“I come to you with only Karate, empty hands, I have no weapons, but should I be forced to defend myself, my principles or my honor, should it be a matter of life or death, of right or wrong; then here are my weapons, karate, my empty hands.”
Notice the top of this page – we’ve repeated the Kenpo creed (along with other areas on the site). As a student of CMATOS you should become intimately aware of this and what it means. It’s not something you need to necessarily memorize (bonus points if you do), but it is something that you should internalize. Before we begin training, or even thinking about studying a martial art – you should realize that the techniques that you do learn can be used in a self-defense situation. You should also realize that by learning a martial arts you are assuming a lot of power and knowledge, and with this great power comes great responsibility. Any instructor who notices that their students are abusing the material, should take immediate disciplinary steps.
Before we go into actual self-defense techniques, students should be aware of some basic self-defense concepts that should apply in most if not all situations.
“I come to you with only Karate, my empty hands, I have no weapons.”
The first concept of self-defense, is that your base defense will always be your empty hands (and the rest of your body). Maybe you have a concealed carry permit, maybe you are a law enforcement officer or a military officer. Regardless of what your background is and how “armed” you may be, you have a very high chance that at least on one instance when it comes to self-defense you will be either without arms, will be disarmed, or will not be able to access your arms. This being said, your training should first focus on proficiency in self-defense with empty hands. Your Glock may be in the other room while you are in the restroom, but you always (unless dismembered) will have your empty hands on your person.
“If you never walk down a dark alleyway in the middle of the night through a bad neighborhood, your chances of having to defend yourself are significantly reduced.”
The first concept of self-defense is to not put yourself in a situation where you need to use your self-defense techniques. It is the paradox of the martial artists. We can break faces and smash boards all day long, but we hope we never have to use our skills in a self-defense situation. According to the latest 2014 crime statistics report, the violent crime rate is only 0.37%. Of that only about 38% occurs by strangers, this means that your chance of having to use your self-defense in a normal day-to-day situation is less than 0.1%. Just because you have a low chance of needing to defend yourself, you should be on alert for any dangerous situations, and avoid them as much as possible. Use your common sense and avoid areas and situations where you may be forced to use your techniques.
“Those who can turn and run away can live and fight another day.”
In the event that you find yourself in a situation that could be escalated into needing to use your self-defense, you ideally should try and remove yourself from the situation, or work to de-escalate the situation as soon as possible. You can’t be hit and can’t be hurt if you aren’t there. Your primary objective at this juncture should be to get out of the situation and to safety as soon as possible. 9 times out of 10, the situation can be resolved simply by walking away.
“Shout, shout, let it all out”
Imagine this situation. A man walks up to you, and gets in very close to you. Feeling threatened you immediately jump to a self-defense technique and leave the man in a heap on the floor. When the police come to interview the witnesses, what are they going to say – what if the man was a foreigner and just wanted to ask for directions. They are going to say they say a man walk up to you and you beat the living daylights out of them. Let’s modify the situation a little bit – as soon as you see the man approaching you, you shout at them to step back, to get away. The same scenario unfolds, and the witnesses tell a completely different story – the man was threatening you, you told them to stay away and they continued to approach. Additionally, by shouting, you will draw attention to your situation with the possibility of authorities being called or assistance being offered. Using what we call “the command voice”, clearly communicate your intentions and make sure that everyone around can hear that you are the one who is trying to mitigate the situation.
“but should I be forced to defend myself, my principles or my honor, should it be a matter of life or death”
When you have made the decision that retreat and avoiding of the situation are no longer possibilities, and you have ruled that self-defense is your only option, you must be prepared to meet like force with like force, and continue through with your self-defense to its conclusion – which may entail leaving the person injured, maimed, or killed. You can’t go 50/50 or decide half-way through that you want to stop – you must see everything through to completion. If not, there is a great chance of retaliation and injury to yourself and to others. At the same time, you have to be willing to accept that your outward use of force will be met with an equal and opposite use of force, and consequently you could wind up injured, maimed, or killed. DO NOT stop because you think the other person is going to stop if you stop. Only if you have the situation and the attacker completely under control should you consider lessening your defense outlay.
