think you can talk him out of it then you have 2 main options; pre-emptive strike, or face him down with your own show of highly aggressive behaviour.

Whichever strategy you choose, you should already be in The Fence position.  You may say something like “is there nothing that I can do to persuade you not to fight me”?  Possibly you might get a positive answer that there is something you can do to avoid further conflict.  If you get a negative answer, then you will hopefully have witnesses to testify (if required) that you tried everything to talk him out of it.  At this point as you ask the question, you should be lining him up for a pre-emptive strike to a vital spot which will hopefully finish it all then and there.

Alternatively you may decide to push him away really hard and step back slightly as you do so.  The step back gives the impression that he has been pushed further back then he actually has been and giving an exaggerated impression of how strong you are.  At this point you launch your own tirade of threats, abuse and profanities to try to intimidate him into thinking that he has picked an even bigger nutter then himself.

Other factors to consider include that male victims will often not want to back down if they with their girlfriend/wife and the perpetrator will use this to provoke further.  This can include directly insulting the lady.  But Kevin pointed that most ladies would much rather walk away then have their guy involved in a fight, so a guy is just making a bad situation for his lady even worse if falls for the bait.  If however you have a lady who would want you to get into a fight, then Kevin’s advise was “get rid of her, she’s trouble”.

But each situation will be different so a judgement call will have to be made at the time.  Kevin also emphasised that as well as practicing the physical techniques, you should practice the verbal lines above in role play with a training partner, or you will forget them under pressure.

Ambush

Ambushes are asocial and the perpetrator does not want an audience.  These people are more “professional” then those who seek confrontation and they give no warning or build up.  It just happens and you have very little time to react or prepare in any way.

Kevin explained that the best way to avoid this type of assault is through awareness.  The ambusher is looking for an easy victim who they can assault (mug, rape) quickly and efficiently without any witnesses.  An analogy was drawn with lions hunting.  Lions always try to single out the young, old, frail or injured; who has strayed from the main herd.  In the same way, the human predator looks for somebody on their own and somebody who is not really aware of their surroundings.  This could be somebody who is engrossed in texting on their mobile phone, lost in their IPod, or simply putting groceries into the back of their car and not looking around.

Simply looking around so that the street predators know that you are aware of their presence (so they won’t be able to take you by surprise) can often be enough to deter them and have them look for somebody else.

It was also emphasised that if anybody tries to force you into a car or to go to a secondary location, do not co-operate in any circumstances.  At the secondary location the perpetrator can do whatever they like without fear of being caught.  Although at the original location they may be threatening to kill or maim you, THEY are still afraid themselves of being caught.  You are better off facing injury at the original site, then possible death at a secondary site.

General

This review only covers part of the seminar and there was much more to it that what is covered here.  Most martial art courses deal only with the physical skills of fighting.  Very few deal with avoiding or de-escalating a situation so that you don’t have to fight in the first place.  Kevin O’Hagan’s courses are applicable to people of any style and I would highly recommend them to any and all martial artists.

To contact Kevin  or to keep an eye open for future courses, go to his website, at www.KevinOHagan.com or befriend him on Facebook.

Womens Self Defence Blogging Carnival

Welcome to the Blogging Carnival for Women’s Self Defense.  This is part of a series of blogging carnivals set up by Colin Wee of Joong Do Kwan.  I am honoured to be the host for this particular carnival.

Any self defense situation can obviously be very serious, but women’s self defense can carry the additional burden of sexual assault and rape which men don’t usually have to contend with.  This can leave emotional scars for a lifetime which affect a women’s self image, self esteem and her ability to make and maintain healthy relationships in the future.  It goes beyond the normal fears that men face.

Unfortunately this carnival has not been quite as well supported as the previous blogging carnival where the subject was Anti Bullying, which was hosted on Colin Wee’s blog.

Nevertheless, I would like to thank all those who have taken part and have contributed.  The contributions are listed below and I recommend them all to you.

 

Blogging Carneval by Traditional Teakwondo Ramblings

Womens Self Defense by Tracy’s Kenpo Karate

Women’s Self Defense, Circa 1947 by Cook Dings Kitchen

Women’s Self Defence: Developing A World Class Offering, by Colin Wee

Women’s Self Defence – Blogging Carnival by Going My Way

Thoughts On Women’s Self Defence by Soo Shim Kwan

Women’s Self Defence:  Why It’s Different by Bunkai Jutsu

 

PS:  Just as a curiosity, the word defense/defence is spelt differently in different parts of the world.  The American way is “defenSe”, the British way is “defenCe”.

Womens Self Defense: Why It’s Different For Women

Women’s self defence requires  extra considerations to men’s self defence.  Sometimes they will face the same issues as a man, such as mugging  or possibly a same sex fight.  But with women there  is of course the issue of sexual predators which is not usually a consideration for men!  For men, it is most likely to be either a mugging or a dominance fight (“macho” men trying to show who is toughest).  Dominance fights do occur between women, but are far less common.

So what different considerations would you need for a sexual attack?

