Self Defence | How far are you willing to go?

When we speak about self defence, many people have the frankly inaccurate view of what this actually means. They picture a self defence class as one where partners line up, bow to each other in gi’s and escape various wrist locks by throwing and pinning their partner. This isn’t self defence, this is martial arts and the two need to be separated. Self defence training is brutal, functional, ferocious and encompasses things such as the legal right to defend yourself and the psychology and physiology of being placed under threat. Many people are comfortable going to self defence classes, hitting pads, pulling punches or mimicking eye gouges or bites, but could you do it for real, when it really mattered and when you had to hit fast and hit hard? Some could, some couldn’t and it’s a difficult thing to teach that mentality and so you have to ask yourself how far are you willing to go?
Self defence training should rely on natural reflexes and conditioning. I never advocate punching in self defence for a number of reasons, much preferring the palm strike which can be just as effective and also lead to grabbing the face and manipulating the head through the eyes and ears but how do you teach someone that is unwilling to go that far to protect themselves? Those that have never been in a real altercation or serious fight may simply not have it in them to do what they have to do to get out of the situation and again I ask how far you are willing to go? The law says self defence must use reasonable force and be necessary and proportional and this covers a fairly wide scope for someone say with their hands around your throat pinning you on the ground. In this instance, scratching, clawing at the face and eyes is perfectly legal as you are in a life threatening situation, but which response will kick in, fight? Flight? Or the lesser known submit?
This may depend on your training, or may simply depend on your temperament. Some are more willing to hit than others, some are naturally more aggressive than others and in a self defence situation, and you have to be aggressive. Passivity will lead to injury or worse and so taking the initiative in a self defence situation is key. You have to be willing to go as far as you need to in order to get out of the situation. This is why I advocate for fast and functional self defence instruction. Fancy wrist locks, shoulder throws and spin kicks simply won’t work 99.9% of the time and effectiveness relies on kicking, biting, scratching, elbowing and getting to the attackers face to do some damage. Those that aren’t willing to go this far certainly shouldn’t be teaching self defence and those that believe what works in the dojo will work on the street are doing a huge disservice to the people coming to them looking for functional and effective self defence training.
Self defence will constantly be changing and everyone has an opinion about what works and what doesn’t. As long as that opinion is based on real life experience and not what is done only in a dojo setting, I think every opinion is valid as different things will work for different people. Fundamental principles exist in self defence however such as avoidance/awareness, maintaining distance, de-escalation, verbal diffusion, and if needed, fast and ferocious techniques that rely on gross motor skills to get you out of the situation. Self defence doesn’t aim to stand and trade blows, it aims to get you home safe and give you that split second opportunity to run away and escape. As both an instructor and a pupil you have to ask yourself, how far are you willing to go?

About the Author:
Dan Holloway has been training in martial arts since he was six years old. He started with Karate and then moved to Aikido which he continues to train and teach, holding a 2nd Degree black belt in Yoshinkan Aikido. Dan has training with some of the best instructors in the world including Joe Thambu Shihan who Dan spent a month in Melbourne with training full time, as well as Robert Mustard Shihan from Canada, and Yasuhisa Shioda Shihan, the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido’s son. 

Dan has also trained in various other martial arts including Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, KFM and MMA under various instructors and professional fighters. Dan is passionate about martial arts and self defence and has recently become a trustee for the self defence charity 'Just Give It A Thought'. Dan also owns his own blog - The Martial View. www.themartialview.com     dan@themartialview.com

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