By Bradley J. Steiner, American Combato
Action is always faster than reaction. That is a law that must be understood by every student of self-defense and close combat. It becomes especially important when training in the martial arts of Asia, where “never make the first move” and “karate begins and ends with blocking” dominates the tactical orientation of the programs.
Because we train solely for self-defense (except in cases where military persons are trained by us for war) we do not start trouble. Our motive and our purpose remains defense.
However, an efficient defense is always based upon and rooted in offense; specifically offensive reaction to an enemy’s or an attacker’s offensive against us. We first noted and publicized this way back in the very early 1970’s when we coined the admonition “When attacked, attack the attacker!”
Although this has caught on with a fairly large number of “instructors” since (who have touted it as being their own personal expression) very, very few truly understand the implications of this philosophy of self-defense, and how it must be applied in training.
In self-defense it is always the aggressor who makes the literal “first move”. This may be in the way of a very convincing verbal threat, followed by a sudden hand movement or body action; it could be when one or more obvious troublemakers block your exit and prevent you from leaving; it could be when someone initiates an obvious assault, moving on you, not yet making violent contact, but by his demeanor absolutely convincing you of his harmful intent.
Then again it could be much more flagrant. Like a punk assuming a fighting stance within conversational distance of you, and addressing you aggressively. Or some lout making a clear attempt to punch you or kick you; or make a grab for your clothing or limb, etc.; or some invader attempting to force his way into your home.
No matter what specific form any attack against you may take, there are only two possibilities:
- You will see and be aware of it coming, or
- You will not be aware of it until, for instance, you are seized from behind, kicked, punched, or otherwise violated.
The ideal defense when you are aware of the onslaught is to preempt it, forthwith. Blast into the attacker as he initiates his first move indicating danger to you, and neutralize him. The ideal defense when you have been caught off guard is to go into action as soon as you possibly can, usually attacking your enemy fiercely, and sometimes (as in the case of a seriously-applied chokehold against you) first defeating the enemy’s initial movement and then attacking him without mercy.
There will always be a gap between the moment the attack against you begins (whether you are aware of it or not) and the moment that you go into your preemptive or counterattacking reaction. Effective training in individual combat and defense must strive to minimize that gap until one’s preemptive or counterattacking action occurs with the barest minimum of time delay.
Please re-read that last sentence.
The concept conveyed is vital to your being able to maximize your ability to defend yourself. Yes, we are aware that our advocacy challenges the karate concept that defense properly “begins and ends with blocking.”
Yes, the urging to “never make the first move” which many ju-jutsu systems teach is not acceptable to us. And we insist that its literal acceptance by students of self-defense can be suicidal.
Training in accordance with proper close combat tactics will avoid urging that a defender assume a “fighting stance” per se. Rather, a READY stance—a position of non-telegraphing preparedness to attack—must be mastered.
Blocking is not a desirable (although it may sometimes be a necessary) first move against an attacker. By far, preemption makes more sense! Breaking holds such as wrist, arm, clothing, collar, and belt grabs rarely makes any sense. Too slow. Too ineffective. Instead, when seized in a manner where the grab imposed is not injurious or threatening, react with an immediate attack using whatever is available that has not been grabbed, to devastate the assailant.
For example: Just about any wrist grab (single or double) can be defended against instantly and reliably by kicking the opponent in the testicles, breaking his knee with a stomping kick, head butting him in the face, chin-jabbing him, or chopping him across the carotid artery with a handaxe blow.
In case the softy in you is saying “That’s too severe a reaction against a mere grab of the kind you describe!” mark this, and mark it well: There is no way to tell what the intention of the attacker is. Shootings, stabbings, kidnaps, rapes, serious beatings, and jaw-breaking punches will inevitably follow any grab or seizure by any serious assailant.
DO NOT LET IT GET TO THAT! CLOSE THE GAP! Go after anyone who moves in to violate you by destroying his entire goddamn day! Blast him with the kitchen sink, as it were, and you will prevent what starts out as a manageable attack from escalating into what could be your murder!
Forget about grappling and wrestling and sparring with the sonofabitch who sees you as grist for his mill. Strike him! Strike fast, furiously, repeatedly, and with blows that knockout and maim… no sporting punches.
Remember something else about proper combat techniques: IT IS MUCH EASIER TO SUCCESSFULLY JAB INTO A MAN’S EYES, STRIKE HIS NECK OR THROAT, OR BREAK HIS KNEE THAN IT IS TO ATTEMPT TO HOLD OR TO THROW HIM. BLOWS HIT INSTANTLY AND INTERFERE WITH THE ENEMY’S CONSCIOUS PERCEPTIONS; HOLDS ONLY ALERT HIM AND GIVE HIM THE CHANCE TO STRIKE YOU!
Heed what we say here, please. If the time ever comes when you need to do it for real, you will find that what we advocate really does work! Leave the barest, minimal gap between any attacker’s move, and your own devastating act of self-defense.