Via Potentia ~ Modern Self Defense Training

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Defending from Assault

We must state some hard and controversial truths at the beginning of this unpleasant topic:

  1. The chances of prevailing in an assault are quite slim. Anyone who tells you otherwise is inexperienced with violence or is trying to sell you something. Escape should be your goal, and fighting the attacker is about increasing the chances of escape and survival.
  2. Someone who chooses to assault you is likely either psychologically deranged, under the influence of drugs, or knows exactly what he is doing. Any of these states of mind are extremely dangerous to you.
  3. Someone who chooses to assault you is likely much larger and stronger than you, more experienced with violence and less inhibited, and may have a weapon or accomplices. He chose the place, the time, the victim and the method. He is not looking for a "fair fight," but to beat you senseless as quickly as possible with little or no risk to himself. He may not react to pain. Choosing to stay and fight with him on his terms is suicide.
  4. In almost all assaults, physical or psychological, it will be up to you and you alone to protect yourself. Neither your government, the police, bystanders, or even your friends are likely to assist you. These parties will be happy to show up after the fact, investigate things, perhaps offer a sympathetic comment -- or in some cases prosecute you for protecting yourself -- but they aren't going to protect you. That is up to you.
  5. Practically no martial arts training prepares you, or even can prepare you, for what this is like. Forms, non-contact point sparring, board breaking and similar training found in many popular schools will be completely useless in an actual assault scenario.

Assaults generally take one of two forms:

  1. The attacker threatens the victim with severe harm or death and makes a demand. The victim complies.
  2. The attacker launches an overwhelming attack, usually a series of strikes to the head, followed by kicks, stomps or more strikes once you go down. The victim is overwhelmed.

If an attacker is demanding your money, watch or the like, it is usually best to just give it to him and get out of the situation. However, never ever comply with a demand to be taken somewhere else, tied up, etc. Once those things happen, Very Bad Things usually follow, as in the kinds of things that require calling the mortician.

As great as martial arts training is for personal conditioning, sporting events, etc., about 99% of it is completely useless for dealing with a 10-15 second overwhelming assault on your face. The stuff just doesn't work against someone who wants to dance on your head, and the way it is practiced has nothing in common with a typical assault (unless you routinely go 10-30 seconds all-out, full contact and no gear against people 40 to 100 pounds heavier than you).

There isn't any one perfect answer for dealing with a real assault. It is about increasing your chances of escape and survival. These are our recommendations and practices:

  1. Train hard on defending from powerful strikes. Train hard on delivering powerful blows to human vulnerabilities. Obviously, this must be done well beforehand.
  2. If you can detect the attack before it is initiated, get out of there. If you can't get out of there, strike first. (Yes, there are legal problems with this, but our goal is to help you save your life, irrespective of the legal complications that might ensue.)
  3. Carry a weapon and use it.
  4. You've got to prevent yourself from getting knocked out or seriously injured. Learn to take and deflect blows as best you can. You will still get hit, and it is going to hurt, and hurt bad. But you must survive the initial seconds of the attack.
  5. Explode. Fight like a wild animal. Slash at eyes, palm strike the jaw and ears, hit the neck and collarbone, knee and kick to the abdomen and groin, kick the knees and stomp the feet. Use any and every weapon at your disposal. You want to do whatever you can to cause an injury to the attacker.
  6. Scream at the top of your lungs.
  7. Ignore the pain. You can survive pain. Adrenaline will help.
  8. Fight to cause an injury and escape, not to win. Make him pay. Attackers will rarely pursue an escaped victim without good reason, especially if you have caused them injury. You can hurt and escape from multiple attackers, even if you wouldn't have been able to defeat even one of them.
  9. You attacks must cause an injury, not merely pain. Many attackers aren't stopped by pain, but an injury may make them less able to pursue you.
  10. Once you start to fight, don't give up until your attacker is down, has fled, or you are unconscious. This should only take about 10-15 seconds.
  11. Afterwards, leave the area and do not stop, lay down, rest, etc., until you are with other safe people. Decide to survive. If you have serious injuries, go immediately to a hospital.
  12. It is usually best for you if you cannot be connected to the incident. Your attacker might claim that he was the victim and you were the criminal. He might try to find out who you are and where you live so that he can finish the job at his convenience. It is obviously up to you, but for these and other reasons we advise against reporting the incident or your involvement to the police (unless advised by your attorney).
  13. Call a lawyer and do not talk to the police (or anyone) about the incident or answer their questions except with the presence and consent of a skilled attorney. The most you should say to anyone, even a doctor or police, is "I was attacked. I've never been so scared." End of discussion. Don't say another word, especially while you are under the influence of emotions or adrenaline.

Fighting to Escape

We sometimes do a drill in which one person lays on his back or stomach on the ground, while 6+ people surround him and press down on him, attempting to prevent his escape. His goal is then to bust out of the group and clear a line about 15 feet away within a few seconds.

If he lays there, gives up, or tries to fight a single person, he doesn't have a chance. If he explodes out of the group, going under, over, or through anyone in his way -- using them as traction -- he is basically unstoppable. This is true even for smaller adults, as long as they are willing to use their strength and speed.

Obviously this is not the same as an assault, but we use it to demonstrate the point that you can often escape from someone (or even a group of people) who you'd have no chance of confronting and defeating by standing your ground. Throw punches and kicks into the mix and the moral remains the same.

We welcome comments, questions and suggestions for improvement.
Via Potentia, 805 NW Alder St., McMinnville OR 97128
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.

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