The 5 principles of physical retaliation: REBOOTED

The 5 Principles of Physical Retaliation AKA “The Shredder”

Once struck, there are generally 5 different reactions a human being will have after getting struck.  The individual who has been struck can react in one or more of these ways.  In no particular order they are:

  1. To create distance.The individual hit will back up and move away to regroup or protect themselves.
  2. To clinch.The individual will close the distance and latch on defensively to the other who hit him.
  3. To counter strike.The individual struck strikes back immediately (with or without a weapon), no quarter given on the counter.
  4. Drops semi or fully unconscious.The individual struck is put out of commission.
  5. Takes the shot, looks at you dead in the eye and replies:“That all you’ve got?”

Knowing and understanding these reactions are imperative in order to have a contingency plan for each and every one of them. If your mind is trained to be prepared and accordingly react to any or a combination of any of these reactions, it will be extremely difficult to be caught off guard and one’s recovery time and natural flow are much quicker and with no hesitation.

Your mind will be ready for whatever outcome and won’t go into the dreaded assumption frame.  One of the worst things one can do is assume.  I’ve always said, the only 2 safe assumptions anyone can make in the face of potential violence is that 1. Your opponent is carrying a concealed weapon and 2. He’s not alone and he’s got friends. That’s it, that’s all.  Any other assumption solidifying a naturally flowing process can impede in your survival.

The key in physical retaliation is your ability to spontaneously improvise your next move based on your attacker’s reaction. Your attacker will always dictate what your next move is going to be based on the 5 possible reactions they will have after you landed your first strike.

The following are the 5 principles of physical retaliation and they are always applicable regardless of what style or system one practices or what the scenario or situation may be. You will even find them applicable in the sporting arena.

Principle # 1.  Economy of motion. 

Musashi said, “Do nothing which is of no use”.  Basically, do not waste energy on unnecessary movement.  There are 2 ways of doing this.

1: Your intended natural weapon, whatever it may be whether it is a jab, kick or submission application should be the initial point of movement prior to any other part of the human body.  If your intended strike is a left jab, then the left fist should be the very first thing to move followed by the rest of the arm, then body.

2: It’s important for you to have a mental and philosophical reason for everything that you do.  Don’t just throw a kick or punch for the sake of throwing it.  Many fighters as they circle each other feeling each other out will unnecessarily throw ‘something’ because nothing has happened yet.  If it is done with reason backed by strategy, then it is fine but a lot of times fighter’s just kick or punch for the sake of it because they are sparring or scenario replicating.

When my students spar, I randomly stop them and ask them why they did what they did in terms of strike or combination, for the most part; they don’t have an answer.  It’s important for the student to understand and know why they are doing what they are doing.  This will economize on wasted motion and help the student strategize consistently while maintaining energy.

Economy of motion also economizes on both mental and physical energy.  Energy is a key factor in survival.  For the most part, stress, fear and the adrenaline dump will cause a mental energy drain which in turn will deplete one of physical energy rather quickly.

Principle # 2.  Non Telegraphic Movement.

Non telegraphic movement ties in directly with economy of motion. This principle basically states not to telegraph your intention to your attacker by making any unnecessary movements or gestures prior to your initial attack.  This includes facial expressions, shift of body weight, shift of eyesight, idiosyncratic movements prior to striking and winding up, etc.

Your attack should be explosive and sudden preferably from a verbal defusing stage where the body language is natural and non-threatening.  If you’re already engaged in the fight and your opponent is still ‘active’ your attack should still be explosive and sudden without any prior movement to initialize it except the intended weapon of choice (whether natural weapon or actual weapon) and the ‘beat’ and ‘rhythm’ should be broken and erratic in nature.

Principle # 3.  Opportunity striking VIA your nearest weapon to your opponent’s nearest available and most damageable target.

This principle dictates you striking without giving your opponent the opportunity to negate, block, jam, parry, slip, evade or counter your strike.  In order to do this you need to strike with (as Bruce Lee prophetically stated in an episode of Long Street) your nearest natural weapon to your opponent’s nearest open or available target.

While doing this, repeat the word “Opportunity” to yourself as you begin your strike to the moment you land your strike.  If you can say the word ‘opportunity’ more than once, chances are your opponent would have had the opportunity to react instinctively in negating your attempt to strike him and you did not use your closest natural weapon to their closest available target.  You should only be able to say the word ‘opportunity’ once at the most by the time you reach your intended target.

