The BTK killer was asked if there was anything that would have made a difference with his victims. He answered, “I guess if they would have fought back.
As the saying goes, “the best defense is a good offense”, which I believe fits perfectly with one “defending” one’s self; or more accurately, responding to an attack. In reality, that IS what is happening. You are being attacked – violently, viciously, erratically, and usually by surprise. People look at being jumped or attacked as “getting into a fight”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sadly, that’s what people think when preparing or training for the possibility of getting “into a fight” or “getting mugged”.
While teaching a Kickboxing class, I was asked by a student “what if the guy has a knife or a gun?” My reply was “how is he holding the knife or gun with boxing gloves on, and how did he get the weapon into the ring?” Joking aside, I reminded him that Kickboxing is a sport, and it is used in a specific arena and not on the street.
People think learning how to fight by training in a certain discipline will help them during a violent encounter. Don’t get me wrong, knowing how to deliver a punch or kick correctly and effectively is a very good thing. And, training with other fighters is good. Where it works against you is in the fact that the attacker on the street isn’t coming at you with correctly delivered techniques. Most attackers don’t know how to “fight”, so their attacks are erratic and chaotic at best. If someone attacks you who can take a good shot, is on something (drugs), or if there is more than one attacker, you’re going to need to be very effective to incapacitate them.
I have a book coming out soon titled ‘Self Offence’ Don’t Fight Back, Fight Forward. Very simply it says that you have to act offensively. I can’t stress strongly enough that I am NOT advocating attacking people. I’m referring to your reactions in a violent, life threateningly encounter. Think along the lines of Bruce Lee – “your attack offers me an opportunity to intercept you”.
Striking someone is an offensive action. If you’re attacking me, and I’m blocking, slipping, bobbing, weaving, etc., you will simply keep coming at me. Now, if I strike you, which is an offensive action, depending on where and how I hit you, you’ll stop attacking me. An offensive action allows you to hit your target, whereas a defensive move is a reactive motion to prevent being hit. As I stated earlier, if your attacker is on something or has a head like an anvil, hitting certain targets won’t be terribly effective. However, there are many spots on the body you can hit, where, regardless of your attacker’s size or strength, the hit will yield a very favorable response.
Once again, I’m not saying kill, maim, or blind someone. I am simply saying stop the threat and get home safely to your loved ones.
Another point I strongly stress is making a correct assertion of the nature of the altercation you’re involved in, are you in an actual life-threatening situation, or are you in an argument with someone that you could, in most cases, walk away from? I can’t emphasize this enough!
Too many people think if someone gets in their face and is talking trash or calling them names they “have to fight them”. Far from the truth! I am former Air Force Military Police and I can tell you that most people running off at the mouth don’t want to fight; they just want everyone to think they do. And most of these “cowards” think they’re tough, cool, hard, and bad.
There are many ways to diffuse a situation, or as it’s called in psychology, “fogging”. If you throw a rock into fog it disappears and doesn’t come back. The same applies to arguing with someone.
Let’s look at some scenarios. You’re in a bar and you accidentally bump into someone. They get upset and want a fight. You might say to them, “Oh man, sorry about that, I didn’t even see you there. It’s crazy in here tonight! What are you drinking? Let me get you another one”. All of a sudden, they’re your new best friend and soon they are telling you their life story. Or this scenario, Some drunk, wants to fight, so you hit him before he can hit you. He falls back, hits his head and either dies or is paralyzed from head trauma or cervical damage. Now you have to try and convince 12 jurors why you had to “show him what’s up”. Is it worth it? Of course not.
The same applies to accidentally running into someone in the store or someone taking your parking space. I’ve yet to see someone counter a negative comment with a positive one and the person remain negative. If you’re positive or kind to someone who’s negative, it leaves them nowhere to go. This, however, does not apply to a sociopath or someone who is outright attacking you. In this instance it’s important to view the situation exactly as it is – an anti-social situation. Please do not try to rationalize with a sociopath! When someone is being attacked by a “nut job” who is stabbing them, they shouldn’t be asking the attacker, “Why are you doing this?” “Why are you attacking me?” I’ve never heard of an assailant stopping and saying something like, “Oh, because when I was young my mother was mean to me and locked me in the closet”. Please understand that he’s not there to talk to you or explain himself. He’s there to harm you. You must understand the truth of the situation.
I want to direct this next segment to women. If someone strong is pinning your arms to your side and you can’t move them ask yourself “What can he do to me in this situation?” The answers usually are “He can head butt or knee me”. I remind women that “The assailant is not fighting you. He’s here to assault or rape you.” The same thing applies if you are in a bear hug from behind. Once again the assailant is not here to fight you. If his hands are “weapons” and he grabs you with one of his hands, he now has one weapon tied up. If he grabs you with both hands, BOTH of his “weapons” are tied up. At some point he’s going to have to free up one of his hands to get your clothes off, which will give you the opportunity to strike him.
This brings me to my next point which is the importance of effectively hitting a specific target. Since we’re not “fighting”, don’t strike like you’re fighting someone! Hit exact targets that cause appropriate damage! Your strikes need to be very specific. You need to hit points that will stop or shut someone down regardless of their size or strength.
