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Tom’s Fitness & Paris Martial Arts

Self Defense in Today’s Society (Part 6)

Posted: March 10, 2016

Last week, we looked at the mental aspects of self defense and the combat mindset, particularly when you’re concealed carrying. But there is a whole other area to consider. To be fully prepared, you need to know how to survive unarmed combat. 

There are many different fighting arts and styles. Some are more sport oriented, while some are pointed more at the “street.” Many have both characteristics. All of them are useful, if you understand what their function is. 

None of them are really 100% street oriented, though, because no one would survive the training. Injuries would abound, and people would never come back. You have to keep safety and reasonable precautions in mind. 

Even the popular Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) phenomenon with the UFC isn’t 100% street. While it’s a significant test for the athletes with plenty of realism, there are still SOME rules, like no groin strikes, no eye pokes or gouges, and no strikes to the back of the head. I don’t believe you can strike the throat either, although you can certainly choke it. 

Of course, the “illegal” techniques are the most effective and devastating techniques to give (or receive). You can however, attack the knee joint, which is very effective if you can pull it off. 

My sense is that MMA fighters, or even people who only train that way, will generally do well against all but the most skilled and experienced unarmed attackers. They just need to make a few adjustments, because in a life or death struggle, those “illegal” techniques just might save your bacon. 

What makes MMA a good choice for defense, is the focus on both striking and ground techniques. There are three ranges to learn: 1) kicking and striking range; 2) clinch range (where each grab the other); and grappling range (where you’re both on the ground).

In MMA, the striking comes from several different arts: Maui Thai, a far eastern striking art known for its effective leg kicks, knee and elbow strikes, and boxing; kickboxing, a combination of regular boxing, and other martial arts; and in recent years, other kicking arts like Taekwondo and Karate. 

The clinch game and takedowns come from traditional and Greco-Roman wrestling. The grappling comes predominately from the art of Brazilian JiuJitsu (BJJ), a highly specialized form of ground fighting. 

What makes the style effective, however, is not really the style itself. It’s learning how to deliver strikes with power, and defending against someone trying to strike you back. You also need learn how to defend against chokes, strikes, and joint locks on the ground, and give back some of your own.

Perhaps the most “realistic” street martial art is an art called Krav Maga. An Israeli martial art originally designed for soldiers to quickly dispatch larger opponents, Krav Maga is known for its quick and violent responses to a threat. It’s tough training, and you’ll be bruised up in about every training session. But, you’ll be used to violent attacks. I like to incorporate several techniques and training methods from this style. 

Personally, I’ve trained in many different styles over the year, but have the most experience (30+ years) in Taekwondo, a Korean art best known for its dynamic kicking techniques. I’ve added combinations from boxing, and spent the last 10 years training on the ground with BJJ. So you could say, I’ve kind of made it my own. 

Where you get your striking techniques from isn’t nearly as important as learning how to do them fast and accurately, with lots of power. The other key is knowing when to do what. This means hitting lots of pads. It also means sparring with partners (at much less than full power) to learn distance and timing. 

For the grappling part, it means taking time to learn how to move effectively on the ground, with a variety of opponents. It also means learning some submissions of your own. This is very empowering, because if you know something they don’t, you have a huge advantage. 

One of the most important skills to learn is how to adjust and adapt under pressure. Things change quickly, and don’t always work the way you planned. The first person to adjust and move on to something else almost always has the advantage. 

Finally, fitness and conditioning matter. I’ve won lots of matches with more skilled opponents simply because I outlasted them. I held them off for a minute while their power meter ran down. Then I could do what I wanted. Some sneaky tricks help too, as does having a fighting spirit. You have to be willing to go all in. 

If you’re serious about self defense, you need to become competent at both armed and unarmed techniques. You can’t always carry a weapon, so it’s nice to know you can become one if need be. As always, it takes training. Lots of training. So let’s get started!