How to Shut Down your Attacker

The word principle can be defined as

“A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning” Oxford Dictionary



All martial arts have principles that guide them, some of these principles may be specific to certain arts, and then there are principles that are common within many arts. An art that concentrates on long range fighting will emphasize different principles to a martial arts that focuses close quarter fighting. Let’s be more specific, take Judo, one principle you will find emphasized in this art is Maximum Efficiency with Minimum Effort” but I doubt that is a principle one would find emphasized in the exotic and flamboyant art of Capoeira. Now I am being a little tongue in cheek here but hopefully you get the point I am trying to make.
Two of the first principles I teach in my RMA-XTS are Move – Hit – Move & Shut Down, these are just two of the combative principles that I learnt from training with Dave Turton.

Move – Hit – Move

This principle does exactly ad it says on the tin. It teaches us to move, strike then move again. By moving it allows one to have greater control of the space and distance between you and the opponent, this becomes of greater importance if there is more than one attacker which is very likely the case in a self defense scenario.
Question, in a self-defense scenario does one want to get tied up, clinching face to face with an attacker? I certainly don't, why put yourself into such a dangerous position, if you doubt this, when training work your clinch against multiple attackers or worse armed multiple attackers and see how you fare. Don't get me wrong, we train this range as we do ground fighting, it's just my opinion that it is not the best option to stay in this range.
Depending on the art you train in, the term “Hit” can be replaced with “Lock” and it is when you apply this principle that makes locks more applicable under pressure, to begin with you can train it as Move – Hit – Lock – Move, similar to the “blow before throw” principle. However if you really want to master locking, take downs and throws one should be training how to unbalance an opponent through movement as well as opening them up with impact methods.

Shut Down Principle

The principle of shut down, or to give it its full description, shut down - put down ties in nicely with Move - Hit - Move. As with M-H-M the clue is in the name, shut down involves closing down the space between between you and the attacker and putting them down and out of action.
Why shut down? Because realistically if a self defense situation is about to or has gone physical then closing down the distance is better than staying in the same range or retreating. Retreating is different to escaping, retreating means we are going backwards, one can end up with their back against a wall, tripping down a pavement or similar whilst the attacker(s) are closing down on us with full control of the space around us.
Hopefully now you can see the correlation between the M-H-M and shut down principles. When one is moving and closing down an opponent then the angle of attack will dictate how you move. Keeping it simple, against a straight line attack, jab, cross, lead straight, front kick etc., then off-lining is the best option. Using forward diagonal footwork, this keeps you closer to the opponent making it easier to shut down, hit, lock, control via some medium of pain, knockout, you get the picture. You could side step but this may take you out of range and is not giving you control of the space or distance between you and the opponent. Against a circular attack, such as hooks, attempted head grabs, multiple haymakers then crashing down the middle works well, control the attacker, put them down then get out of their power box.
These two principles can fall under the heading of Tai Sabaki, in my experience many people teach this just as footwork but I was taught that it meant body management and this means not only the management of your body but also that of your opponents. With footwork being just one part of Tai Sabaki. As I mentioned at the start of the article, these principles are not exclusive to my system, many of you will be training them but perhaps using different terms.

About the Author:


Stuart Rider is originally from London but now living in Fife, Scotland. He has been training in the martial arts for 25 years, and has been teaching and running his own clubs since 1999. 

Stuart holds a 3rd Dan in street Defence Combat under Dave Turton, 2nd Dan Choi Kwang Do and several other grades in other arts.

These days Stuart teaches his own system, the Rider Martial Arts Cross Training System (RMA-XTS) which is his interpretation of the various martial arts and self-defence methods he has trained in and studied over the years. Stuart also hold an honours degree from Edinburgh Napier University in Complementary Healthcare/Therapies.


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