I tell women to aim for the eyes. Sadly, too many women say “I don’t know if I could poke someone in the eyes”. I explain to them that, “Your assailant may hit or strike you in the eye while he’s assaulting or raping you. Are you okay with that?” I think people view eye strikes as fighting dirty, but fighting dirty is required in these situations. You have to adopt a mindset of surviving and there are no rules or guidelines and there is no being the “better person”. This is survival – pure and simple. Striking someone in the eye or punching them in the throat doesn’t make you a bad person or a dirty fighter. It makes you a survivor.
What makes a bad person or a sociopath? These are people who are willing to attack people at random. You need to understand the arena you’re in and the situation you’re in. This will give you a better sense of security, allowing you to use all the options available to you. You’re not as helpless as you think!
In this section I would like to address targets. I hinted on this earlier, and again, I am not talking about blinding, maiming, or killing someone. There are numerous ways to strike someone without causing life threatening or mortal damage. However, you do need to adequately stop a threat.
I explain to people I train, especially women, that I am not training you to “beat” someone. I’m not training you to go 12 rounds, and be declared the “winner”. I am training you to stop the threat and get away as quickly as possible.
I spoke of striking the eyes, throat, and ear, all of which are pretty sensitive targets. Striking any of these targets causes the body to react automatically. When you bang your shin you don’t think, “Hey, I banged my shin, I should ball up on the floor”. No, you usually bang your shin, and hit the floor instantaneously! I’m not saying you need to go all “Kill Bill” on someone and rip out their eye and step on it. That would, however, discourage anyone from messing with you again! You can drive your thumb into someone’s eye to get them off of you, or you can drive your hand into someone’s throat, which will cause their body to recoil; or you can slap the ear and rupture the eardrum. Done correctly, all of these actions will elicit a good response regardless of the assailant.
People also talk about breaking someone’s arm when they have a hold on you, but breaking someone’s arm is not easy! You CAN however grab an attacker’s finger and snap it. Breaking a finger doesn’t take an overabundance of strength, and will definitely cause them to let go. You can follow up with stomping on the ankle or stomping the side of the knee. People are taught to kick attackers. I say stomp! Stomp on insteps, shins, or the side of the knee. You can usually generate more force stomping down on something as opposed to kicking someone and there is always a possibility of them grabbing your foot and taking you down to the ground.
I understand women are told to kick attackers in “the jewels” (opting for a better word). But when a man grabs you, he will instinctively pull his jewels back. What he will leave forward, however, are his kneecap, shin, and instep, and these are sensitive targets which are close and easy to strike. Do NOT flail about aimlessly. Rather, strike specific sensitive targets so you get a dynamic response.
People often ask me “Why do you train to fight?” My answer? “It’s better to have something and not need it than to need something and not have it”. I tell everyone I train “I pray you never need to use what I’m teaching you, because if you do, you’re in a violent situation.” However, after training you will be in a much better position to stop the threat and you will know you’re not a helpless victim.
In this section I want to address mental awareness, another aspect of self defense which is actually used before any altercation. Mental Awareness is your state of mind and your behavior. When I profiled criminals in the military we would use the following scenario: there are ten different girls walking by an alley and an attacker grabs number six. Now, why did he grab number six? Why not number eight or number three? What was it about number six that made her vulnerable? Here is the answer, criminals look for the path of least resistance, or the easiest target. Remember, they’re cowards! What I suggest people do is (1) assess, (2) avoid, or (3) take action.
(1) Assess your environment. Is it a sketchy place? Are there people around? Are there suspicious looking people lurking about? Is there a different route? In a lot of cases you can avoid bad situations by avoiding bad areas. Yes, it is true that bad things happen in nice areas. I’m simply trying to increase the odds in your favor.
(2) Avoid, or if need be, diffuse. Avoiding is as simple as taking a different route. Diffusing may be a little different for a guy or a girl. Most guys can diffuse an altercation with another guy by simply not arguing with him. It’s called getting your ego out of the way! If some guy needs to feel tough and cool by talking trash to you, you need to learn to walk away, because it takes two to tango. For women, when dealing with unwanted attention from someone, you can try the following tactic: Make eye contact! Making eye contact sends the message that you’re not intimidated and you can ID him if need be. Avoiding eye contact with someone generally indicates fear, weakness and being unsure of one’s self.
(3) Action. When someone attacks you, when you have no other choice, then take action. Keep the proper mindset which is getting home to your loved ones AT ALL COSTS. I understand there will be cases when someone just comes up and grabs you. I am merely pointing out some of the various levels of altercations. Once again, shutting someone down, or incapacitating them doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you a survivor.
If someone is holding a “weapon” against you, this doesn’t automatically give them power over you. It may be a truly frightening moment, but remember that your mind is your best weapon, because your mind can turn anything into a “weapon”. A gun or knife lying on the ground is no threat to you. Someone’s intent to harm you is. If they don’t have a gun or knife they will simply use whatever is at hand.
Be careful not to put all your confidence in your “weapon”. Don’t think, “I trust my pepper spray or my Taser and I’m confident my weapon will stop my attacker.” What happens when you get in an altercation and pull out your pepper spray and you drop it or it gets knocked out of your hands. There goes your “weapon” and therefore your confidence and you are back to thinking you are helpless. Remember, your mind is your best weapon. Train yourself to trust in your ability to turn anything into a “weapon” so you will remain confident in your ability to fight back and escape.
Don’t let your weapon be your confidence, let your confidence be your weapon.
Understanding your environment, your options, choices, and the courses of action available to you will put you in the best possible situation both mentally and physically against an attacker, and you will find that you are not a helpless victim.
By Carl Van Meter and Art Camacho