Many times martial arts schools teach just the physical portion to self-defense, completely ignoring or failing to cover the other crucial parts of self-defense. If the physical altercation techniques of self-defense are only covered, the school is doing students a disservice. In fact, if you find yourself getting into a physical altercation, there are most likely a few things, which have already gone wrong, or things you did wrong, during the events leading up to the altercation.

I will break self-defense into 4 parts: Each step is just as important, as what is done during a physical altercation.  
  • 1. Situational Awareness and Avoidance: This means using your senses to be cognizant of your surroundings, avoiding precarious situations, and doing a few more things. Positioning is very important: When you are approached by someone you don’t know, or by someone who causes the hairs on the back of your neck to raise, you need to get yourself into a semi-fighting stance (hands up, using gesticulations, body positioned with one foot in front of the other, and off line from the other persons center, being mindful to keep two arms length between you and the other person). Be careful not to make this seem like a ‘fighting’ stance, but more of a non-threatening defensive tactical position. Be mindful of your posture; you need to exude confidence and assertiveness. Project your voice in an assertive manner, letting the other person know you are not a weak target. Make eye contact with everyone you meet, looking at their clothing, height, hair styles, tattoos, and etc. Have security measures in place around your house, place of business, and etc. This shouldn’t have to be mentioned, but lock your doors!
  • 2. De-Escalation: This means being able to talk yourself out of a fight or altercation. Know your emotional/psychological buttons, the things that make you angry or scared, and learn how to control them. Taking two quick breaths in and out. This helps to moderate the sudden burst of adrenaline, when someone is yelling at you or just being verbally aggressive. Use assertive language, neither passive nor aggressive, to let the person/s know to stay back, but also find ways to calm the other person down. This can be done even by apologizing and giving a compliment. Work on conversational skills, trying to be nice, but still letting other people know you like your space, that you don’t want trouble or to fight.  Make sure to watch for visual cues of an impending attack. Usually a person will load up on one side before striking or lunging toward you. Watch hands to see if someone is reaching for a weapon.
  • 3. Physical Defense: This is where your must use techniques learned in class. Remember to keep things simple. Move forward taking the other person’s ground or move to an angle, never straight back. Counter attack with the full dedication of power, and disengage, finding a way to remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible. Remember self-defense is protecting your body and those of your loved ones, not defending your ego. Don’t continue down the road to full blown fighting. Flee as soon as you can.
  • 4. After Action Defense: This covers quite a few things. Make sure you are at a physically safe distance from an assailant, or find a group of people such us running into a crowded store or business. Verbiage is extremely important… This means talking to people immediately, saying, ‘I didn’t want to fight him, but I felt my life was in danger.’ Repeat this many times. Also, verbally say the description of the person/s, who attacked you. Say it a few times and loud enough for other people to hear. This helps mold witnesses. They will be more likely to corroborate your version of the account, if you repeat yourself. Talk to them, saying, ‘You saw him/her attack me. You saw me trying to avoid the situation’, all while shaking your head up and down. Many people will subconsciously shake their head in agreement.  This will help when reporting the events to police, as you will have other people with the same narrative as you. Remember, being in a physical altercation means you will have to legally defend your actions to the police, and potentially to a judge and/or jury. You MUST be able to logically articulate, why you felt the dire need to for physical action. If things don’t go like you think they will, and the physical altercation leads to more danger, you need to know escape and evasion tactics. This means knowing how to jump fences/walls, and getting around obstacles all while having excessive amounts of adrenaline pumping through your veins. Altercations cause injuries. You will most likely not leave unscathed. This also means knowing basic first aid for you and others.
If you can keep to these four concepts, you will have a much better sense of self-defense.