Welcome to the last of a three part series on Women’s Self-Preservation. Before we get started on this last article, I would like to explain why I always use the term self-preservation, instead of the term “self-defense.” Self-defense is what a lot of people teach that is full of bad habits, poor tactics, misguided ideas about the reality of violence, as well as ineffective and outdated techniques.
In my numerous years as a martial artist and 16+ years as an instructor, it has been my experience that the term self-defense puts a completely unreal picture of violence in people’s heads. They often envision something akin to a movie fight scene where one person, especially a woman, can take on a hoard of attackers and escape unscathed. Self-preservation, on the other hand, destroys the fallacy by implying danger: we train to stay alive.
It is the reality that you may and most likely will get injured in a real life encounter. After a lifetime of martial arts training, Brandon Lee (Bruce Lee’s son) came home to his apartment one evening to find a burglar. This burglar was armed with a knife and attacked Lee. Even though Lee prevailed over his attacker, he sustained wounds that required stitches. Although it is possible to end an encounter without any harm to your person, the term self-preservation prepares us for the reality that it probably won’t go like it does in the movies.
By using the more aggressive sounding term, we prepare ourselves for the reality of violence and ready ourselves to strike in a more direct and aggressive manner. Self-defense is more a tactic used to defeat school-yard bullies while waiting for the teacher or principal to arrive, while self-preservation is facing a situation where your life is on the line and all that matters is survival, regardless of cost.
It is the “yeah, but you should see the other guy” mentality. With that said, this final article will move beyond the awareness and “Strike and Run” tactics of our “Escape To Gain Safety” Program, discussed in our last two articles (If you did not read those, I have included links at the bottom of this article). In this article, we will look at what to do if fleeing is not an option, either from the start or after you become aware of that fact after employing the “Escape To Gain Safety” tactics.
In the last article, we constantly referred to the CQB mantra of Speed, Surprise, and Violence of Action. We then defined Violence of Action as: delivering a purposed strike in such a manner and with enough force to initially surprise, stun, and momentarily overwhelm your attacker.
In this scenario, flight is not an option. You have attempted other options to get yourself out of harm’s way. However, in those instances where flight is not an available option and fight is your only remaining recourse, you must amp up your self-preservation tactics and shift from the initial Violence of Action into Asymmetrical Violence.
Asymmetrical Violence is a shift, not only in fighting strategy, but in fighting mentality. This is where we must develop the Killer Instinct mentality. Killer Instinct is a mindset of willingness: Willingness to do whatever it takes to survive.
Once we have this willingness of mind, Asymmetrical Violence can then be deployed. Asymmetrical Violence simply defined is: taking the fight to an extreme so rapidly as to overwhelm, surprise, and mentally overtake our opponent while disabling him quickly and successfully.
Let me give you an example: In the last article we looked at interceptions. I listed several different types and gave examples of a few variations of interceptions. I mentioned one type was a destruction. While I did not go into detail on what a destruction was and how to deliver one, let me do so now. A destruction is a tactic that comes from Kali (a Filipino Art that uses both empty hands and weapons, but is mostly associated with the stick and bladed weapons such as a knife or sword) and can be delivered on either the High Line (above the waist) or the Low Line (below the waist). There are two types of High Line destructions but, in this instance, I only want to use one. The “Elbow Destruction.” The elbow destruction can be used effectively against any punch that the attacker throws. You may have to turn slightly or angle to do so, but it can. An elbow destruction is simply having your arm raised and placed in such a manner that the knuckles of the attacker’s punching hand strike the sharp point of your elbow.
The knuckles are the part of the Metacarpals. They are very fragile and break easily. The point of the elbow is called the olecranon. Keep in mind it takes only takes 3lbs of pressure to break the neck of a metacarpal. (The neck of a metacarpal is the big knuckle on each finger that becomes pronounced when you make a fist) Conversely, it takes 8-12 lbs of pressure to break the olecranon. As you can see the knuckle will break and often shatter long before the elbow will. As a matter a fact, a metacarpal break or fracture of the 4th or 5th metacarpal is the most common injury in the world and is referred to as a Boxer’s Fracture, although more recently is being called a brawler’s break. (The 4th and 5th metacarpals are found on what are commonly referred to as the ring and pinky fingers.)
