Thursday, March 19, 2009

Foiling Surprise Attacks With Footwork

By Matthew Schafer

Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

Regardless of where you live or what circles you travel in, most attacks occur by surprise. If someone is going to attack you they're not going to slap you across the face with a glove, state that they demand satisfaction, and then put their hands up and start dancing. What is far more likely to happen is that an attacker jumps you from behind. What I'm going to go over in this article is two simple maneuvers that will allow you to thwart common surprise attacks.

The first common surprise attack is widely used by criminals and is known as "bait and switch" as well as several other names. The way this is done is an attacker will walk up to you from the front and try to distract you by either asking for something or by becoming aggressive. While the first attacker is distracting you another attacker(s) comes up behind you and either attacks you from behind or holds you so the first attacker and repeatedly strike you. This method works very well because few people see it coming.

The best way to counter this is to not stop when the first attacker trys to distract you. When you see him you can simply change directions and walk across the street or start running and push past him. If you cannot do that, when you see someone come up to you from the front you should immediately assume a second individual is present and turn and look for him. It is how you turn and look at them that is important.

When you see the first attacker come up to you, you should first look and see where his hands are to see if he is making fists, cupping his hands (concealing a weapon), has his hand in a pocket, has one of his hands behind his back, or has one arm held stiff while the other one swings naturally. All of these things are signs that he has a weapon and dark intentions. Next you want to make sure that you have some distance between the two of you. Try to keep at least 6 feet between you and him. Don't be afraid to become aggressive if he attempts to encroach upon your space.

After that, scan the area in front of you, at least 180 degrees, for an accomplice. Then take a big step to the left or right (preferably towards a wall) and turn to the side while keeping your eyes on him. For the purposes of this article lets say that you have a building on your right side so you took a big step to your right and then turned 90 degrees counter-clockwise so you're standing with him in front of you and on your rights side. Now just turn your head to the left and scan the area behind you for an accomplice. Done this way you can look around you 360 degrees without ever turning your back on a potential attacker.

If possible try to keep moving. Look around and clear the 180 degrees in front of you, then take your big step to the side, turn counter-clockwise and then keep walking backwards as you scan around you. can just run like hell.

I'm a big fan of pretending to have a weapon. While I always carry pepper spray and I'm prepared to use it, on many occasions I've looked someone right in the eye while putting my right hand on my hip as if I'm placing my hand on a concealed firearm. There have been a few occasions where someone appeared threatening so I've locked eye contact with them, put my hand on my fake gun, then circled to the other side of him, without breaking eye contact, and slowly backed away. I don't really consider this bluffing because I had pepper spray in my left hand (the one they're not paying attention to) and if they would have so much as took a step towards me or put their hand in their pocket they would have gotten a face full of OC.

The second method of surprise attacks that people commonly use is to tap you on the shoulder then punch you when you turn. This happens quite a bit in bars but it is also prevalent in other areas. To thwart this you never turn around when someone taps you on the shoulder. If you feel someone tap you on your shoulder you should take two steps forewords first and then turn. That way if someone does try to sucker punch you they'll miss. I prefer to raise my arm as I turn just in case they came forwards with me. So if I turned to the right I would rise my right arm and scratch my cheek or cover my mouth or do some other natural movement. To someone watching it would look like I just burped and was covering my mouth to be polite when if actuality I'm getting my arm up so I can put my elbow into an oncoming attack.

If you cannot step forwards when someone taps you then you should always turn with your arm raised as describe above. Or if someone grabs your shoulder and spins you I'd bring my arm up and then step right in to them, preferably with my foot going between their feet and behind them. Anytime someone taps you be prepared for the sucker punch.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Popular Self-Defense Misconception

By Matthew Schafer

Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

In teaching self-defense professionally, a lot of people talk to me about various self-defense teachings and try to get my take on them. One that is commonly brought up is whether it is a good idea to use your keys as weapons. This little self-defense technique has penetrated our culture so thoroughly that nearly everyone I talk to has heard of it. Often women tell me that when they walk to their cars they'll put their keys through their fingers just in case someone tried to mug them, and usually when they tell me this I get the feeling that they're looking for some type of "at-a-boy" from me. This issue of using keys as weapons is brought up so much that it is not uncommon for me to talk about it every week.

While punching someone with a fist full of keys is a popular teaching it is not one I advise. Show me someone who thinks that it is a good idea and I'll show you someone who's never punched something hard with keys in their fist. There are 5 reasons why this is not a good idea and they are as follows.

1.) Its just wasted effort. If you are close enough to an attacker to punch them with keys then you're close enough to do something more effective. If you jam keys into someone it will hurt but if it doesn't damage something necessary to the functioning of the body it probably won't stop them. On the other hand, if you tear open their eyes, rupture their eardrum, crush their throat, pinch the nerves in their spinal cord, tear their knee, etc., then you've disrupted the functioning of the body and your attacker is momentarily disabled.

2.) You’re punching someone. Everyone focuses on the part about the keys but they always seem to forget the part where they have to punch their attacker. Unless you're properly trained and have conditioned your body to not only throw a punch but drive your fist through a target then you're probably going to break your hand or wrist. Most of the people who want to use their keys as weapons are "regular people", not trained martial artists and don’t have the ability to punch someone without injuring themselves. They may punch someone with keys and the attacker might yell "Oww" and even bleed a little but they may be on the ground screaming in pain because they've just torn the ligaments in their wrist. Unless you've conditioned your body to punch something hard you should forget about all punching attacks.

3.) The keys are not going to sink into your attacker's body like razor sharp knives. People seem to think that their keys will stab into their attacker but in reality they are going to jam back into your hand, slide around, and might even twist. If the keys jam back into your hand they could cause your wrist to weaken and bend resulting in a sprained wrist. If on impact the keys slide up by your knuckles then now you're punching your keys. Those thin pieces of metal pressing in between your knuckles could hit nerves that cause your hand to weaken and now you'll most likely break your hand or wrist. Finally, if on impact the keys twist then they could rip the skin of your fingers, damage your nerves, or dislocate/break your fingers.

Try this: wrap an old coat around a punching bag and then lightly punch into it with keys in between your fingers. Do that a couple of times and I don’t' think that you'll want to use that technique against an attacker.

4.) You could damage or drop your keys and be unable to escape into your car or house.

5.) If you do use your keys to defend yourself then guess what, all those keys (car key, house key, work key, etc.) are now evidence and are going to sit in an evidence locker for months or even years. If you do decide to use your keys as weapons then you'd better make copies!

Instead of using your keys why not use pepper spray? I carry pepper spray almost everywhere I go, it is reliable (providing you know how to use it), cheap, can be used at a safe distance, can be used on multiple attackers, and is non-lethal. If you punch someone in the face with your keys you could maim, disfigure, or blind them and if you hit them in the throat you could possibly kill them, and either could cause you to wind up in court. Using keys is messy, unreliable, dangerous to you, and legally I wouldn't ever advise it. If you hit someone with a fist full of keys then a case could be made that you intended to kill the other person but with pepper spray that argument can't be made.

Improvised weapons are great but not everything should be used as a weapon. So please, don’t use your keys. Instead spend a few bucks and buy some pepper spray.