Self Defence: followup and reflections....

Urban life

The five articles at….

Self-Defence Before the Fight

The Four Intangibles

The Four Tangibles-Tai Chi Self-Defence

Self-Defence Reviewed: Applications vs Techniques

Four Key Methods: Putting it all together

…have held up pretty well. There is one addition that has been suggested, and also one observation.

The major addition has to do with the first article in this series: Self-Defence Before the Fight. It is simply that in public one should walk with confidence, a confident stride that imparts a sense of direction and self-assertion. It proclaims that one is not an easy victim. It shows that, rather than being absorbed in introspection, the walker is aware of their surroundings and is not about to be taken by surprise. My own feeling is that this is ideally one effect of a cultivated and healthy sense of self and also of awareness of the environment – which is what the first two ‘Intangibles’ in the second article about the Four Intangibles are all about.


  • Walk with a sense of destination.

  • Walk naturally with a swing to your arms.

  • If carrying books or files, do so with them under your arm or at your side – not clutched defensively to your chest. Never walk with your arms folded or held to your chest.

  • As you walk, stand tall. Have a confident carriage with your head lifted, not drooping.

  • Walk with your shoulders naturally back, not hunched.

  • Have a natural stride – neither short steps nor too long.

  • As you walk, display an intelligent awareness and interest in what is going on around you. Look out, not down.

Use of cell phones

The first of the Intangibles is to have a cultivated character. This relates closely to the second, which is attention and awareness. A cultivated character leads us to be interested in the world, with what is going on around us. Particularly in the urban environment there is much which is deliberately designed to distract us. Electronics and social media compete for our attention and lead us to be distracted. Consider how many persist in using a cellphone while driving despite all that research has confirmed about the danger! Consider the number who walk along with their attention diverted into headphones. Consider the pedestrian looking at a cellphone while using a cross walk! The rhythms and noise of advertising and electronic media, both political and commercial, direct us to ends and activities which have nothing to do with our being. They are intended to distract us. Someone who is into a cellphone or headphones while walking is a potential victim, someone who can possibly be surprised and taken advantage of, someone whose sense of defensive self-awareness is momentarily impaired.

Tea Ceremony

Reclaiming our attention, our ability to be aware of our surroundings, is an act of self-liberation from all that distraction. It can give us inner balance and poise. It makes us less likely to be taken by surprise and more likely to be able to act in self-defence. Cultivating a focus on beauty, art, and inner quiet can be an important part of this. Self-cultivation has the effect of enhancing our quality of life. It also can be empowering. One great Japanese lord of the feudal period said that the ultimate art of the samurai was to pay attention to the little things.

Now for the significant observation which I’d like to add ---

The final element in the Intangibles is the psychic ability to move. I have only once had to fight for my life in the last thirty years. What gave me the edge in that moment of encounter was my instinct to move toward the threat. Had I maintained my position or attempted to flee I might well have been killed. Instead, without thought, I moved to meet my attacker. In such a dire circumstance, freezing, flinching or flight can be fatal. The most basic freedom is that of movement. Of course, one should at all times be alert for any possibility to escape. This is particularly so since it is possible for self-defence training to cause unjustified self-confidence. The situation of a woman who has to deal with a larger and more physically powerful person who is under the influence of mind-altering drugs (after all, that’s what adrenaline is!) and intent on doing violence, is not one to be taken lightly. The priority should indeed be avoidance or escape!

But what we are discussing is when that is not possible, when the attack is underway. This is where the fundamentals addressed in The Four Tangibles come into play. In such a situation it is important to fight with an undivided mind, with fury, courage, resolution and absolute commitment. The decision to advance into the attack, rather than to attempt evasion, gives the defender a degree of initiative and can have the effect of putting the attacker on his heels. His attack is predicated upon being able to overcome the intended victim’s efforts at defence. Part of this is to focus on the position the target is in. To be counterattacked is not part of the plan; it compromises his assumptions about range, angle, momentum, and movement.

Remember, the assumption here is that escape is not a meaningful option. In such a circumstance the defender must act not as prey, but predator, and take action to really hurt and possibly injure the offender. The attacker may be impervious to pain. But a broken leg or temporary blindness can have a more decisive effect The four skills of being grounded, moving in, connecting to the assailant and then turning optimize the chances of achieving this. Render him incapable, then run!

An addendum: The pronouns I’ve been using seem to assume that the attacker is male. This may not be the case. Think about this!

The four fighting methods covered in the final article are

1. The parry – preferably in-line (left hand to the attacker's right or vice-versa)

which can lead to

2. the cross-hands exchange.This is the controlling position which enables many following methods, such as throws and locks and

3. the wedge and also

4. the application of rotary force.

Martial arts

Any of these can be enhanced by other methods such as punching, kicking, clawing, screaming, swearing and so forth!

These methods may not come naturally. They are cultivated through instruction and correct practice. This course in itself can constitute a powerful meditation and road to health. There is a wonderful secret in this. It is that the practice of the martial arts can be a path to happiness and enlightenment.

One of my senior students teaches self-defence sessions. He asked one young woman what she wanted to learn from him? Her answer was…to be fearless!

Character, awareness, discipline, will-power, mobility….and fearlessness.

It is quite a package!

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