What is Self-defense?

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: Self-defense
10 Sep 2007

As a practitioner of karate, I like to think self-defense is a practiced – method of protecting one’s self in most any situation. The trained fighter in almost any discipline can mount a defense to most attacks. The victim can become the victor. 


What about the untrained person? What can they do to protect themselves in most situations? What is ok to do when defending ones self?   


The definition of self-defense in my opinion is doing whatever it takes to stop or get away from an attacker. This can include running, faking the attacker out or fighting back. Of course it is better to not have to defend yourself – but if you have to – the best first course of action is using ones wits.    


Each attack is different, meaning that if there a group of young, rough-looking guys ahead on the street you are walking, do you need to walk that way or is an alternate route just as good? If you find yourself in a dicey situation – what body language are you projecting? Bullies like sheep more then wolves. If some one steps into your distance (this is called critical distance in my style of karate) you only have a few choices; (1) move out of the distance, (2) attack preemptively (if you think you are in danger) or (3) try to talk your way out of it. Choice 3 is very bad if the antagonist is inside of your critical distance (meaning whoever throws the first punch can gain the upper-hand). In boxing choices 1 & 2 are reduced to ‘stick or move.’ This means if someone comes into your distance you can hit or move out of the way.   


One example is a friend coming back from a night on the town, on San Diego’s trolley system. He came back late and was using the only pay-phone to get picked up. A guy came up and told my friend that was his phone. My friend promptly told him to get lost and got blind-sided (punched). My friend (a brown-belt in karate) quickly salvaged the situation as he punch bent him over by rear-kicking the attacker in his solar-plexus! The guy went down and the transit police arrested the guy.     


This is an example of what can happen if you let someone get inside your distance but luckily my friend was able to salvage his misfortune.

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