Real Life Confrontation: Self Defence Beyond Technique
While we train in karate for a number of reasons, for most people who start in karate, self-defense ranks high on the priority list. It is no secret that the world is becoming a more violent place and there is an increasing need for people of all ages to start some sort of martial art. Statistics show that the circumstances people get into that require their karate skills can commonly vary quite dramatically between the sexes. The following are some pointers in relation to self-defense for both men and women and those statistically common scenarios.
Attacks On Women
The primary reasons for attacks on women are robbery or intent to commit sexual assault.
Let us look at a couple of case scenarios…..
The Surprise Robbery
In the case of robbery, some women have their bag or purse snatched by an attacker coming from behind. The goal is to make a quick snatch and run, but often, should the attacker not get a free release of the bag, a punch will be thrown to stop the victim resisting. This is very dangerous for a woman as all of her focus will usually be on the ‘holding on’ of her bag, so a punch will catch her completely by surprise.
A woman trained in karate should hopefully have the awareness to strike first in this situation. Should she find herself in a tug-of-war for her bag, her first instinct may be to resist him snatching the bag away; her second, instantaneous instinct should be to stop him pulling by a quick kick to the groin or shins.
The Confronted Robbery
The second most common robbery consists of the attacker trying to quietly and conspicuously face his victim and threatening her with something like “hand over the bag or else”. In this situation, the attacker is most likely afraid himself and does not desire to hurt her. However, a woman should not lower her defenses.
The best defense is to scream out the words “fire” or “No” very loudly and be ready to throw a quick low-level kick should he come closer.
The most common attacks on women are various grabs from behind. This allows the attacker to come in with the element of surprise and to drag his potential victim away. Amazingly, when it comes to rape, teenagers are at the most risk, with 61% of all rape victims under 18 years old. The most common profile of an abductee is approximately an 11 year old girl, who is described as a “low risk”, “normal kid” from a middle-class neighborhood with a stable family. So it is never too young an age to educate girls on the need for self-defense.
As women are most often attacked from behind with grabs, the self-defense techniques women should aim at becoming most competent with are backward attacks. A back kick to the shin, knee, legs or groin. A backward hammer fist or knife hand strike backward to the groin. A backward elbow strike to the stomach. While a back kick is not the fastest scoring technique in sparring (eg a spinning or stepping back kick), it is good practice for women to be using these techniques in sparring for the purpose of self-defense.
The best self-defense for any woman is the following philosophy “Prevention is better than cure”.
In a survey of real-life criminals who attacked or robbed women, the following points were discovered.
- Criminals are afraid and have their heart pounding before an attack. Primarily this is through fear of being caught.
- Criminals assess potential victims, always looking for a ‘safe victim’. This is one who will remain quiet and non – confronting. Their primary goal is to win through intimidation. In looking out for safe victims, they prefer women who: Are alone, are walking slowly (the slower the walk the easier the target), who appear to be day-dreaming (hence the element of surprise and shock which causes them to freeze and stay quiet), are wearing headphones, show a poor grip on their bags, appear tired or who walk with their head down.
The study also found that criminals will tend to avoid a woman purely because she appears to be confident or aware of her surroundings.
The other self-defense tool every woman should know is her voice box. As all criminals look for ‘safe victims’ through fear of being caught, any loud noise may send them running. Practising a Kiai when training in karate is terrific for this, but it is not just to scare away a potential attacker. The Kiai (or any yell) has two other important functions.
- It breaks you free of any hesitation or shock you might be feeling and turns you into an instant state of awareness and readiness. Not to mention it gets the adrenaline pumping.
- It brings you back into your karate state of mind. When you yell and jump into a fighting stance, your mind will become instantly clear as to what it must now do.
When it comes to yelling, the two best things to yell are
1. “Fire”. This has two functions. Firstly, and sadly, it has been proven that the word “Help” has little effect. ‘Help’ has many possibilities and out of fear of being involved in something out of their depth, people hesitate when they hear the word.
However, “Fire”, everyone knows how to handle a fire, people instantly come running. Finally, the word “Fire” may confuse an attacker because he may think, “What fire?”
2. “No”. The benefits of this are twofold. Firstly, it tells a fearful attacker that you are not an easy victim. It puts the word ‘no’ in their mind and may help them weigh up the decision whether to continue or not. Secondly, “No’ is an affirmation, it says to yourself that you will not be a victim, that you will not freeze, that you will not be taken lightly.
Attacks On Men
Men are occasionally attacked by surprise. However, due to their strength and size, it is most often preceded with a strike as opposed to a grab.
Again, unfortunately, due to their strength, it may often be with an object such as a bottle or bat. For this reason, it is vitally important that men out be constantly aware of their surroundings. Walking while daydreaming or appearing as an easy victim can potentially be very dangerous. Most frequently, however, men are faced with a violent situation in the form of a “Fight”.
The reason is that men who attack women do so primarily to either carry out robbery or sexual assault. While in the case of a man attacking another man, it could be for robbery (most often the victims are teenage boys robbed by other teenage boys), but primarily it is over pride (ego), vanity or momentary loss of control (especially when alcohol is involved). Many men (or boys) actively seek to provoke another man into a fight so that they may beat them to either build their lack of self-esteem or impress others with low self-esteem.
Due to this, the most common way that a man is attacked is by a hook punch or straight punch. Male victims often have one advantage over their female counterparts in that they have an opportunity to talk to their attacker beforehand. Yet too often, due to poor communication or a lack of control over their emotions, the result ends in a fight.
In a survey of bouncers, prison guards and police officers on the topic of ‘how should one handle the possibility of a violent situation’ the point was made that there is no way to actually win a fight. The three most logical outcomes will either be:
- You go to the emergency room or worse.
- You end up spending the night with the police explaining why you beat up on somebody. To which you can guarantee the other will give a complete opposite account of events.
- Legal fees and court appearances.
Despite the fact that most people will be aware of this, most men who are confronted by an attacker (with a low self-esteem) will end up engaging in a fight because they found their own ego was challenged.
Karate-ka have an advantage in this situation as they are more likely to feel secure within themselves and therefore feel they have nothing to prove. Their lack of ego will see them through. So the best and only way to win a fight is to avoid one.
Here is how to best avoid a fight:
Rule # 1 Do not show fear or denial of the potential attacker’s intent.
As most men fight to build their low self – esteem, they look for safe victims (people who they feel they can easily beat). A display of fear or denial on your behalf is a cue for the aggressor to continue because he will feel you are a safe victim.
Rule # 2 Never insult or challenge the potential attacker.
His challenges are a clear display of his potential intent. However, his intent has not yet moved into action because he is still uncertain that you are a safe enough victim. Yet if you feel your ego take control and start to insult or challenge back, they will feel it necessary to attack you even if they feel you are an unsafe victim because you have damaged their pride. Furthermore, if you insult them back; for example, “Ok tough guy, bring it on” your legal case for self-defense has just been totally dissolved.
If instead, you hold up your hands and shout “I don’t want to fight” you avoiding insulting him and also, should he attack, establishing that he is the aggressor.
Rule # 3 Give the potential attacker an honourable exit if possible.
Remember a potential attacker’s goal is to build their self-esteem by beating up on a safe victim. By not showing fear or denial you are showing them that you are not a safe victim. By refraining from insulting or challenging him back, you are protecting his self-image thus giving him no reason to fight.
The final step, if you can, is to give them a chance to exit having already won without throwing a punch. Do this and they will most likely take the opportunity to exit as they will have achieved their goal of ‘machoism’. This at times may be hard to do, but simply by saying “I have no intention of fighting you, so you win” just may be enough.