At what level of ‘Self Defense’ will you settle?

Scan_20140611_122142What do you train for? Speaking of course, from a self defense, personal protection and self preservation perspective.  I ask this because I notice people train differently and seemingly for differing kinds of circumstances and situational predicaments I can only assume are based on their lifestyles and concerns within.

Some focus mainly on the physical aspects, which that alone encompases such a wide array of possibilities from dealing with the environment and clothing one is wearing to the actual physical responses used, it creates it's own set of questions for example; what, in one's seemingly normal lifestyle, would make them dedicate a large percentage of their training time perfecting their punching skills?

Now this is not a judgment call at all, it could be that the individual in question happens to be a gifted boxer and the level of violence they have been exposed to in their lifetime consists of basic road rage or alcohol based incidents and that their punching skills have come in handy on more than one occasion under these circumstances and therefor focuses their personal defense training mainly as such.

Compare that to the individual who is seemingly obsessed with firearms being the first and foremost training method of self protection they engage in who maybe lives in a more violent neighborhood and has perhaps lost an acquaintance or friend in gang related issues.

Then there are those who spend a large portion of their training on the mental side, training the mind as it were, to be the primary weapon.  The mental aspect is just as extensive and diversified as the physical ranging from working verbal defusing skills to tone down the average aggressor and managing one's fear to having themselves waterboarded in case captured and tortured by their perceived enemas. Enemies. I meant 'enemies'.

But then there are those of course, who are overtly paranoid and are out there literally training for the Zombie Terrorist Apocalypse while they are living in first world white suburbia.

The question here is, without judgment but simply out of curiosity; what are you training for? And if you have a family, are they equally as trained? To paraphrase the immortal Brandon Lee, at what level of self defense will you settle?

Fighting or Self Defense?!?

Fighting or Self Defense?

Is it better to strike with a closed fist or an open hand? Are kicks useful for self defense? What about high ones? Can pure grappling be applied in a real fight? Is this move/technique/combo/strike/submission effective/efficient? Is this art/style/system good for self defense? Should the knock-out blow be the primary concern? Does a kick to the nut-sack work?

There are endless debates to these questions and countless more. The reality is, there is no right or correct answer to fit any collective mold as each individual human being differs greatly in critical enough areas to make any definitive response only a half truth.

The problem arises when teaching a group of varied people with too many differences to enumerate including but not limited to: past experiences, training or lack thereof, attitude, size, weight, height, age, strengths, weaknesses, daily routines, jobs etc. the list goes on and on.

How do these things come into play? Well, a 6 foot 4 inch, 240 pound athletic, 28 year old male who works as a bouncer and a 5 foot 2 inch, 105 pound grandmother suffering from mild arthritis will require either 2 very different sets of tools, each fitting the individual’s state of being and abilities; or, a generic approach to self defense using strategies, tactics and tools that even a 105 lbs grandmum can effectively apply.

Now if you come from the school of thought that a grandmother, woman, child or disabled person cannot efficiently learn how to protect themselves, then please allow me to offer the suggestion that whatever style or system you are learning or teaching is not a suitable one for self protection.  Why? Because simply stated, it’s the elderly, women, children, the disabled and those that are viewed of as weak in society that are generally victimized.  If what you are teaching isn’t adaptable to those that need it most, then what you are teaching is fighting, or the more macho term that gets all the tough guy wannabes out there a hard on, “combat” and not self defense.

And there is a difference. A boxing knockout punch could arguably be very effective for the 250 pound bouncer as a self protection tool but may not be the most suitable for the grandmother with mild arthritis; however, the open handed palm strike would work equally as well for both. See what I am getting at here?

A rear naked choke may work for most adults, male and female included as a valid self defense tool, absolutely, and I’ve used it myself on more than one occasion, but an average 5 or 6 year old child couldn’t efficiently use it to render a determined adult unconscious if they managed to get behind their attacker. A savage ripping and tearing to the face attacking the eyes and throat while latching on to the head however would work for both parties here. Bonus to the adults for also having the choke as an added tool to their arsenal however.

Always been a fan of the ‘smoke em if you’ve got em’ adage, if you possess certain tools that you can work, don’t get rid of em, just add other tools to your arsenal and allow the most logical and natural of choices to YOU manifest themselves as they do. Don’t forget the ‘acid test’; in the end, you absolutely must test your skills in a well replicated scenario with proper protective equipment (best on the market today is Spartan Gear hands down) and apply them in real time/real speed, no consent situations.