A destruction is a great intro and fighting strategy as it destroys the attacker’s hand. This kind of initial response is not only great in terms of violence of action, but a great example of Asymmetrical Violence. The attacker went to hit you and broke his hand on the first strike. This will usually end the fight, however, if it does not or you miss slightly and merely cause pain this is where Asymmetrical Violence really takes off. Keep in mind that these responses may seem extreme: this is self-preservation and is designed to keep you alive. It is not going to be pretty. There is still an element of mercy, whether or not you see it at first. If we break the attacker’s hand in our first move and end the fight, not only are we not seriously hurt, but we did not have to permanently injure, maim, or kill our attacker. Asymmetrical Violence is taking a rapid and extreme response to a situation to deescalate it instantly.
Now that we have discussed what a destruction is and why it works, I want to give you a formula for fighting that will serve you for the rest of your life. This formula is a great example of Asymmetrical Violence. Throughout this article series we have talked about Close Quarter Battle and equated its guiding principles to our violent crime scenario. If violent crime and dealing with a violent crime follows the rules of CQB, as implemented by the US Military Elite such as DEVGRU (SEAL TEAM 6), then it makes sense for us to use the same tactics they use to handle and deescalate the situation as rapidly as possible. The system they use is: Rapid Assault Tactics, a system created by Paul Vunak and Thomas C. Cruse of Progressive Fighting Systems. Both of these men not only spent years with the SEALS every day in VA, but still spend a good portion of their time with our Military and Military Elite Units today. I have been fortunate to train extensively with both of these men and call them more than my Sifus, but also my friends. I say this so you know that you are not getting some second rat- tactics, but the absolute best, straight from the source.
Rapid Assault Tactics follows a logical progression: Entry à Pressure à Termination. This flow is the absolute best methodology to end a fight successfully with minimal damage to yourself and your attacker(s). It follows the idea of Asymmetrical Violence by starting with an often fight-ending maneuver, such as a destruction, and continually increasing the reality of violence until the fight is over.
Let’s define and examine each element of the Rapid Assault Tactics Formula. First phase is the Entry: Entry is your interception or destruction. In order to accomplish this successfully as an untrained person, we need to give you a start position that makes it easy to deliver the destruction with minimal movement. The best position for this is a modified Muay Thai stance, where your arms are raised up over your head and your elbows are in close at your chest (think of it as a “hands up!” kind of posture, but your elbows are no higher than your chin). Your head should be down and you should look through the opening at your elbows. We want to up on our toes and moving, raising our knees in an alternating fashion. This movement creates what we call the Cocoon of Violence. This is true because just as you use your elbows to perform destructions on the high line, you use your knees to perform destructions on the low line.
I have defined Entry, but we need to look at it in more detail before we move on to the rest of the Rapid Assault Tactics flow. I break each aspect of Entry? Pressure? Termination flow down by equating each phase with a word in our RAT program. For example, Entry is (for me) the Rapid in RAT. That is because either the interception or destruction is delivered quickly at the onset before your attacker can get his rhythm and feel at ease. Although interceptions are effective, I feel that they require a lot more training and practice to be a practical tool for any one person. It is for this reason that we shall focus on destructions with one exception. That exception being if the attacker “loads up” and punches. When an attacker “loads up,” he pulls his arm all the way back and delivers a wild hook often referred to as a John Wayne punch. If he does this, either finger jab the eye(s) or punch the nose as described in the last article. If his groin is opening because he is facing you straight-on, you may also kick in the groin using one of the attacks from the last article. Once that is done move into to Phase 2. Otherwise, stick with the Muay Thai stance and destructions. Destructions are delivered using the elbows for punches and the knees for kicks. When the attacker throws a punch just turn your body slightly so that your corresponding elbow is facing the punch. Make sure the point of your elbow is lined up with the punch. You may have to lean back slightly to do this. Also keep in mind that this stance may seem open at the midsection. If he throws a punch at your abdomen (midsection), simply flick a finger jab into his eyes- he can’t reach your midsection without being in range for that finger jab. Onward.
If the attacker throws a kick, raise the leg so the foot or shin is hit with the point of the knee (it takes about 8-15 sometimes even 30 pounds of force to break the knee as opposed to 5-7 to break the shin bone and the bones of the foot) Be sure to turn your knee toward the oncoming kick.