“The best defense is a good offence.”
Don’t wait for the attacker to cold clock you or pull a weapon on you. Once you have made the decision to react – you need to react right away, which means you need to make the first move. If you wait, or if you hesitate, you could be severely injured as a result. Yes, your training will prepare you for most if not all situations, but what if you slip, or what if someone comes along to help your attacker? There are too many unknowns in these high adrenaline situations – the more control you have over the situation the better, which means if you are able to initiate before they are able to react, you should be able to subdue the situation before it escalates even further.
“Safety is our number one concern.”
The goal of self-defense is to make yourself safe. Once you have disabled your attackers, your first priority should be getting to a safe area and waiting for the authorities to arrive. Don’t look back and try and try to sort things out. Get yourself a safe distance away and continue to be on your guard. At this point and time, you should start forming a clear mental picture of everything in the situation – who were the attackers, what did they do to provoke your response, what were they wearing, what did they say – all of this information is going to be needed when the authorities arrive.
“Get on the ground. Get on the ground NOW!”
When the authorities arrive and you are still finding yourself in a self-defense situation, be sure to follow their commands to the letter. At the point of the arrival (if you have been shouting appropriately), they should be able to identify you as the one being attacked – however, in many of these situations, the authority will assume that both parties are the attackers and will take you into custody for questioning. Don’t try and resist or explain yourself while they are shouting commands at you. Let them do their job, and your story will eventually have it’s place being told.
“I am the perfect weapon.”
Anything and everything in your immediate surroundings can be considered a weapon. Use your situation awareness to your benefit – position things between you and your attacker, pick up a discarded shoe and throw it at the attacker to distract them. Be also cognoscente that they can turn anything in your surroundings into a weapon as well, and be sure to position your attacker as far away from possible weapons as possible.
“The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.”
If there is one thing that you take away from all of these concepts, regardless of how prepared you are, you may, one day, be faced with insurmountable odds. If you’ve spent your time practicing – and not just going through the motions, but having a solid and consistent practice routine, you should feel pretty confident in most situations as your muscle memory and years of practice should take over. If you just read some information, just practice every now and then, and expect to be proficient, well you are just fooling yourself and setting yourself for some potential issues in the long run.
“Hot Potato. Take it back!”
RULE 0 of practice. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. Help your practice partner up. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. Hand your practice weapon back to your partner.
I know it sounds a bit rude, but the mantra goes – how you practice is how you will perform. If you consistently practice a self-defense movement, and then go to reach down and help your partner up, what do you think is going to happen in a real self-defense situation. Your adrenaline is going to kick in, your muscle memory is going to react, and after you’ve knocked your attacker down, you’re going to reach down to help them back up. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times, and have thousands of stories along the same thread. You should always let your partner get up on their own as you stand in the guarded position. When it comes to weapon defenses, you should switch roles – play the attacker and let the other person disarm you – otherwise you’ll be in a situation where you’ve disarmed your attacker, and in the next beat, hand them their weapon back.
Now, this being said, it is OK to occasionally help your partner up, or put the weapon down and have them go fetch it, but don’t get into the habit of just handing the weapon back over or helping them up. They should be in the habit of practicing break falls and recovery and can use these practices to improve these maneuvers.
It’s a lot to think about and take into consideration. The point here is not to memorize these concepts, but rather internalize them and keep them in the back of your mind as you go through your techniques and forms so that when/if you do end up in a self-defense situation, you are much better prepared to defend yourself and others. Keep going back over these lessons as needed for refreshers and reminders, and let these form the basis of your CMATOS studies for the years to come.
There is no right or wrong way to approach a situation, and neither is there a better or worse way to defend yourself. The goal is getting you and others to safety – how you get there is completely up to you (weather its through CMATOS or any other system). Always continue to learn and improve, take what works for you and improve on it, and what doesn’t work and replace it.