The Simple Secrets of Self-Defense – Part 2 of 3

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

Keep It Simple

Simple self-defense means simple techniques and simple tactics.  Why use a jump-spin kick when a simple front kick would be more practical?  Most martial artists prefer “show” to “go”.  They like to look good, flashy, flamboyant, spectacular, etc.  They love to perform…they love to impress.  I remember looking at the old Kick Magazine series that was called “Self-Defense Techniques of the Masters” (or something like that)…where four or five so-called “Masters” would demonstrate their defense methods against a left jab, right cross, front kick, knife stab, full nelson, rear choke, etc.  Now, I never saw more than a dozen or so episodes of that particular comic strip, but with the exceptions of Joe Lewis’ and Benny Urquidez’s simple, practical, and obviously effective versions, I found virtually all the others amusing to ridiculous (mostly ridiculous).  It appeared that each “Master” attempted to out-do the others by demonstrating a more complicated or “artistic” (absurd) sequence, while Ole Joe and Ole Ben just demo’ed some simple stuff that was pregnant with common sense and practical application.  It was obvious that most of the other “Masters” hadn’t been in a real fight since kindergarten…So much for my unsolicited candor.

Meanwhile, back in the alley…The three biggest mistakes most martial artists (especially instructors) make when concocting their defense repertoires is that: One; they assume that they will always know in advance exactly what the adversary will do.  I guess I must be kind of dumb and sort of slow because I always had a helluva time figuring out if the other dude was going to throw a left or a right first.  I was even worse at guessing if a punch, kick, jab, cross, hook, slash, thrust, stab or whatever else was coming first (or next)?  Two; apparently most martial artists are under the false impression that an assailant will make the first move and then instantly “freeze” – holding that pose until the martial artist finishes him off with several dashing and devastating moves.  I must have been born under a bad sign…I was never lucky enough to get one of those dudes who turned to stone after they missed (very fortunate) their first move.  Three; they all seem to believe that mean, pissed-off, drunk, hopped-up, and half-crazy bullies, thugs, rapists, and all other assailants are so easy to hurt.  They must have been dealing with a higher class clientele with lower pain tolerances than I ever did in most of my encounters.  I’ve run into some dudes that have taken one of my best shots with a grin and then just licked their chops for more…Well, enough sarcasm…Even if it is true!

Let’s re-address those accusations.

Number One: With proper training and practice, especially utilizing contact sparring, both bare-handed (meaning no weapon, not, no gloves) and against weapons, you can soon learn to read an opponent’s actions and body language, and then begin to anticipate his probable attack.  The less skilled he is, the more he will telegraph his intentions…and the more experienced you become, the better you will get at reading a more skillful opponent.  But, don’t attempt to guess too specifically.  To guess wrong, especially against a weapon, is worse than not guessing at all.  For example, should I read in an assailant’s body language that he is going to attack with a hand strike or punch, I do not attempt to guess if it’s going to be a jab, cross, hook, or even if it’s going to be a right or left.  I will simply try to drill him with a back fist and / or a front kick, depending on if his hands are up (ready mode) or down (belligerent mode), the second he steps into contact range (or the “Dumb Distance”).

Number Two: I never rely on dropping him with just one shot…nor do I (especially) rely on an opponent holding his pose for me.  I do expect the back fist or front kick to at least distract his attention and possibly get his hands up to his face or down to his bells momentarily.  However, whether I get much of a reaction from the back fist and front kick or not, I step down and deliver a cross, hook, and uppercut as quickly and accurately as possible.  If my front kick doesn’t make him pray, I had better have some heavy artillery outgoing, post-haste.  That’s just one example of how I’d handle a probable hand attack.

Number Three: I try to cross his eyes and buckle his knees…and even follow that up if necessary.  I try never to under-estimate any assailant or his ability to receive punishment…nor do I over-estimate my own power and ability.  Instead, I kick, hit, and follow through – hard, fast and furious!  I’m from that old school that still believes in breaking boards and bricks, even if they don’t hit back.  Therefore, I believe in conditioning my favorite weapons: hands, feet, elbows and shins.  Plus, I teach my students Maki-wara and Tamise-wara (toughening and breaking).  When they learn to break, they soon find out that some boards, bricks, and cement blocks are tougher than others.  Some will take several strikes and / or harder strikes before they break or crumble.  The first time a student appears to become somewhat aware of that phenomena, I take that opportunity to explain that men are like boards and bricks…some are much tougher than others.  Therefore, if you can…Hit’em Back First, and Hit’em Hard, Fast, and Furious!  Don’t worry too much about over-kill.  If you ever kill a man empty-handed, or with a foot, you can bet it will be by accident, not by intention.  People are hard to kill intentionally, especially mean bullies, thugs, and assailant types.

Review: Keep It Simple, Simon (KISS) – Don’t get Fancy, Flashy, or Flamboyant.  Use simple techniques.  Stick to good old-fashioned basic kicks and strikes.  Keep the tactics simple as well – don’t get complicated or too inventive.  Put plenty of speed and power into each technique, but don’t run them together so fast that you sacrifice power and accuracy.  Continue until you’re satisfied your adversary has had all the fun he can stand…and possibly enough to last him until he contracts “Old-Timers” disease and forgets who you are…or at least that he prays each night that you have forgotten him.