For example, if someone is throwing a straight lead kick, you would just raise your knee straight up to meet the kick. However, if they throw a kick to the side of your leg such as a Muay Thai style round kick, then you would point your knee 45 degrees to meet the oncoming kick. You may ask what if they throw a kick to the midsection and you cannot get it with your knee.
That, my friend, is where the Cocoon of Violence comes in. By raising your knee, while having your arms in the aforementioned Thai stance you create a small area that the leg can access and by dropping your corresponding elbow down onto the leg while raising, you can now break the leg.
You may not always break the hand or leg in this Entry or Rapid phase and that is fine. The one thing you will do every time is creating a reaction of pain. This is the opportunity you need to move on to our second phase Pressure or the Assault aspect of Rapid Assault Tactics.
Once the attacker gives you the pain response by wincing, grabbing his hand or leg, etc. we move in with Bruce Lee’s favorite move: The Straight blast. This move is designed to overwhelm and push your attacker backward. It has long been known that no one can defend himself or fight while backing up.
He must first stop and gain a base before he can launch any effective defense, counter, or mount an attack. The RAT straight blast is done differently than the traditional straight blast found in Wing Chun called the Jik Chun Choi.
I will write an article discussing the differences between the two and their strengths/weaknesses later. For now, let’s just stick with the RAT Straight Blast designed by Progressive Fighting Systems founders Paul Vunak and Thomas C. Cruse. This move is quite simple: Vu describes it as “a 50 yard dash down someone’s centerline.”
The centerline is the imaginary line from the tip if the head to the floor that would split your body equally into a left side and a right side. To do a Straight Blast, you would run full speed at your opponent while keeping your elbows centerline at about chest level and rolling your punches one over the other in an alternating fashion, repeatedly striking the opponent’s face.
Let’s break this down into a little more detail. To do the straight blast punch, first make sure are using the vertical fist. We always strike with the vertical fist unless we are striking to certain targets on the midsection of the body, such as the Solar Plexus or the floating ribs.
On these targets a regular “Boxer’s” punch fits the target where a vertical fist would just slide off and not settle in. Punching to the face like is done in the Straight Blast is best done with a vertical fist or a Da as described in our last article.
The reason for this is simple. With a traditional horizontal punch you are only supposed to make contact with the first two knuckles and this is because on the average person these are the biggest and strongest knuckles.
The downside to this is it takes a great deal of fine motor skill, as the striking surface is 1 inch or less. Due to the chemical reaction of the fight or flight response, your fine motor skills diminishes in a fight and that is why most people miss and end up hitting with the last two metacarpals, resulting in a “Boxer’s Fracture.”
If you flip your punch vertical and hit with the bottom three metacarpals located in the middle, ring and pinky knuckles, you increase the surface area of your hit, decrease the likelihood of breaking your own hand, and can drive the bottom or pinky knuckle into the face after the initial hit for more impact and damage.
Now that we have established why we prefer a vertical fist, let’s get back to the Straight Blast. Bring your elbows into centerline and strike with your power hand first. Then bring that hand back and down on the centerline while raising and striking with alternate hand.
Drop that hand slightly and bring it back while slightly raising and striking with your dominant or “power” hand again. This creates a circular roll that accomplishes two things: 1) it increases the speed of your striking and 2) keeps a hand at centerline at all times, making it extremely hard to hit you in the face as your face and chest are always guarded.
The Straight Blast should only be done in a brief burst while running forward at your opponent. The point of this move is not to knock out your attacker, merely to overwhelm them and create a reaction. Your attacker will either put his hands up to cover and block and or his hands will go out straight at his sides trying to regain his balance.
This is your moment! If his hands go out to his sides, we move straight to phase 3, but if he covers or otherwise throws his hands in front of his face to stop the barrage of punches we must clear the obstruction to get to the neck.
This is done typically by using a Pak Sau or a Pak Sau-Lop Sau combination to clear the hands. These are known as traps and are from Wing Chun. The Pak Sau is done by taking your rear hand (Remember in JKD we use power side forward known in boxing as southpaw) and cupping your hand like you will scoop a drink of water to your mouth and slapping your opponents arm down and in.
You want to strike or slap at about mid arm and drive the arm into the midsection of the body, causing it to strike the Solar Plexus while striking simultaneously with the lead hand to the face. Be sure to move forward while driving his arm into his midsection and simultaneously punching his face.
