Friday, May 17, 2019

Against One Who Scares Us by Badger Johnson

The Predator Who Scares Us

One of the more interesting comments made by a person in the original Usenet group rec.martial.arts, allegedly female MA-ist is this, regarding use of self-defense methods and tools:

…against the person who scares me…

All too often we see demonstrations by compliant people, sometimes by a person with a partner who is female or much smaller than they are, or just another student in their class.

Sparring vs fighting for your life
While sparring, in a class we are just playing a game with a fellow student, exchanging moves, almost taking turns.

Though in tournaments it’s different, generally you are matched with someone of similar if not equal skill, and you are trying to ‘score points’. Of course, modern MMA and sub-grappling tournaments the action is faster, somewhat more dangerous. Participants have higher skill and to the layperson seem quite above their ability.

Who Actually Needs Self-defense Training?
Let’s talk about actual self-defense. We sometimes see very large, burly, 6’3”+ people giving a demo, and giving opinions on what to do. But in truth, the people who need self-defense are smaller, female, younger, the elderly, or even the partially disabled.

A technique should be comprised of “non-attribute-based methods”, which a less physically endowed can use. In some cases it should be admitted that for a 5’5” female (or smaller person) to attempt to use a physical move in hand-to-hand is not going to be successful. In that case the smaller female needs to have a force multiplier, such as a weapon or even a firearm, or perhaps a partner who might also be armed.

Compliant Demonstration Partners
When a demo is shown it should not be done with a compliant partner, but, if possible with a person who is actually a threat against the person showing the technique. Now, this is not always possible as there are some very large and muscular persons who lead martial arts schools (such as Mas Oyama, Bruce Lee or Rickson Gracie). In that event the demo is going to be misleading. Those adepts can make the simplest move effective. Compared to them every opponent is essentially unskilled. Thus following their example, what is sometimes called the ‘Founder Problem’, is sometimes less helpful for the normal person.

Attributes and abilities
Let’s look at attributes and abilities. Sometimes people talk about being able to use martial arts or self-defense moves against another person who they might claim is untrained in them. But it does not address the skills that an actual predator may possess. A true predator is someone who has significant experience using force and persuasion on another person and has a long history of success. Experience, you could say, is the ultimate teacher.

The Untrained, But High Attribute Athlete
If you consider a person who is untrained in martial arts but who is a professional athlete in another sport, for example a running back in a pro-football league, who routinely goes up against other players who are wearing pads and helmets, essentially body armor, and who are using steroids or other performance enhancing substances, you get a real sense as to just how ineffective a physical move might be against such a person who is physically attacking someone.

Could the typical martial artist (non-professional) use a grab release or a throw against such a person who was determined to defeat them? Why don’t people we see doing demos bring in such a person to show their moves against? Why wouldn’t Wing Chun players get a college level grappler to come in and let them show their ‘anti-grappling’ moves? Generally the answer is the don’t understand the scope and depth of the problem or the weakness in their approach, so they treat it somewhat lightly.

It’s because the basis of almost all traditional martial arts and most self-defense instructors relies on a somewhat compliant opponent to make their moves work. Imagine a typical demo where the instructor has a 6’5” pro football running back as their demo partner who is trying to win a bet for $100 or who is told the instructor harmed their child (as motivation), trying to show the typical ‘stick your arm out and I’ll do five moves and hit you’ sequence. They wouldn’t dare.

Watching Demonstrations Closely
So the next time you watch a demo, think about how it might work (or not) against a person who really scares the person demonstrating it. Don’t let someone show a 5’5” female being attacked by a 6’2” partner and the female throwing the partner around - it’s a fantasy. Without such fantasies, one might say that trying to use hand-to-hand techniques in self-defense is basically a high risk, low benefit approach. Against a serious self defense threat one needs a disparity of force (such as a weapon, particularly a firearm) or a partner who is trained to assure a positive outcome.

Don’t be fooled by subtly compliant demos showing small people beating large people in a ‘sparring’ match. Even if the smaller person is using non-attribute-based methods, you can assume the opponent is unlikely to be highly motivated, and maybe even over-awed by the person’s reputation. Challenge your instructor to base their methods against a motivated person who scares them.

Professional Athletes vs Amateur Players
Above all remember that amateur athletes playing pick-up ball can’t hope to beat a pro athlete, and martial arts should always be considered a hobby, not a first option against a real threat. Always seek to deescalate, defuse, escape, evade, partner up, and if allowable by law, be armed. Even being armed is not very reliable unless you are partnered up, which is why law enforcement was traditionally done with a partner who could stand back outside of the reactive range and provide cover and back up.

Final Thoughts
Against a predator that scares you, the method should be a layered defense in the home, partnering in the field, and awareness of legal ramifications should a firing solution be required.

In Summary
  1. Find ways to understand your opponent, and how not to underestimate the threat.
  2. Always partner up. If you don’t have one enlist one. Remember predators also work with a partner.
  3. You can’t do it alone, even if heavily armed. This is why traditionally LE works as a team. One in the red zone, one outside seeing clearly.
  4. Use a layered defense - don’t rely on a single option.
  5. Don’t overestimate the effectiveness of single self-defense moves, or collections of tricks.
  6. Learn how to break down demonstrated moves - watch the opponent not the demonstrator.
  7. Appreciate the necessity for having energy, timing, and motion or footwork in your approach to self-defense.
  8. Stress-test your approach and methods, using internal methods - target practice, and external methods simmunition or paintball gaming
  9. Evaluate your weak points and the vulnerable areas in day-to-day practices, particularly parking lots, driving and after-dark activities.
  10. From time-to-time, tear down your methods and build them back up to refresh outdated methods.
  11. Remember that high attribute methods degrade over time.
  12. Train with your partner using internal and external methods. Develop emergency cues for action.

Please check out Badger Johnson's other essays:



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