Via Potentia ~ Modern Self Defense Training

Our next free seminar on self defense and physical conditioning is Friday, September 29 from 6 - 9 PM.

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Avoiding Assault

Many people seek some kind of magic move that will allow them to defeat an attacker quickly and without any risk to themselves. They are disappointed to learn that no such technique exists. In fact, learning physical techniques of self defense won't prevent a single assault; it may increase your chance of escaping from or prevailing in an assault, but it won't prevent it for the simple and obvious reason that a criminal has no way of knowing whether you know self defense or not. However, most assaults are opportunistic and there are things you can do to prevent assault with little or no effort.

  1. Virtue: Be a good, virtuous person who strives to live ethically and at peace with others. If you harm someone -- even just accidentally bump into him on the sidewalk -- genuinely apologize and move on. Control your temper; many assaults are opportunistic, but many are also provoked. Being virtuous and temperate isn't only the right thing to do, but it cuts down on the chances of triggering a dangerous psychopath.
  2. Awareness: Be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. Be aware of dangerous people, places and circumstances, and of how people take advantage of and abuse others. Be aware of your surroundings, people around you, things and people that seem out of place, and exits. For example, I know that I am unable to prevent an attack once someone is very close to me. Therefore, I don't allow strangers within two arms-lengths of me when we are somewhere where I am vulnerable to attack.
  3. Avoidance: Avoid people, places and situations in which you are vulnerable to assault or abuse. Avoid "fringe" areas -- places just outside of highly populated areas where criminals might lay in wait for a victim. Parking lots, rest stops, public restrooms, bus stops, ATMs, alleys, side roads and parks are common scenes for assaults, especially at night. Beware charming strangers; charm is a ploy often used to get you to let your guard down before an attack.
  4. Confidence: Develop genuine confidence and project it. Criminals look for victims who appear unaware of their surroundings, weak and vulnerable. Just standing up straight with your eyes up makes you look stronger and bigger than you really are. Lower your voice (pitch, not volume); a lower voice sounds more authoritative than a high one. If you see someone and suspect he is a threat, keep your eyes on him.
  5. Trust your instincts: If you feel like you are in danger, you probably are. Your "rational" brain will try to talk you out of this feeling, tell you that everything is okay, that you can handle whatever might happen, etc. So will the predator. Ignore them. If you feel unsafe, leave the area immediately and get to somewhere secure and safe.
  6. Travel in Numbers: Individuals make easy targets. Criminals are less likely to attack a group.
  7. Give it up: If someone wants your wallet or purse and is threatening you with a deadly weapon -- a knife, gun, or similar -- just give it to them and get out of the situation. Never fight someone who is much larger than you, has a weapon, or who has accomplices unless you have no choice.
  8. Never follow directions: If you are ordered into a car, or being forcefully taken, fight/run for your life. A lot of abductions end in rape or murder.
  9. Stay Sober: Bad things happen to and are done by people when they give their lives over to alcohol, drugs and related addictions. Avoid excessive parties and beware getting drunk around people you don't know or who might not be trustworthy.
  10. Arm yourself: Carry a weapon that is intimidating enough to scare off a potential attacker and/or physically prevent him from attacking. A handgun and pepper spray, respectively, are two examples. Never draw it unless the situation warrants it. Never point it at someone unless you are in real personal danger, and be prepared to pull the trigger on it immediately. Get training and practice consistently. Simply having or owning a weapon won't necessarily help you, and can even be a liability. If you don't carry a weapon, use whatever is available to you in the environment, because just about anything is going to be better than just your hands, even a lowly pencil.
  11. De-escalation: If you do get into a conflict, do what you can to maintain distance from the other person and de-escalate any tension, especially if you are facing someone who is much larger, may be armed, or who has accomplices. This usually means moving away, apologizing, complying, etc. Just leave.
  12. Train and Prepare: Finally, get training so that you can increase your chances of surviving and prevailing in an assault that you were unable to avoid. This will help with your confidence, but should not lead to arrogance or the kind of behavior that provokes others to assault you.
  13. At Home: Never, ever open your door for a stranger unless you are prepared for whatever may happen. I carry a gun at all times, so I don't mind talking with strangers on the porch (as long as they keep some distance). But if a stranger comes to your door, you get an unexpected package from a strange delivery person, or the like, and you aren't equipped to handle a home invasion, then don't open the door no matter what they say. Many home invaders just break down the door, but by not opening it, you create a momentary delay and put one more thing between the two of you that can work in your favor.
  14. Fight like a Wild Animal: If someone wants your property, it is probably best to just give it to him and walk away. But if someone is assaulting you, there isn't any guarantee, but general statistics indicate that people who fight back (or strike first) have a better chance of stopping the assault, prevailing, surviving and avoiding serious injury. If you choose to fight, you must switch on, 100% all at once; never give in and never give up. Go totally berzerk, flailing, slashing, destroying anything that you can get your hands on. Eyes, ears, neck, lower abdomen, groin, knees -- these are the primary targets (there are many others). Keep on striking, clawing, ripping (and screaming) until he is down, he is running, or you can otherwise escape. You have 10-15 seconds that you can go 100%, all-out, before you'll be "gassed," and your body has to switch over to a different fuel source. It is very important to have caused injury and escaped during this window, or you drop to about half power/strength and the chances of escaping diminish substantially.

Some assaults can't be avoided or come by complete surprise, but you will prevent the vast majority of assaults by just following the above principles. It is for those assaults that can't be avoided or that come with no warning that one applies physical self defense techniques (covered in class).

One person we corresponded with summarized useful self defense skills in this entertaining way:

  1. Etiquette (be polite)
  2. Rhetoric (talk your way out of trouble, if possible)
  3. Track and Field or "The Nike Defense" (run as fast as you can)
  4. Click-Click-Boom (shoot your way out if necessary)

The first two items are actually more about avoiding voluntary street fights. The last two apply to assaults.

For more tips on avoiding assault, see our friends at Israeli Krav International.

Basic Techniques

You don't need to know 500 different techniques or spend years studying martial arts to learn to defend yourself. In fact, what you really need is just to know three or four techniques, how to apply them in rapid succession (combinations) to human vulnerabilities with as much power as possible. A heavy bag is a great tool for practicing this, as is some large, strong sparring partners. Suggested offensive self defense techniques include:

You also need to learn basic standing defenses (against strikes, grabs, hugs and tackles), ground positioning and escapes, some breakfalls and rolls, and tactical/defensive stand-up. These are similar to, but really a simplified subset of the techniques you might find in MMA or jiu jitsu, and they are applied with a different goal -- escape as opposed to winning.

Notice what isn't there: Punching, high or jumping kicks, spinning techniques, ground submissions, throws, takedowns. These are great techniques, lots of fun to learn, and can be adapted and beneficial to self defense, but are primarily for demonstration or sport (no matter what anyone tells you).

We welcome comments, questions and suggestions for improvement.
Via Potentia, 819 N. Hwy 99 W, McMinnville OR 97128 (in the Impact Jiu Jitsu gym between Sandwich Express and Mikey's Pizza)
Open most weekday evenings after 6:00 PM -- visitors are welcome
Telephone: 503-437-3450

Copyright Via Potentia. All Rights Reserved. Consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program; consult a lawyer before making a legal decision. All information provided on this web site or otherwise by Via Potentia is provided for educational/informative purposes only, is subject to correction, and should not be considered legal, medical or other professional advice. Use at your own risk.