Understanding self defense means understanding the different types of close quarter assaults: spontaneous and brewing. A spontaneous assault is a surprise attack with very little warning or indication that an assault is coming. Spontaneous assaults are often much more difficult to deal with due to the ambush or immediately violent nature of the attack. Brewing type incidents generally include a verbal component prior to the assault such as an argument that leads to assault or some type of criminal ruse tactic used to enable and mask encroachment. Both are difficult to counter without a proper understanding of the problem and defensive measures for dealing with such attacks.
The following video of the “Knockout” game provides examples of both types of assault. The first victim in the video is gesturing while seemingly speaking with the attacker just prior to being assaulted. This criminal engaged the victim in conversation prior to assaulting him as a distraction enabling him to close space and strike. In the second and third incidents the assaults are sudden and violent.
Countering Close Quarter Assault
Dealing with these different types of assault and protecting yourself or someone else requires an understanding of a few key principles and then, lots of practice. If you don’t practice these skills and put the time in required to become proficient, don’t expect the skills to be there for you when the time comes.
Avoidance eliminates the need for action or a possible use of force decision. Having the ability to spot trouble before it gets to us is critical. A few key elements to effective avoidance include an understanding of: Awareness, which includes self-awareness, situational awareness and environmental awareness; all of which enable us to avoid any potential contacts or threats. Practicing good awareness is a skill that requires constant practice. Often, we become complacent in common every day environments allowing our awareness to drop. Remember, trouble can find you anywhere at anytime. Avoid task fixation or hard focus on any object, person or conversation when in public domains. Being task fixated at home, behind locked doors or in a secure work area may be allowed but avoid task fixation anywhere else, especially around groups of strangers. Avoid visual deprivation; do your best to maintain proper distance from objects or people in your environment. Maintaining distance from walls, grocery racks or parked cars provides us with the best visual acuity of the immediate surroundings. Having your head buried in the trunk of a car in a WalMart parking lot does not facilitate good awareness or allow avoidance.
Unknowns, strangers, good & bad
An unknown contact is a stranger, someone you don’t know and never met. He, she or they might pass you by in a mini-mart, say hey and keep walking. They may come up to you in a parking lot and ask for a smoke or if you have a dollar to spare. They may be a pretty girl who desperately needs your help with her broken down vehicle, right around the corner. Parents and families have taught children to beware of strangers for a long time: “Don’t talk to strangers”, “Don’t take candy from strangers” and so on.
What to do
These cliches of old still have merit and meaning today. Being a good person and wanting to help someone is good karma however placing oneself in jeopardy for the sake of an unknown is not advisable. A guideline to follow is to treat ALL STRANGERS the exact same way, day in, day out. Keep them out of your personal space (see below), be wary of them until your instincts tell you otherwise or they demonstrate a viable reason for you to drop your guard. Use verbal skills to command and direct THEM where and how YOU want; don’t allow them to control you and your movements. Remember, they approached you first, why? Request that they stop coming any closer to you or your family until you are comfortable. Be polite until its time to not be polite. Have a plan to deal with a stranger who, for whatever reason, wants to close space with you. Lastly, remember that you don’t know this person (man or woman), you don’t owe them anything and you certainly don’t have to be nice to them if your instincts tell you something feels wrong. Ladies, being seen or viewed as a bitch by a stranger is a minor hiccup in your day compared to being assaulted, raped or mugged. Gentleman, many a man has fallen victim to the proverbial honey-trap; think with the organ that resides in the top of your body first.
Study Proxemics and how it relates to physical defense
Gain an understanding of the various distances in which we interact with each other under normalized circumstances. Proxemics, is the study of non-verbal communication, touch and other factors that relate to man’s use of space in our environments. Possessing the knowledge and skills to control the space around you is a key physical defense skill. If I allow a stranger, even a youth (see video above) to get within my “personal space” (see graphic below) or within touching distance or arms length then my ability to control what he, she or they do to me within that space is severely limited. Proximity control is a key physical defense skill.
Ready or not?
In firearms training a commonly taught tactic is to place the firearm in some type of ready position where the firearm is generally between you and your potential target or enemy, ready to be employed, if justified. In physical defense, having a ready position is essential to immediate response to a spontaneous attack. Speaking to an unknown with hands down at sides, in pockets or full of groceries is inhibitive to rapid physical defense of self against a violent attacker. When approached by an unknown, get the hands up into a window approximately 12-16 inches in front of you high with elbows bent. Have the fingertips even with nose or base of the eyes. Avoid extending the arms outward in a “push danger away” manner as this straightens the arms and incoming blows can easily travel or slide down the arms during violent, spontaneous attack. Placing the hands in this ready position or fence as Geoff Thompson first coined it goes a long way to protecting the head and knock-out triangle.
Countering close range spontaneous attack requires an immediate response that: 1) protects the knock-out triangle 2) keeps you on your feet 3) does not rely on tracking or diagnosing the side, angle or height of the incoming attack. Attempting to track an incoming strike, moving at full speed, relies solely on your physical attributes and ability to out perform the attacker. What if you don’t have the attributes of a street hardened, fit, aggressive, violent criminal actor who fights with others and assaults people as a matter of daily life? Seek out proper physical defense instruction that meets the requirements listed above. Study, train, practice, test.
For more information on how to deal with close quarter assaults check out my friend and mentor Craig Douglas excellent class Managing Unknown Contacts or join us for an MDTS Threat Recognition and Management classes.
For information about classes in the Utica, Rome, Herkimer N.Y. and surrounding area check out Dojo1 MMA classes.