The arm being driven into the midsection will cause your attacker to start to double over, combined with your forward movement driving the punch forward, adding power and force to your attack. *Note: Technically, a Wing Chun school will tell you the above described Pak Sau is actually a Pak Sau “slapping hand” and a Gum Sau “Pushing hand.”
I just want to say I know this, but for ease of understanding I will refer to it all as Pak Sau. Once you have done this Pak Punch move, most times you can grab the neck and move to phase 3.
Sometimes, you will encounter a person that, either by design, practice, or sheer dumb luck of reflex is able to bring his rear hand across to block the punch to the face. This windshield wiper style, check or block is called a Wu Sau or guarding hand.
In this instance, you will notice that his blocking hand and the pinned arm make a v shape. I want you to quickly and smoothly take the hand that is pinning his arm to his body and lift it slightly. Grab his arm with your pinning hand, thumb still against your hand in the cupping shape described earlier, and pull his blocking arm across his centerline, splitting the V, and drive it into his body, directly atop his other arm.
This will result in both in both arms being pinned to his body, one crossed over the other as if he is trying to hug himself. At the same time, drive forward and punch with your lead hand. This move is called a Lop Sau or Grab hand. *and yes it is technically a Lop Sau, Gum Sau but as before ease of understanding grants that we call the whole move a Lop Sau.
It is at this time we move into phase 3: Termination. Once we have a clear line to the neck, whether his arms flew out the side giving us a clear line to the neck or we had to clear the obstructions with a Pak Sau or what we refer to as a Pak Lop, we then simply step forward and grab the base of the head and terminate the fight using head butts, knees and elbows, often referred to as HKE.
If you are opting for a headbutt or a knee, make sure to grab the head with one of your hands and then grab the wrist of that hand with other. This is called a “plumb” in Muay Thai. For the knee, you simply bring pull the head down toward the ground while lifting alternating legs striking the face. If you are opting for a head butt, it important to note the head butt is not delivered like you see on TV by just slamming your forehead into the attacker’s forehead. This is because while it is true that this is the hardest part of your head, it also contains the largest cluster of nerves and will hurt you, as well as him.
Instead, lower your head and either pull his head into your lower head or drop your weight by bending your knees and then thrust your body up and slightly forward, while pulling his head down into the strike. In both instances, you should be striking with the top of your head closest to your forehead.
A good rule of thumb is if you can see what you are head butting you are doing it wrong. Lastly, if you opt for the elbows it is a great idea and even a rule in my schools to always keep one hand holding the back of his head. This allows you to not only make sure he cannot pull away, but to pull him into to each strike.
Always alternate. This means that if I grab with my right hand and elbow once with my left, I would then immediately grab the back of his head with my left and elbow with my right. After just a few elbow strikes, the fight should be over. It is a great idea to get into the habit of varying these strikes and delivering them in combination to maximize surprise, to minimize your attacker’s chance, and to give you time to respond and deliver the most damage in the shortest amount of time.
This is why I call this phase the “Tactics” phase. Grab a partner and a motorcycle helmet with a face shield (or any helmet with a full face shield), along with boxing or MMA style gloves, and practice these tactics and principles repeated.
Let’s review Rapid Assault Tactics. Phase 1 Entry also called the Rapid Phase: Interception or Destruction. Interception would be a catch, parry, or dodge followed immediately and often simultaneously with a forward moving strike.
Destructions are done with the elbow for punches and the knee for kicks. Phase 2 “Pressure or Assault phase”: Once you get the reaction of either pain or a broken hand/foot we run moving our hands in a circular motion striking the face while keeping elbows in tight in centerline (along our chest).
Phase three is the “Termination” or Tactics phase. Once we see the attacker’s arms fly out, giving us a clear line to the neck and head, we grab the head and deliver head butts, knees, and elbows in the manner described earlier.
If, instead, he brings his arms up to block the onslaught of punches, we clear the obstruction by using either the Pak Sau or Pak/Lop Combination taught in this article and, just as with attacker response 1, we grab the neck with the plumb and deliver the HKE.
It is important to note that, while I did my best to describe in detail the tactics of the RAT, it is impossible to cover all the points in one article. There is also the reality that you cannot perfect any self-preservation skill(s) by simply reading an article. Please find a qualified instructor and practice these tactics with him or her. Always wear proper safety protection whether with an instructor or training with a partner at home.