The Simple Secrets of Self-Defense – Part 1 of 3

By Jim Harrison, Bushidokan-Ryu Founder & Head Instructor
© 2018 – Bushidokan™ Yudanshakai, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

The three most valuable secrets of self-defense are: S.S.S. – Surprise, Simplicity, and Similarity.  Let’s address those elements in that order.  Surprise…One may ask how can you utilize surprise when defending yourself?  Most often you’ve been assaulted or attacked by surprise yourself.  Well, first of all, most assaults or attacks should not be a surprise.  Because normally, verbal, or at least hostile body language precipitates most assaults or even attacks.  However, most of us are not of such an aggressive personality that we like to instigate or even initiate the first action.  That, often, is a very wrong decision.

By the time I was eighteen I must have been sucker-punched, kicked, slugged, or hit with a weapon first, some twenty times or more before I learned to recognize that a fight was actually going to start.  I never liked to hit anyone first.  However, I seemed to be in the vast minority of my associates.  Finally, I learned to recognize when a hostile situation was escalating toward a fight.  Consequently, I also learned that if a fight was obviously going to start…To Start The Fight!  I learned too, that it was infinitely easier to win a fight as the puncher rather than as the punchee.  With one exception, against a National Golden Gloves Champion, I had always, somehow, come back from “The Hole” and won.  However, it was often difficult to tell much difference between me and my opponent, because I usually had the hell beaten out of me between their sucker-punch and the time I got my stuff back together and got going.

“Starting” the fight myself was sooo much more fun.  I said “starting” the fight – not “instigating” the fight.  When it was apparent that I had to fight, eventually I learned to start the fight.

I also found that I didn’t have to do as much damage to an opponent if I made the first move.  One, I learned to Cross Eyes and Buckle Knees fast…which usually required much less follow-up – most guys didn’t want to continue a losing battle.  Second, follow-up, if necessary, was normally fairly easy on a surprised and stunned adversary.  Third, not being hurt and nearly exhausted prior to my counter-attack was physically much easier and emotionally less traumatic.  And finally, by not being hurt and humiliated, I didn’t have the emotional need to retaliate so thoroughly.  Therefore, less bloodshed for both of us!

Eventually, I learned how to utilize the Element Of Surprise – and here’s how you can too.  First of all, Don’t Get Surprised!  To avoid being surprised, learn to read hostile surroundings and situations and to especially read hostile body language.  Be more alert when in any probable or even possible hostile environment.  Observe any arguments, fights, assaults, or attacks, then analyze and critique how they began, especially the body language of the aggressor prior to the incident.  Try to recall any hostile or violent situation you were ever involved in and analyze it.  That way, you can learn to become more aware and tuned-in to probable and even possible hostile situations.

Most assaults can be anticipated by simple awareness.  In the last thirty years (and numerous incidents), I’ve only allowed myself to get “suckered” once – and that was done by some very good acting, so that I failed to see any apparent hostility (although there had been plenty warning signs previously).  Out of compassion I let pity over-ride my self-taught instincts and allowed myself to be sucked in.  After getting a bottle broken across my face, once again, I had to fight from “The Hole”, and take out three young, strong, and very hostile guys.

Once you’ve sensed hostility, Stay Alert.  Don’t let something else distract your original instinct.  Your instincts are like your first thoughts or answers when taking an exam, the first ones are usually right.  Or, like a Marine Re-con Sergeant I once knew who had a lot of combat experience used to teach his recruits, “Your first twitch is usually right”.  Therefore, don’t let any distraction confuse you or change your mind.  Keep aware and alert until you’ve exited the danger zone – and become re-alerted when approached by the same person(s) or situation at any later time.

How Not To Get Sucker Punched
The Dumb Distance

Physically, never allow an apparently hostile person to enter into the danger zone (if possible).  The danger zone is what I call the “Dumb Distance”.  That’s the distance that a possible assailant could reach out and nail you with a hand, foot, club, knife or weapon (whether apparent or possibly concealed) without them having to initiate at least one step toward you before being in contact range.  This is not always easy to do, especially if you are of a passive personality.  A good method is to initially evade, if you can, by retreating back a step or two, or to one side.  Then, if an apparent hostile adversary re-enters into contact range with you, he obviously isn’t there for your autograph…so Hit ’em Back First!  Or, retreat…If you can?

The Stupid Stance

Never, never argue or stand “square” to anyone, much less against an apparent or possible hostile person(s).  Standing square is very definitely a “Stupid Stance”.  Square, you have all of your frontal and lateral vital targets exposed and available to any assailant.  Plus, you have no “lead” hand for protection, distraction, or to attack with.  Nor do you have any rear hand or rear foot for power in a counter-attack (rarely attack with a rear hand or rear foot technique).  Remember, your front hand or foot is used for Speed and Distraction and your rear hand or foot is for Power and Destruction.

Being right handed, I much prefer a right lead myself, especially against a “left lead” adversary (most right handers will lead left foot first and most left handers will lead right foot forward).  Also, I’m in the opposite stance and angle that he is likely accustomed to.  I am also farther from his right power and / or weapon hand.  My front right hand is normally faster and stronger than his front left hand.  Therefore, his nose and philtrum is wide open to my right back-fist…or a knife-hand to his trachea if I detect or suspect a weapon.  Don’t let full contact fighters or kickboxers tell you a back-fist is ineffective.  It’s not very effective with a boxing glove on, but bare-handed a good back-fist is devastating.  I’ve stopped more fights with a back-fist and / or a front kick before they got started than most people have seen.  His left front knee is close and very exposed to my right side kick…While my left, rear (power) leg front kick is lined -up and sighted-in at the best (90 degree) angle to his bells.  If I can’t take out a baby gorilla when I Hit ‘em Back First with all those factors stacked in my favor, I deserve a tail-kicking.

Normally, don’t assume a “fighting” stance before your adversary does, or possibly even after he does, and Absolutely Not if he shows a weapon.  Forget your karate or kung-fu stances, most are useless, if not ridiculous.  Not only are most martial art stances useless but they instantly alert your assailant to your intended retaliation (virtually death against a weapon – regardless of how good you think you are) and will certainly alert him to the fact that you’re probably going to kick.  Such a stance may also entice or excite him into pulling a weapon beforehand.  A martial art stance will totally destroy your element of surprise and also considerably limit your fighting ability.  Martial art stances are only designed for show, not for go!  Stand in a casual three-point, right lead, boxers stance.  Hands down at the safe distance against a bare-handed adversary and hands up and open in a “talking hands” mode, or hands (fist) possibly in a boxer’s mode if he is already in a boxer’s stance and mode himself.  The best way I know to kick a dude in the bells is to make him think you’re going to punch him in the mouth.  And remember, your hands are definitely open and very apparently protective (defensive) if a weapon is apparent or suspected.

[Note: The “strike first” concept, from a legal perspective, comes into play because you felt that you were in “imminent danger” of physical harm.]