This doesn’t mean that your initial strike should be the knockout blow or strike that ends the fight, although that would be ideal, it isn’t always probable. For the most part, in a real violent physical encounter, your first strike may be just a distraction or flinch instigator which will allow you to follow through with a more powerful or terminal (fight ender) strike.

Sometimes, a bite, pinch or spitting in the opponent’s face will cause a momentary enough distraction, which will allow you to capitalize on providing your timing is sharp.  It’s important however, that when you follow up after your initial strike, you do so on the using the shortest possible time frame between your strikes so that your opponent doesn’t have the time to react and negate your follow up strike.

(This principle is demonstrated and instructed in full detail in our Surviving the Streets & Tool and Target DVDs available for purchase via the shop section)

Principle # 4. Primary Targets.

In a real fight, you need to end it as quickly as possible.  In order to do that, you have to debilitate your opponent.  However, it is necessary to judge whether the situation is a maximum potential for violence (life or death situation) or minimum potential for violence and whether or not your opponent is a good guy having a bad day or genuinely an asshole, as everyone can have an off day.

A maximum potential for violence situation requires use of extreme force.  The primary targets on the human body that will debilitate any attacker regardless of size or level of impairment, are the eyes and throat.  As human beings, we have the innate instinct to protect our eyes and windpipe. If your opponent can’t see, he can’t fight, if he can’t breathe, he can’t fight.   It’s really that simple. Even if he doesn’t feel the pain, if he can’t see, he’s gotta find you to reach you and hurt you. You can play Marco Polo with that mother fucker all day. If he can’t breathe, he’s only got so long to go before he succumbs to lack of oxygen.

The rest of the human body is secondary.  There are no other specific targets as there are nerve clusters everywhere on the human body.  Striking the groin, the sides of the biceps or the shin will all cause a flinch response creating another opening allowing for an immediate follow up strike if necessary.  Strike as many places and as often as necessary in order to reach the eyes and throat and debilitate your opponent.

If your opponent has been debilitated without you having to have struck his eyes and/or throat, then all the more power to you; however, if your opponent is drug or alcohol induced or if he has a high threshold of pain or if he’s emotionally disturbed or hell, all of the above; then chances are, if you haven’t struck his eyes or throat in order to cause him to reflexively protect himself, he’ll most probably keep coming at you.

Principle # 5.  Tactile Sensitivity.

Tactile sensitivity is the ability to interpret your opponent’s energy through the sense of touch. The majority of fights will start at the close quarter range also often referred to as the trapping range.  Dialogue and communication will allow for an attacker to get in the close quarter range without necessarily having to strike you yet.  This is where the assailant has access to lapel grabs, strangulations, shoves, tackles, headlocks, static knife threats and attacks, intimidation tactics and more via sudden ambush.  If the fight is not dealt with at this range it might well lead to the ground or possible stabbing.

Tactile sensitivity is applied the second you and your opponent have come into physical contact together.  At the close quarter, ground fighting and in close body to body boxing range the hand is much, much quicker than the eye.  If your opponent decides to pull a knife out of his belt or back pocket while in the clinch, you will not be able to see it but you will be able to feel and read his body language shift through the sense of touch.

There are countless drills that help develop the tactile senses and freestyle grappling on its own is a phenomenal way of doing so as you are constantly trying to interpret your opponent’s next move through the body to body contact. However pure grappling doesn’t offer the benefits of defending against strikes and weapons which should be added into all tactile sensitivity drilling if self defense is the primary concern.

A good tactile sense will allow one to defend oneself better at the close quarter and ground fighting ranges.  You’ll be able to feel and intercept an oncoming attack as it develops.

There’s a story of a Tai Chi master whose tactile sensitivity was so developed that he had a butterfly in his hand try and fly away and he followed it with his hand until his arm could no longer extend upwards as the butterfly finally flew off it.

The 5 principles of physical retaliation are always applicable regardless of the situation or scenario or tools of choice once things have gotten physical.  They require proper training and mental blueprinting.  Once they are acquired however, they become unforgettable and imperishable skills, like riding a bike and applicable to all martial arts styles or systems.

Train intelligently and diligently.

Rich Dimitri