Thursday, May 10, 2012

Self-Defense Philosophizing

As many of my (very few) readers probably know, I am a huge self-defense advocate. Concealed carry, open carry, you name it. Something that has been sadly neglected despite my advocacy has been the art of hand-to-hand combat. There are places and situations that will prohibit the use of deadly force, or the deployment of a weapon of any kind. I have always been aware of this, but haven't been able to find a martial art that I felt really suited me. A couple years ago I started looking for one in earnest. I looked at Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Jiujitsu etc., but couldn't really be satisfied with any of them. Without even trying, I knew they were all good martial arts, and if I ever have a son I'd give serious thought to putting him in one for fitness, self-defense and discipline.

But I don't need all those things: art, tradition, discipline, showmanship, competition or rules. Many of the usual martial arts are just that though. Steeped in tradition, focused on the execution of their particular forms with rigid perfection, laden with rules based on their respective competitive arenas. Effective styles, to be sure, but I needed something simple, adaptable and utilitarian. Something that didn't restrict some of the most useful moves and forms to higher levels that can take years of dedication to attain.

I had heard about Krav Maga, but hadn't done much research into it because I knew no one in the OKC area taught it. Having moved up north though, I started looking again and found someone here who does. I started researching more about the system and found it to my liking. Developed by Imi Lichtenfeld on the streets of Bratislava during pre-WWII. Originally just his own unique style combining street-fighting and boxing, he eventually moved to Israel and began teaching the style to what would become the IDF. Over time the system has evolved, incorporating what useful tidbits they find from other systems into their own, and adapting them. What has come of that evolution is a system based on simple, effective moves. There's no focus on rigidly following tradition. Of great importance, there are no competitive Krav Maga leagues which would lead to watering down the system to accommodate for rules. This is where a lot of arts like Karate fail for me. Official competitions have rules, and those rules inevitably make it into the curriculum for the system so there's no re-training needed for students who wish to engage in those competitions.

This is where Krav Maga really started to appeal to me. It cuts the unnecessary and teaches its students the important things. Stance, effective strikes, disarms and basic kicks. The focus on adaptable attacks and efficiency of movement is exactly what I was looking for, but Krav Maga also has its own philosophy. Rather than focusing heavily on defense and tit-for-tat counter-attacks, one of the basic principles is that the best way to ensure your safety is to end a fight quickly, and in such a fashion that your assailant is unable to attack you again. I won't go into all the principles and tactics taught in Krav Maga, but I highly suggest anyone looking for an effective, no-frills self-defense system look into it.

What I will do is tell you that learning the principles and basics of Krav Maga has caused me to examine my own philosophy on self-defense. When I first started carrying, I knew that if I should ever need to use my weapon (God forbid) I would have to be in the right mindset to take care of business. I realized when I started thinking more about it though, that while I knew I'd need to be in the right mindset I hadn't really thought about what that was. I have given it more thought recently though, and without further ado here are the basics of what I've decided self-defense means for me.

Be prepared, both mentally and physically.
An attack could come from anywhere at any time, always be aware of your environment and everything within it. This also includes fitness and training. If you are overweight/underweight/poor cardio/etc., you cannot fight back effectively. Get fit and get training. If you can't get fit, carry a weapon. Canes make good beating sticks if you can't carry anything else.

Most importantly, protect yourself and those in your charge.
If you are injured, you can't effectively protect yourself or your family. Do what is best to achieve that end. This may mean fighting ferociously to stop an attacker, or getting the heck out of Dodge. Which brings us to the next point.

If escape is an option, it is quite likely the best option.
You cannot lose a fight that does not happen. Perhaps this means running away, or perhaps this means driving back or stunning your attacker just long enough to let your wife and kids (if you have them) get in the vehicle, then jumping behind the wheel and taking off. If you cannot escape, get in the mindset to fight. This person means to hurt you/loved ones, take what doesn't belong to them and possibly kill you. Do. Not. Let them.

Defense is good, but the most effective way to defend and prevent injury to yourself is to remove your assailant's ability to injure you.
This isn't to say you shouldn't take a defensive posture or block attacks, but rather that you should do so while looking for the first and best opportunity to bring the fight to them. Every defensive move should be followed by a counterattack. If they commit their weight to a strike that you deflect, strike back in a way that follows the next note.

Be fast. Be brutal. Do not relent until the threat is over.
The longer the fight, the greater the chance of wearing out or being injured. Don't strike at them and then wait until they try again to perform another counter-attack. Once you've beaten their guard, keep pounding away, quickly and forcefully, until either the assailant cannot fight back or you need to deflect another attack. Remember, broken bones weaken the integrity of any attack or defense. This is not a sparring match or a playful joust. This is a fight for your life, and the goal is to end that threat. Hit them with everything you have until they can do you no more harm.

There are no rules; use what works.
This may be the most important thing to keep in mind once you've engaged in combat. The only exception is: most laws frown upon using weapons against a weaponless attacker, unless there's a disparity of force. If you can't bring a weapon into play you need to remember that anything goes. This is not a Karate competition or boxing match where you can't hit below the belt. Your assailant doesn't care about rules or laws or they wouldn't have assaulted you. If you see an opportunity to grab your assailant's hair, poke out his eyes or kick him in the groin, do it.

Obviously one has to be reasonable. If you disable the attacker, you've done your job. That's the goal here. Now call the cops and let them deal with the cleanup. If you continue stomping their skull into the pavement until they bleed out, you're taking your living arrangements for the rest of your life into your own hands. This philosophy applies to preparing for the possibility of a fight for your life, and how to make sure you come out on top. I am not advocating killing an unarmed attacker. If the attacker chooses to bring a weapon to the fight, the paradigm changes. The philosophy still applies, but take the last point up a notch. If they introduce a weapon, so can you. Be safe, friends.

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts, Andy. I'll have to check back for future musings.