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Self-defense phases


The actions that need to be taken by a defender in a self-defense situation may be grouped into five phases. Each phase builds on the last but not all the phases are required in every situation.

Phase 1: Evading

Evading is merely moving with or away from an attacking force so that it does not contact you. It could be something as simple as stepping out of the way or it could be as complicated as the bob and weave of a trained boxer. Evasion may be accomplished by moving horizontally (by sidestepping, spinning, or retreating) or vertically (by jumping or dropping).
Evasion is moving oneself out of the range and/or path of an oncoming attack. There are ten directions of evasion. To know which direction to use, one must know from which direction the attack is coming, what type of attack is being used (linear or circular), how much you need to move, and what you plan to do after evading, punch, kick, run, etc. 
The directions of attack or evasion are north, northeast, east, southeast, south, southwest, west, northwest, up, and down. Up or down may be combined with one of the other directions, such as ducking down and toward the west.
When considering evasion, you must consider range. There are two types of range, defensive and offensive.

Defensive ranges

  • Close-range. At this range, effective techniques are grabs and close-in arm blocks.
  • Mid-range. At this range, effective techniques are all the standard arm blocks.
  • Long-range. At this range, leg blocks are effective.

Offensive ranges

  • Close-range. At this range, the attacker may grab, throw, use chokes, use arm/wrist locks, or use elbow, knee, or head attacks.
  • Mid-range. At this range, the attacker may use punches, hand strikes, lunging attacks, and short-range weapons, such as knives, ball bats, etc.
  • Long-range. At this range, the attacker may use kicks and long-range weapons, such as firearms, rocks, etc.
Within the offensive ranges, you may use two major types of attacks:
  • Linear. Linear attacks travel in straight lines from point of origin to point of contact, such as a downward club or knife attack, front kick, side kick, reverse punch, and uppercut. All upward attacks, downward attacks, and thrusts are also linear attacks. 
  • Circular. Circular attacks travel in arcs from point of origin to point of impact, such as a roundhouse kick, turning kick, crescent kick, knife hand strike, and hook punch. 
The direction of evasion depends on each of the above factors. The most important thing to remember about evading is timing, knowing when to initiate the evading movement. If you evade too soon, your attacker may alter the attack and hit you anyway. If you evade too late, then you may get hit before you can move. The key to evading is to move at the last possible moment before the attack can make contact.

Phase 2: Blocking

Effective blocking is most often combined with an evasive movement. Thus, stepping to the side of a punch and pushing it away is better than either standing still and pushing it away or just stepping to the side.
Blocks may also be used as attacks. A forceful forearm block against a punching arm may injure the attacker enough to convince him or her to stop attacking. A scooping block against a front kick may be used to throw the attacker on his or her back.

Phase 3: Stunning

Stunning uses a sharp, powerful blow that causes a short-term, temporary interruption in the attacker's physical attack and thought process. It does not necessarily cause long-term injury to the attacker. Stunning is used as a quick, simple way to slow down an attacker. A stun usually only lasts a few minutes, causes bruises and sore muscles at worst, and may be easily apologized for later.
Stunning does not even have to make contact to work. A quick, focused punch just short of the nose, with an accompanying loud kiai, will cause the opponent to reflexively snap his or her head back and will momentarily stun him or her.

Phase 4:  Counterattacking

Counterattacking is what most people consider self-defense to be about but as discussed above, it may not be necessary to counter-attack. You may be able to evade or block the attack and escape. Many times, it is best to evade an attack, stun the attacker, and then run.
The first three phases (evading, blocking, and stunning) are defensive and do not prevent the attacker from continuing his or her attack while counterattacking allows the defender to take control of the attacker and the situation. Control may be gained using a restraining hold, choke, strangle, or a strike. A strike to the head that causes disorientation is a form of control. The purpose of a counterattack is to stop the attacker's initial attack plan and to prevent further attacks.
There are three types of counterattacks:
  • Ballistic. Ballistic counterattacks are those that require the impact of an object, which could be a part of your body, against a part of an attacker's body. They establish control using pain, numbness, inability to move a body part, restricted breathing, or disorientation.
  • Flowing. Flowing is the redirection of an incoming line of force along a decreasing spiral, which will turn the force back upon itself. This action redirects the force into a static condition, effectively neutralizing it. Flowing techniques use the momentum of the attack against the attacker, such as throws and takedowns. Throws only require you to execute the technique, whereas takedowns require you to maintain constant control of the attacker both during and after the technique.
  • Restraining. Restraining techniques use joint manipulation, a hold or lock, or a choke or strangle to control an attacker. The proper application of these techniques requires much more focus and control than the other types.
  • Joint manipulations (twisting, turning, pushing, or pulling) use pain to subdue an attacker. Struggling against the manipulation will cause the attacker such pain that he or she will cooperate.
  • Holds or locks place the attacker in such a position that he or she cannot generate enough leverage to get away.
  • Chokes cut off the attacker's air supply causing drowsiness or unconsciousness, while strangles cut off the blood supply to the attacker's brain causing drowsiness or unconsciousness

Phase 5: Finishing

These are the final actions used to finish a self-defense situation. Once you have control of your attacker, you must ensure he or she will not attempt to attack you again once you relinquish control.
Finishing techniques are generally continuations of previous defensive phases. The severity of the attack, how many attackers are involved, and what weapons are used will affect how extreme your final measures must be.
As a martial artist, you must analyze an attack and determine the least amount of force you can use and still be effective. It is your responsibility to know your abilities and strength and to use them to cause no more harm than necessary. The law allows a person to defend himself or herself, but it requires the person to use only the amount of force that is reasonably necessary to stop an attack. When it is possible, the law requires a person to evade an attack and run away.
Choose the appropriate self-defense technique to finish the confrontation and then forcibly execute it. If necessary, you may need to escalate the level of force to finish the confrontation.

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