Firstly, it will be of course be very close quarters.  Many dominance fights can be close quarters, but they tend to go for head locks and controlling limbs.  With a sexual attacks, the attacker will more likely be trying to pull his victim front of torso to front of torso.  He will also most likely try to get her on back.  Either way, there will be little room
for strikes and kicks will be next to impossible.

People often say, “just kick/knee them in the b**ls”!  Easier said then done.  Firstly, the attacker will be aware of this counter, so he is not going to make it easy.  Secondly, he will be trying to get his legs between hers to pry her legs open; if he succeeds then so the opportunity for this kind of counter will be impossible.

Obviously if a woman can use a pre-emptive strike to a vulnerable target before it gets to that stage, she may be able to get out of the whole situation much earlier.  But assuming that for whatever reason that a good pre-emptive strike has not happened or has not been successful, and the attacker has his victim on her back and is on top of her; what options are left open to her?

Should a woman actually end up in this highly vulnerable position, the best bet is to use hands to vulnerable targets like eyes, ears, temples etc.  The attacker may well try and force kisses on her in which case she could bite his face.  Instinct is always going to tell a woman to pull her head back away from the attacker and that is what he will be expecting.  But if she does the opposite and thrusts her head forward for a bite, she could catch him off guard.  Rather than just biting and letting go, if she can secure a grip with her teeth and hold on, they she can cause a lot of high level prolonged pain.  Bites are often under rated in self defence.

It may make him more angry, but enough pain will distract him from his sexual desires.  It will also make him the one who pulls back, giving openings for elbow or palm heal strikes and possibly a window to escape!

Another strategy is to appear to give in and co-operate.  It will be counter instinctive as every fibre of the women’s body will be one of disgust to allow the attacker to touch her private parts.  But this could take him off guard allowing her the opportunity to counter when he least expects it.

I did hear a story of a lady who was attacked by a rapist.  After an initial fight which she was losing, she said something to the effect of “OK, OK, if we’re going to do this, lets do it properly and stop the fighting”.  The guy relaxed thinking he had won.  She then started fondling him.  She then squeezed his testicles very very tightly.  She was able to escape leaving the guy in a crumpled heap.

It takes a lot of courage to attempt that as well as having to overcome your own feelings of nausea; but it can be very effective.  In the heat of the moment and with adrenalin limiting the brains normal functions, many strategies and ideas can be forgotten about; so it will help to drill these tactics under some kind of pressure.

Anticipating How Your Opponent Will Attack!

I was recently asked about how to anticipate what move somebody is about to attack you with.  The guy was very much looking for a way to be able to stay ahead of the game.

I think that he was a bit disappointed in my initial answer, until I explained in more depth.  The initial answer is that you DON’T try to anticipate the opponents actual attack.

Just to clarify, anticipate whether or not they are actually going to attack you by all means, but don’t try to anticipate that they will kick or they punch, or they will . . . . . whatever!

If you are trying to think too hard about what he/she/they are going to do next, the thought process will actually slow you down.  Assuming that you are in a pre-fight situation where somebody is threatening you, shouting and swearing, psyching themself up for an attack; then you should really be looking to engage their mind by talking in order to distract them whilst lining them up for a pre-emptive strike.

However, for the sake of argument lets assume that for whatever reason you do not get the chance to perform a pre-emptive strike.  Maybe the attacker did not get close enough, maybe he knew that you are a capable adversary so kept his distance . . . . . whatever.  But you are now in the position where he is about to attack from a fraction out of your pre-emptive striking range.  You know it’s coming, but you don’t know what form the attack will take.

Should you try to anticipate what the actual attack will be?

If you anticipate a punch and prepare for it, then he kicks instead you could be in trouble.  If you anticipate a kick and prepare for it, then he just rushes in and grabs you, again you could be in trouble.

It is always best to be taking the lead rather than responding (action rather than reaction), but this may not always possible.  So how do you react when you haven’t got a clue what the actual form the attack about to launched at you will actually take?

Well there are several things that you need.

Firstly, you need an automatic deeply drilled response that comes out automatically without you having to think about it.  That is why we practice basics over and over and over and over again.  So when you need them, you can respond automatically without having to be slowed down by “thinking” about what you should be doing or how you should be doing it.

Some form of reality based training or pressure training is good too, so that you don’t “freeze” under the effects of adrenalin.  However, if you have experience in real altercations this may not always be necessary.

However, the calmer you can keep your mind, the more likely you are to find an instinctive response to whatever comes at you. If your mind is running away with “oh my god, he’s bigger than me”, (or similar thoughts); you are likely to hesitate.  This is something I’ve discussed before in more depth before.

Moksu

There are a number of elements to our training which assist in calming the mind in these situations.  Most obviously, a number of martial arts include some form of meditation (moksu) during the class, where you breathe deeply and clear the mind.

Physical technique done properly should be performed with a relaxed body.  The more you relax your body in training, the more your mind will follow and relax too (as body and mind are linked).  This is probably more important in many ways than the meditation (just my humble opinion).

