The First Line Of Defence


Dave Turton 7th Dan Founder & Head of the SDF

The first few seconds and the first few moves in ANY violent or potentially violent situation are the most vital. What does or does not occur here can dictate the whole outcome, in other words, whether you win or lose. The martial arts are full of the types of openings that not only WON'T happen in the street, but actually CAN'T happen in the street.
In my system and teachings, we call this "The Sandwich Theory", by this I mean that nearly every martial system on the planet teaches how to defend against an attack that has actually happened. You know the kind of thing I mean:

"If he grabs you like this you do this defence", "when he steps in to punch, you do this" and so on.

The major problem here in many cases, is that firstly you have already lost some valuable opportunities for a good defence and secondly your defences may not work once a determined attack is already "IN YOUR FACE".

Your priorities are to control the SITUATION, not just the ATTACK. Distance, Time, Space etc are all there to be influenced by YOU not your attacker,,, so use them. Let's now throw in a few methods of controlling these points and then after you read this, think how you can bring these points both into YOUR training and subsequently YOUR defences. More often than not, a fight will have a verbal opening, I admit some attacks, like muggings etc have no verbal: just someone jumping out on you. However, the principles can still apply here, simply you have lost the opportunity to implement some of them. But you still have some left to you...

OK, if you are confronted with a stranger yelling in your face, why argue back with him?
Simply TELL him you don't want trouble, then seek a simple escape route. However, DON'T plead with him or look round in panic for somewhere to run, just walk away looking at him with one hand outstretched in a "Fence", saying something like "Look mate, I don't want any bother, I'm going home" or similar. He then has to decide whether or not to continue his assault on you and you have now increased DISTANCE, TIME and SPACE. You are actually taking some control over the scenario. Because you have not stayed rooted to the spot, arguing with your octave levels going higher, and his blood getting hotter, you have taken some of HIS control away from him. If he comes towards you still shouting the odds the stage two sets in.

Keep moving around a bit, still keeping the "Fence" on him, after all it's harder to hit a moving target. Now make your voice more determined and stronger:

"LOOK, I'VE TOLD YOU (not asked)... BACK OFF... I DON'T WANT TROUBLE... GET AWAY FROM ME". Again using you're own words and continuing to analyse the positions of both you and him. Where are the doors? What's behind you? What can you use to your advantage? Now HE will be finding it harder to get a purchase on you... move side to side a bit, change lead hands in the "Fence" as you do so. DON'T wave your arms around under poor control, simply maintain you're opening posture, but keep it mobile.

Try to read the signs that he is either a BARKING DOG or a BITING DOG, if he is just shouting his mouth off, let him have that very poor victory and try to walk away. If the shouts change to single words and become more menacing, he is probably ready to launch his attack... When it turns violent you MUST do your utmost to get your shot in FIRST.

Don't plan to block his attack, instead hit him. If you are a fraction of a second too late (and it always IS just a fraction), then cover up and grab his head. This way, his punches will not have the impact they would if you were further away and you can start again to gain control.
Remember that although we practice and preach good groundfighting and we also agree 100% with the statement that "50% of fights go to the ground". Don't forget 99% of them START upright!! YES!


OK, in training get your partners to vary their approaches and opening verbal attacks, if you aren't using some verbal openings in your training...
WHY THE BLOODY HELL AREN'T YOU??

Don't just practice, if he grabs you like this or punches you like that defences, instead get your control of the situation EARLIER in the confrontation. DO NOT get into an argument with someone shouting at you, it only fuels his anger. If he is already in that shouting, gesturing, aggressive mode a few pleading words from you won't alter the situation very much.
I could go on and on giving training and real examples of this aspect of your defence skill development but this is best left for actual training sessions.

So I will close with this :

THE EARLIER IN THE CONFRONTATION THAT YOU GAIN CONTROL, THE BETTER. TRY TO CONTROL SPACE, DISTANCE AND TIME FROM YOUR OPPONENT, LOOK FOR ESCAPE ROUTES THAT ALLOW YOU TO GET AWAY SAFELY, NOT "PANIC" ROUTES FOR YOU TO RUN WITHOUT CONTROL.
MAINTAIN AS MUCH VERBAL CONTROL AS YOU CAN WHILST PREPARING FOR HIS ASSAULT, BUT TRY TO KEEP MOBILE WHILST DOING IT. THEN IF OR WHEN HE LAUNCHES HIS ATTACK, TRY TO HIT HIM FIRST, THEN KEEP MAINTAINING CONTROL...

Stay safe.

Dave Turton 7th Dan

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