Certain people can make pure Tae Kwon Do work in a multiple attacker armed attacker situation, while others have used boxing, grappling, karate, name the art or system here, successfully as well and on more than one occasion. If YOU can knock someone out with a single blow or can kick 2 people in the face without putting your foot on the ground in between, or if you can submit Brock Lesner with a pinkie twinkle, then all the more power to you and by all means, keep doing so but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your skills are directly transferable to another..

I personally live by a very simple rule when teaching self defense; if my 67 year old 5 foot mother can’t do it, then it isn’t a self defense tool/concept/move, it’s a fighting/combative one. No matter how long my mother would train for in boxing today and regardless of who her legendary boxing coach could be, she will never be able to knock out a 230 pound coked up rapist attacking her, but she would more than certainly be able to tactically position him using behavioral strategies to lure him into a vulnerable enough zone and moment where she could debilitate him with eyes and throat attacks long enough to successfully get away. Same could be said for a child defending themselves against an adult.

And also simply stated, if these tools and tactics are functional for those that are deemed vulnerable in society, then they are equally and even more dangerous in the hands of those capable of using the more combative and athletic based tools if; and that’s a big fucking if, they can get their egos in check and realize that we don’t force fit a system/style/art to an individual, but instead, we modify the system to suit the particular individual and their needs.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who thinks or believes what’s best for you but YOU. Taking someone’s opinion on something as serious as self defense or whatnot without first and foremost researching and sampling things for yourself to see what suits your sense of everything most is limiting and self oppressing; and to think that once you’ve discovered what’s best for you, is also automatically best for everyone else if fucking myopic and egotistical to say the least.

Do some shit.




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


Welfare on Ego

The following incident occurred on June 26, 2009 and I wrote about it as soon as I got home. What this incident perfectly illustrates is that self defense encompasses and deals with much, much more than a physical defensive response; it requires enhanced awareness, the ability to spontaneously improvise moment to moment as a situation unfolds and to strategize under pressure while manifesting the tactical applications of one's chosen strategy. The ability to decipher the kind of individual(s) you are dealing with can be determined by various factors from environment to time of day/night, and can greatly enhance one's chances in interrupting and shifting a potential shit storm simply via proper choice speech and a solid communicative delivery system. That said, here's a great example of what I am talking about.

An odd thing happened walking my dog just now
23695_394700276160_1035191_nI’m walking through the park as I frequently do with my dog, usually at hours where people are either working or having dinner, or long lost in their slumbering dream worlds, suffice it to say, it’s pretty empty when we stroll.

Today however, there was what seemed to be a young father (could have been older brother but by the tone he was taking, it was most likely his dad) ‘coaching’ his little boy in soccer (football for our European friends) in what sounded like Russian.

As I was taking my stroll, I could hear him coaching the kid pretty loudly and what some would perceive as a curt, and possibly even rough and condescending tone of voice. As I watched the child play, he didn't seem to mind, he didn't look stressed about it, as a matter of fact, he honestly looked like he was having the time of his life kicking the ball with his dad, so I personally paid no attention to it and continued my walk.As we got further towards an almost different section of the park, I could now hear other voices getting louder as well, these were English Canadian voices I heard and the louder they got, the more I could make them out.

“Listen to this man talk to his kid! Hey, why don’t you learn how to communicate you cantankerous sonofabitch!!!!”I’m thinking to myself, “Cantankerous?” who the fuck uses “Cantankerous?” when their picking a fight and more importantly, what the hell does it mean? At this point, I began walking towards the 3, which later turned into 5, thinking to myself “Mind your business brother, this isn’t your business, just turn around and let it be…” and before I could finish that thought, I was within a few yards from them.

So the coach dad replies in English and with a heavy (we’ll call it Russian) accent, “Mind your business, this is my boy.” To which the other dude, who looked Hispanic but I could be wrong, yells back, “Go the fuck back to your country!” as he turns and walks away with incredibly condescending and dismissive body language.

The dad yells back “This is my country you stupid fu…” to which he all of a sudden realizes his son is right there watching so he stops himself from continuing his sentence but finishes with “…why don’t you go back to yours!”It’s funny to watch what began as apparent concern for a child’s well-being turn into a political, cultural and racial situation unfolding right in front of me. What’s even funnier, is that here we have 2 individual’s clearly of differing nationalities to that of the country they are living in which is not even 150 years old as Canada was established as a self governing country on July 1st, 1867 and was inhabited by Native American Indians.

