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Self Defence Basics: Simple Techniques Anyone Can Learn

Truly learning a martial art takes many years of consistent training, but fortunately for those of you who do not have the time or dedication for this there are a few simple things that anyone can learn, which will dramatically improve your ability to defend yourself if you are ever attacked.

Simply reading an article and learning a few basic principles is obviously not going to make you skilled fighter, but it could make a significant difference to your ability to protect yourself and those you care for.

Over the years I have studied several different martial arts. As a child I started off at a Judo club, moving on to Ninjutsu as a teenager with a fascination for the secretive and mysterious Ninja clans of Japan. In my twenties I studied several different styles of Chinese Kung Fu, including Shaolin San Shoo (full contact sports fighting) and the more traditional Five Families (or sometimes also known as five animals) style from southern China. In my early thirties I trained at a mixed martial arts gym, where I learned elements of Muay Thai and Jujitsu. Although I was never one of those people who train long hours each week or to make martial arts my life, I have picked up a few things over the 25-odd years since I started, and have built up a small stable of easy take-aways to share with people who ask for a demonstration or advice. Here are some of my favourites:

5 Top Tips for Street Self Defence

  • Punching doesn't work very well. This is a very important principle to understand, but it is also one which most people have a hard time accepting. We are all used to the idea that balling your hand up into a fist and hitting someone with it is the basic method people use to fight each other. I think the reason for this is that the image most of us have of a great fighter comes from sports like boxing or MMA. In these sports the fighters wear gloves. You think that's to protect the face of the person being punched, but actually its more about protecting the hands. Punching someone without protective gloves is more likely to end up with you breaking your hand than breaking their face. Palm strikes are much better. At the bottom of your palm there is a hard spot opposite the fleshy lump at the base of your thumb, where the bone of the wrist goes into the hand. Use this part of your hand to strike - its just as effective as punching and won't leave you injured.
  • The best defence technique against 95% of punches is to move your head by 1-5 inches. This is a continuation of the same principle outlined above. The knuckles evolved as intricate joints between some of the smallest bones in your body. The forehead, on the other hand, is a large plate of bone whose sole purpose is to serve as armour to protect one of the most vital organs of the body - your brain. Any impact between knuckles and forehead stands a very good chance of leaving the knuckles seriously damaged, and a very poor chance of causing anything more than a mild bruise to the head. If somebody tries to punch you on the nose, for example, the best possible defence is to simple duck your head down by around an inch so that they make contact with your forehead instead. Many martial arts schools will teach elaborate and complex blocking and counter-attack techniques - these take years of diligent practice and lightning fast reflexes to master, and even then they are still unreliable. On the other hand, most people who are able to keep their wits about them under the mental pressure of being attacked (which is hard, admittedly, but is necessary for using any self defence technique) can move their head down an inch.
  • Stance is everything - Almost all street fights which last for more than just one or two quick strikes end up with one or both people going down to the ground. Whoever ends up on top, either still standing or on top of the other person on the ground, will almost always win the fight. A strong stance can prevent you from being knocked down, and ensure than if you are pulled to the ground along with the other person you can make sure that you end up on top. It is also a very simple thing to do. Your feet should be 'square', meaning that the distance between your feet from front to back should be the same as the distance between them from left to right, as if your feet are on opposite corners of a square. Then just bend your knees a little bit and you have a perfect stance.
  • Awareness is key. For most people who have little or no experience of being in fights, it is much more important to make an effort to control your mind than to focus on controlling your body. Things like fear, and even thinking about what you should do, will only serve to occupy your brain's processing power and therefore reduce your awareness of what is happening. This is very bad, because if you don't see an attack coming you are not only going to be unable to defend against it - you are also much more likely to be injured (especially knocked out) if the attack does make contact. It is better to make an effort to put aside your panic and control your mind's focus, and then just let your body react on instinct (which I guarantee will happen - you probably couldn't even stop it if you tried) than to make an effort to consciously control your physical actions and simply allow yourself to panic.
  • My final tip is to know the right place to attack. Many people, especially women, think that a knee or kick to the balls is the best way to stop a violent man in his tracks. In actual fact it is very difficult to make good enough contact with this kind of strike to make it effective. Much better weak spots to aim for include places like the throat, eyes, nose, or kidneys. If you want to kick somebody then aim for the shins (very painful, and almost always disabling if you're a woman wearing high heels) or try to make contact with the outside of their thigh using your shins, which can give them a 'dead leg', in which the leg goes numb and you lose fine motor control - making walking slow, clumsy, and painful, and running after somebody quickly almost impossible.

Category: Martial Arts


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