Mar 30

Three Essential Principles of Self-Defense

In one swift motion, you have an opportunity to guard almost all of the vital points of your body, maintain distance from a threat, and be prepared for many types of attack.

Change your Stupid Stance. Put your Helpless Hands Up. And make sure you don’t have such a Dumb Distance.

I cannot overstate the importance of the three basic self-defense principles that have been taught to me by my instructors. I have consistently seen other martial artists talk about these same ideas, but never using the alliteration Metamora Martial Arts founder Mr. Joe Chianakas did.

Stupid Stance

Let’s assume two people are facing each other as if they are mirror images. You’re within reach of each other and your hands are at your sides. Do you notice what’s open?

Vital points exposed in Stupid Stance

Vital points of the human body

If you thought “vital points along the center of your body,” you’re right. Looking at the image to the left, draw a line down the center of the body. Then, look at all the targets that are located on that line: Groin. Stomach. Solar Plexus. Throat. Jaw. Nose. Eyes. Forehead.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. That means your vital points would be exposed to a strike such as a punch, a knee or a stab with a knife.

Fix Stupid Stance by turning your body to one direction or the other. This makes your vital points harder to get to. Instead of a straight line, your attacker now has to use a rounded technique, such as a hook punch, roundhouse kick or something else.

Great, you no longer have a Stupid Stance. Now let’s fix those hands.

Helpless Hands

Let’s assume the only thing we’ve done so far is change our stance by rotating our body 90 degrees or so.

Fighting posture

Notice how both people look mostly non-threatening. Now imagine if both their hands were balled into fists. 

Those vital points are still at risk because your hands are probably still down by your waist. That means you have Helpless Hands.

Put those hands up!

But be careful about how you do it.

Depending on the situation, you should first keep your hands open with your palms toward your threat. This non-verbal posture suggests you don’t want any trouble. Add in telling the threat, “I don’t want any trouble” or “Don’t shoot me with that gun!” and you have at least made the threat think twice before proceeding with an attack. Better yet, you’ve made people nearby aware of the situation.

Back to the hands. You don’t immediately want to go to a fighting posture. That may conflict with your verbal statement of not wanting to fight, and suggest to the threat that you are indeed ready to fight.

By first going to the posture with open hands, you can almost immediately change them to fists if the need arises.

Dumb Distance

The final essential self-defense principle is distance.

This can go two ways.

Showing fighting distance

Notice the distance between these fighters.

If you are a close-in fighter, you actually want to move closer to your opponent to jam his techniques. This is probably a good idea if your attacker is taller.

But be careful! If you do this, you should be well versed in grappling, as that is the likely next step if the two of you are scuffling on your feet.

The other way is to back up. Make it so that the person can’t touch you.

Look at the picture of the UFC fighters. The fighter in the red trunks appears to have had to use a jumping side kick in order to reach his opponent. The person in the black trunks has created much distance in order for the red-trunked fighter to strike.

This is an interesting use of the kick in competition, but I would argue it is not a great attack on the street. While the person in the red trunks would be setting this kick up, the person in black would ideally jam this person and defend himself before the fighter ever left the ground.

(I know I’m analyzing a static situation, but I hope you see the point here.)

Do you have any questions/comments on Stupid Stance, Dumb Distance or Helpless Hands? Leave a comment below, or bring it up during next Thursday’s class.

Other Class Updates

During advanced class, students continued to learn the basic techniques of Wansu. I introduced the manaruken (punch and cover) this week. Next week, students will learn the final technique of the main Wansu sequence as we progress toward learning the rest of the techniques in the form.

I will be sending out a newsletter this week cover what we’ve been going over in class for the past month, and what I anticipate teaching during April.

Adam Bockler

Sensei Adam Bockler is a 2nd-degree black belt in karate and the owner of Metamora Martial Arts. He's been in the martial arts since 2003, and has received instruction in tai chi chuan, Hsing-i chuan, judo, tae kwon do and XMA. Sensei Bockler was inducted into the 2014 USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Karate Black Belt of the Year. He is the communications manager for Float Mobile Learning.

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