The irony of this incredibly ignorant confrontation unfolding in front of me for absolutely nothing substantial was about to turn into a nightmare for what initially was the 7 or 8 year old boy's welfare.So as I’m getting closer, the Hispanic fellow turns back, chest puffed out & yelling “What did you just say to me mother fucker?!?!” It was like someone had turned the on switch man… he went from passive aggressive and walking away, to instantly turning around and streamlining towards the dad AND…. right behind him coming out of a nearby backyard where he must have originated from himself, 2 other Hispanic looking fellas bee lining behind him.

Well, my heart raced… I ran with my dog, who seemed ecstatic at this point, probably thinking we’re playing or chasing something, towards the guys yelling "Yo! Yo!" to get everyone’s attention thinking what the hell do I say now? As I got there, everyone looked at me and I directly addressed the first individual saying “Hey man, take a look at his little boy's face” were the first words that came out of my mouth as I exhaled from my run and nerves going haywire, to which everyone there stopped and looked; and there was this kid in his soccer outfit standing there, not exactly crying, but looking like he’s been on the verge for the last hour or so but biting his tongue with perseverance and determination to hold it back and look strong.

The brother stopped, looked at me and then said, “Some people oughta know when to keep their mouth shut.” as he began walking away with his 2 friends. The dad, still trying to save face yells back “That is right!” as he grabs his kid by the hand, but the Hispanic fella turns right back around saying “That’s it!” and storms in only to find me right in front of his face stopping him dead in his tracks.

I smiled at him and said, “It’s a pretty nice Friday evening brother, and initially, it was his kid you were concerned about right? Try not to lose sight of that dude… if you beat his dad down in front of him, you’ll do a thousand times more damage to that kid than his dad ever could coaching him through a thousand games…” hoping it would end and wouldn't get violent….For an instant, it could have gone either way honestly… my entire body, physiology, biology and everything that ends with an ‘ogy’ was preparing to drop him where he stood if he even so much as flinched the wrong way, I knew exactly where his friends were, how close he was and which direction to go if it was to go down…

He walked away dismissing me, signalling his buddies to go with him yelling, “You’re lucky this guy was here to save your ass in front of your boy!” As I turned to face the dad, hoping he keeps his mouth shut, which he finally did. I approached him and got nicely told off. “Next time you mind your business!” and he picks up his kid and storms off…

Ahhh… an early evening walk at the park in the suburbs of the south shore Montreal.

This just happened, moments before I wrote this up, I figured I’d get home right away and type it out, as it is still fresh in my mind. This had a nasty potential. And thankfully, it ended well and without anyone getting hurt or anyone having to pre-empt anyone.

I have to say, it crossed my mind taking the guy out on my way running there, as he was determined at this point, both times actually, to seriously hurt the kid's dad. I also kept thinking about that kid and how witnessing any kind of violence at this stage in his life would serve him, he sincerely didn't need that. Then there was my dog, though once the situation remained verbal after I got there it became easier to deal with, had I had to strike earlier, she would have been much harder to deal with.

The predominant factor in this entire confrontation had nothing to do with the kid, nothing to even do with loyalty to any country. It was 2 human beings suffering from the worldwide epidemic of the “anger” virus, which plagues so much of humanity.

No, it wasn't even personal as we probably all met for the first and last time today and it wasn't cultural either. It was the side effect of personal and usually un-dealt with issues that lead to anger we all bottle inside. This was 2 individual’s demons clashing, blinded by their egos, completely neglectful to the innocent child standing amongst them, creating the possible consequences of what was to become, irreversible actions. We are indeed our own worst enemies.
I was able to reach this guy thru his anger somehow with my words. Maybe this guy had a little brother; maybe something triggered a past memory for him. Maybe he didn't want to do it at all and simply got caught in the proverbial game and found himself too egotistically invested in the matter to back down, who knows? But it stopped him in his tracks twice & no one got hurt.

Not the most exciting story to read about in terms of action or cool moves or how I defeated 3 armed men or anything… but hopefully you were able to gain something from this. John Lennon said it best when he said, “All we are saying is, give Peace a chance.”