Self-defense and the first attack
A sample context:
- We are in the middle of a quarrel (read Self Defense: 10 Things to avoid in a quarrel)
- We have already tried to apply the first steps of the 6 Dragons Kung Fu’s S.A.F.E. method for self-defense (read Personal defense: the S.A.F.E. method)
- The situation is likely to degenerate into a physical clash (read Self defense: 10 correct attitudes during a quarrel) without weapons (this is a particular case that we will discuss separately)
- We are at close distance and managing our safety is becoming incrementally difficult (especially if we are not skilled fighters)
We must at the same time:
- Do not attack first – Avoid being the first to attack (both for ethical both for legal reasons, read Best martial arts for self-defense)
- Do not force who is in front of us to attack – Avoid that who is threatening us (or whoever is with us) feels obliged to attack
- Remain calm and confident – Avoid, on the other side, to appear frightened
- Stay focused – We must not lose sight of the possible non-violent options to put an end to the dispute (even when the physical contact has already started)
- Be ready to react instantaneously – Prepare a defense and / or a counterattack without appearing aggressive
Manage the first attack: what we can expect
Some of the most common and dangerous attacks
Unfortunately, since we are not the ones trying to act first, we must forcibly wait for the start of the offensive action; this kind of “courtesy” involves the high risk to suffer (at least) an attack.
Let’s see a few examples:
- In the most “fortuitous” hypothesis, a thrust or a grasp (of our chest, limbs, etc.)
- Less fortuitously a punch in the face (direct, hook, etc.)
- Less likely a kick, a kneeing or a throw (in this case, the aggressor should be a martial arts practitioner)
- In the worst case a combined series of combat techniques (typical of an expert fighter)
The risks to which we are exposed
It is clear that not knowing who we are dealing with, only our experience can suggest us what is going to happen (read The signals that precede an attack: introduction), however, generally, what we really need to avoid is:
- A blow to the neck / head – Especially if we are not conditioned, to suffer such kind of attack, can be extremely dangerous (we can be dazed, fall unconscious and even endanger our life)
- A blow to the genitals – Given in the right way it can make us fall to the ground in the grip of a sharp pain that, at best, will start to become bearable after 15-60 seconds (a time that during a fight is absolutely intolerable)
- A blow to the ribs – If we are no longer used to it (read also Conditioning check for the impact), being hit in that body part, can cause intense pain and in the case of breaking / cracking of the floating ribs, fighting will become extremely difficult and painful (if not impossible)
- A blow to the knee – One of the easiest part to damage of our legs is the knee; without one of them, our mobility become severely impaired (not only we are slow and predictable but above all, we lose the possibility of a quick escape, read )
- A bad falling – For those who are not experts in the fight, one of the biggest risks is losing the balance or being thrown to the ground; in improvised fighting scenarios it is very easy for the ground to be uneven and full of obstacles
A note by Master Kongling – In reality, anything can happen in a fight (there are myriad techniques and thousands of possible targets) but in most cases, these are the most important threats we must take care of.
Manage the first attack: how to behave
Let’s see now a few solutions to parry, block, avoid or dodge the opponents’ action:
- Genitals – It is “enough” to assume an “anonymous” 3/4 coverage stance that allows our knee / thigh to intercept the lines of attack (read Which guard stance choose); the idea is to cover the paths that directly and easily connect the limbs of the aggressors to that area
- Neck / head – In this case the arms must be already up, otherwise, we will never be fast enough to activate it at the last instant (especially if the aggressor is not a novice that, for example, loads a hook punch starting from far away)
- Ribs – Within a correct guard stance, the elbows cab be used to protect the ribs; when the adversary can reach them, it is necessary to keep the elbows attached to the body as a cover
- Knee – The knees must never be at 100% of their opening (otherwise they can be easily broken); they must be always bent and ready to move; the idea is to always offer the strong part as impact point of the blows (eg. a dangerous lateral blow to our knee can turn into a breaking of the opponent’s foot if we move with the right timing)
- Falling – For a beginner the best thing is to maintain the weight forward and a wide low stance (read Kung Fu rooting: the pyramid concept); in the meaning time it would be a good thing to learn the 3 basic controlled falling (read Everything you should know about breakfalls)
In a few words, to avoid to be the vicitim of the opponents’ attack, the solutions are:
- A good guard stance – We must be ready to cash out shocks in the least harmful possible way
- A good management of the space – We shoud try to use our movement and our guard to maintain the potential aggressors out of our reach (eg. with a pacific open hand in front of us ready to stop or push)
The “hidden” guards
To do not force our potential aggressor to attack, what we can do is to activate one of the so-called “secret guards” of 6 Dragons Kung Fu (read A self-defense trick: the secret guard stances):
- Hands on the nose / cheeks / mouth / forehead (in a natural way)
- Hands behind our head (ready to rotate, cover, etc.)
- Discursive hands (pacific, open and mobile in front of our mouth / chest)
This way we have an “innocent” but active / effective guard and we do not look too much bellicose (the arrangement of the rest of the body is less susceptible of aggressivity and can be more similar to the one of a real combat guard).
When and how can we legitimately attack?
A note by Master Kongling – Important: the law varies from country to country and it is the responsibility of a good practitioner to know it in detail. Do not trust me: study and / or ask a lawyer.
In general, we can say that (in the absence of law enforcement officials able to defend us) it is legitimate to counterattack:
- When the aggressor has initiated an action (eg. a punch, a constriction, etc.) that inevitably is distinguishable as a violent act (read The best way to hit first: a little trick)
- When the aggressors touch us and invade our private space (read Ideal distance from the opponent during a fight)
- When the aggressor has already attacked other persons
- When the aggressor is starting an action that, even if not directly violent, will certainly cause damage to us or the others
- When the opponent directly threatens us embracing a weapon that makes clearly asymmetrical the combat (not allowing us to escape)
- When the opponents that are violating our private space (not allowing us to escape) are multiple (read Forget everything you know about multiple opponents fighing)
A few conclusive thoughts:
- About the legitimate attacks, it is important to stress that, in almost all the other cases, we risk to be pursued by the law due to over-defense
- In any case, it is always better to try to have one or more witnesses of the event (when possible); if we are alone with the aggressor it is simply our word against his
- It is useless to say that to do most of the things we have mentioned here, it is fundamental a serious daily training (read How to start practicing from scratch)
In terms of personal defense, we also try to quickly recognize (through some clues) the probable / possible type of opponent we are facing.
In the next articles we will look at how to evaluate the danger level (general training and technical preparation) of the aggressors we are facing, read Recognize the opponent’s preparation level).
In-depth video courses
- Basic free hand fighting techniques – The most simple but effective techniques of our style
- Chin Na: Principles and Learning – A video course about the learning of the most complex techniques of Kung Fu
- Why martial arts do not work: 5 reasons – What can make a martial art ineffective in self-defense
- 12 tips on how to survive in a brawl – A few ideas about how to behave during a brawl
Reply in the comments and share your experience:
- Have you ever been attacked by surprise?
Author: Master Kongling
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