Many martial arts also put an emphasis on diaphragmatic breathing (especially if they meditate).  This type of breathing is central to Yoga, Tai Chi and any discipline that is about relaxation, so there’s another clue.  Diaphragmatic breathing can be used to calm the mind and body in any situation from meditation, traffic jams, problems with work/relationships, through to a physical confrontation.  As it relaxes both the mind and body, you can see why it is an integral part in the execution of technique within many traditional martial arts.

So if you can keep your mind calm, relaxed and free from the distraction of having to actually think, then instincts and intuition take over.  Your ability to deal with any random attack and counter with a well-drilled response will be greatly increased.  An instinctive response will always be faster than a calculated thought out response.

That is why we do not try try to anticipate what the actual attack will be, as by doing so we limit our response options to what we expect will come at us; and by-pass our intuitive nature.

 

Target Hardening Against A Street Predator

If you have experience of Reality Based Martial Arts, you will already have come across the idea of target hardening.  However, it is not always included in traditional martial arts, so although this is not a new concept, I include it here for traditionalists who may not have heard of it before.

If you look at the way that animals hunt in the wild, they nearly all follow a similar pattern; whether it is lions stalking buffalo or wolves hunting moose.  They don’t go for the big, fit, powerful young bull with the huge big horns, they go the old, the sick or the young calves who can’t keep up with the herd.

Why?

Because it is an easy kill and they can get fed without too much risk of injury to themselves.  A hunter who gets injured can’t hunt effectively and starves, so they are not interested in a fair fight with the alpha male of the herd.  One on one, a lion is no match for a fit young buffalo.  One on one, a wolf is no match for a fit young moose.  So they look for the vulnerable members of the herd.  If they can hunt in packs to bring down prey larger then themselves, then all the better.

Our caveman ancestors were no different.  One on one they were no match for a mammoth, but working together as a tribe they could bring one down.  And I’m pretty sure that they did not target the biggest bull mammoth in the herd.  So it should be no surprise that this basic primal instinct has been passed down to our modern day street predators (bullies, muggers, rapists, etc).

Our social conditioning and modern environment adds a number of different factors into the equation.  The human street predator doesn’t only have to consider whether he (they) can get overpower their victim, they have to consider things like, will they be caught by the police.  But the same underlying psychology of the predator is still there.

Street predators will usually look for an easy target where they feel success is assured without much injury or consequences for themselves.  Of course, if they are high on drugs or drunk then all bets are off anyway as all ability to reason is out of the window.  When drunk or high they are more likely to act in a completely random manor rather than a premeditated manor of a mugger or rapist.

So how you can you deter a street predator(s) by looking like a big young bull with bloody big horns (metaphorically speaking)?

The first thing to realise is that you don’t necessarily have to be big, powerful and strong (though it does of course help if you are).  What you really need to do is to exude an air of confidence and awareness.

Lets say for example that a potential rapist is looking for a victim.  One women go walks by who is looking around (aware of her surroundings) and confidently looks like she wouldn’t take any nonsense from anybody.  Another women of similar age, looks and build walks past; but this one is looking at the ground, afraid to make eye contact and with a very timid demeanour about her.  Which one do you think the rapist will go for?

Obviously he is more likely to pick the second one.  First of all, he is not likely to get too close to the first lady before she’ll spot him, so not so much chance of getting close and taking her by surprise.

Secondly, even if he has a knife (or any other weapon) and threatens his victim; the first lady is more likely to fight and shout for help.  Yes, he can still cut her and run off, but if she screams or shouts (if only once), then the chances of people coming to her assistance and his chances of being caught have been greatly increased.  Even if he kills her, he is still more likely to be caught and like the jungle predator who can’t hunt when injured, this can often be enough to deter him (them).

Some rapists intend at the outset to kill their victim when they’ve finished, but they want to do it where they have full control of the situation and they won’t be caught (often by taking her somewhere else).  They don’t want to do it where there is a risk that their victim can attract help.

So it is the second lady who is looks timid and looks like she has no fight in her who is more likely to be selected.  The irony is that women who have been attacked or abused before will often stop taking care of themselves and dress down in order to make themselves less attractive to a would-be attacker/abuser.  But as in the case above, they actually give out more “victim signals” by doing so.  Abusers and rapists can often read those signals and know intuitively that they have an easy target.

Michelle Yeoh: Confidence, Strength, Beauty & Grace

Men often find strong, confident looking women more attractive; but as discussed above, ironically these women are less likely to be attacked (even though they are perceived as more attractive) because they are more likely to put up a fight.

Although I use the example of a rapist selecting a woman victim, this can be read across to any street predator selecting a target, be it a mugger or just a bully.

Animals in the wild are seldom interested in taking on a target where they may get injured as it will limit they ability to continue hunting  and they risk starvation.  The human predator has more social conditions to contend with, but the mindset is basically the same.

I want to emphasis that I am NOT suggesting that all you have to do is look confident and you’ll never be attacked again.  But it will reduce the odds in your favour.  The best self defence of all, is not be attacked in the first place.

Martial arts training with help to give you an air of confidence which will help you.  Most traditional martial arts teach good body structure as part of their basic techniques, which also tend to teach the student a more upright and confident looking posture.  These things are not enough on there own to assure complete safety, but they do make a definite contribution and should not be overlooked.