Worldwide violent crimes are at a all-time high. How prepared are you to defend yourself and your loved ones from a street attack?
I’ve dabbled in various self-defense and martial arts training over the years, and have found the good and the not-so-good disciplines for protecting yourself in a street attack. I am not an expert by any means, but my take is that a practical street defense system (notice that I’m not referring to ring fighting) should be simple, intuitive and its techniques and tactics should be adaptable even in harsh and uncontrolled environments.
Beyond the system or method itself lies the theories that addresses the human physiological and psychological response to a physical confrontation. A lot of the theory in personal defense tactics and street survival training involves danger perception, self-evaluation, managing fear and effectively controlling your adrenalized body. Your ability to cope with the stress that comes with a violent confrontation would ultimately determine your ability to respond correctly at the proper time. Let’s face it, no one fights like James Bond in a life and death situation.
Enter Tony Blauer.
Tony Blauer has over 20 years of experience as a self-defense and combat training consultant. His combat consulting company, Blauer Tactical Systems, has worked with elite entities like the U.S. Navy Seals, the Secret Service, the U.S. Federal Air Marshals and numerous other police, military and civilian training programs around the world. Blauer and his company has done extensive research into fight psychology, fear management and personal defence readiness that has earned him recognition not only within the martial arts & combative circles, but his combat and threat evaluation philosophy has translated into the corporate realm as well. Blauer has advised for companies like Sony and Fedex and has been featured in Forbes Magazine.
This excerpt is written by Tony Blauer for the first chapter of his self-defense manual: Be Your Own Bodyguard. It is ten hard and fast “commandments” in a street survival context that can make the difference between being a victim and going home safely.
Enjoy and stay safe.
The 10 Commandments
I ‑ Thou Shalt Not Not Train.
Imagine for a moment losing a real street fight. Imagine the impact on your confidence, dignity and pride. Imagine if you were hurt and couldn’t train or possibly go to work for several weeks. Imagine if when you “physically” recovered you were gun‑shy in sparring. Imagine all this.
At the time of the attack you took too long to recognize the danger, hesitated and as you started to react you were knocked to the ground and though you put up a valiant effort you were beaten.
Upon reflection you realized that you lost this fight for several reasons: Your actual understanding of the theories of “intuitive radar”, “attacker profiles”, “sucker punch psychology” and “fear management” were limited. Actually, you never did “sucker punch” drills. You had never done “threshold and pain tolerance training” or worked on “ballistic ground fighting” and you never analyzed natural stances.
This scenario is a fantasy or perhaps a nightmare. But it need not be. “Totality” in your training is simply about being thorough. I always my tell my students, “If I am to lose, let me lose to the superior fighter. Let me lose because he was better than I was. Not because I was worse than him.” How hard do you train in relation to “why” you train? Think on that.
Coach Bear Bryant said, “The will to win compares little with the will to prepare to win.” That is one of my favorite quotes and pretty much sums it up.
You can’t not train and expect to be your best at a moment’s notice. Boxers agree to fights 3 months in advance so that they may train for the contest. You don’t have that luxury. As my friend Marco Lala said, “You can’t fake endurance.”
2 ‑ Thou Shalt Not Defeat Thyself
The mental side of combat is so vast and powerful that it quite literally determines your next move. Dan Millman wrote, “When faced with just one opponent and you oppose yourself… you’re outnumbered.”
Powerful words. Your mind can be your ally or your most formidable opponent. Your thoughts can motivate you or they can create the Inertia State of psycho -physical paralysis.
Psychological fear leads to doubt and hesitation. Unchecked it can devolve into anxiety and panic. Unsolicited, a ‘Victim’s vocabulary’ starts: What if I lose? What if it hurts? What if I fail? Thoughts like these must be eliminated from your vocabulary for you to perform at your peak. Your ‘self talk’ or ‘internal dialogue’ must be positive, assertive and motivating. Your inner coach must empower you to greater heights, to surpass preconceived limitations, to boldly go where…you get the picture. That is what it means to not defeat yourself.
3 ‑Thou Shalt Not give Up.
The will to survive is probably the most neglected area of our training. It is also the most important. Knowing what to do and knowing which tools to use is important but compares little with the ‘will to survive’. If you have great technique, but do not know how to dig deep, I will bet on the opponent with heart. Will beats skill. “Not giving up,” means Not giving up. You must research this.
Irrespective of your training, there are situations that can catch us off guard. Sudden violence or specific threats outside our Comfort Zones can overwhelm us emotionally and induce the ubiquitous “victim” mind‑set. To off‑set this I have my students tap into their “desire” to survive by writing out a list of things they will lose if they do not survive the fight.
This list is memorized (ideally, long before any serious altercation) and serves as an unconscious motivating force that triggers the survival mechanisms when our theoretical warrior-self is experiencing technical difficulties.
The list should include the most important people, places, and things in your life. And you must remind yourself that if you “give up” in the street ‑ you may be giving up that list as well.
In 1987, this concept became the Be Your Own BodyGuardTM principle. This is a powerful metaphor for street survival. Sometimes we feel that we would rush to someone else’s aid quicker than we would defend ourselves…this is a common emotional feeling, however, it is not very practical if you are the intended victim. So ask yourself, “Who (or what) would you fight to the death for?” And if you are that person’s Bodyguard, who is yours?
My friend…be your own bodyguard.
4 ‑Thou Shalt Not Fear Fear.
More dangerous than your opponent is your mind. If it doesn’t support you you’re ¾ beaten before you’ve started. There are really only two types of fear: biological and psychological.
Fear (biological) has been generally described as the “fight or flight” syndrome for most of our modern history. This definition does not serve us once the physical confrontation is under way and is really not pertinent to your success. Though the adrenaline surge created by your survival signals is a component of success, it is the mind that ultimately determines the action you will take.
Psychological fear, on the other hand, is an emotional state. Therefore it can be controlled and used to create action. However, due to the lack of good information on fear management, fear, as we feel it, usually creates emotional inertia: your body’s inability to move. Inertia or panic is created by psychological fear when the mind visualizes failure and pain. Understanding this process is necessary to conquer fear.
We use three acronyms, to help us remember that psychological fear is only in our mind. They are:
1. False Evidence Appearing Real
(External stimuli that distracts us; physical evidence: weapons, multiple opponents, etc.)
2. False Expectations Appearing Real
(Internal stimuli that distracts us; how we visualize, images of pain and failure.)
3. Failure Expected Action Required
(A trigger to DO SOMETHING!)
Cus D’Amato, a famous boxing coach, said, “The difference between the hero and the coward is what they do with their fear.” The next time you feel it ‑ fight it. Challenge your fear. Attack your fear. Do not fear fear. We all feel it. Fight your fear first then fight your physical foe. This is one of the true ways of growth.
5 ‑Thou Shalt Not Telegraph Your Intentions.
When it’s time to fight, most fighters telegraph their intentions. This “faux pas” is committed at times by everyone and every type of fighter, including you and me. From street fighters to professional boxers, from military generals to serial killers. We all telegraph.
Telegraphing for most is considered to be a physical gesture, but really, the physical telegraph is usually the third stage of the telegraph ‘Domino effect’. In my seminars I always remind participants that you can only beat the opponent when the opponent makes a mistake. Think about that. The “real” opportunity occurs at the moment of the telegraph, when the intention is revealed, when there is hesitation or a momentary lapse in attention.
Start thinking about the various ways we reveal ourselves, signals that create the telegraph: anger, erratic breathing. Adopting a specific stance, going for the knockout, verbal threat. These are some of the most common telegraphs that would afford an experienced opponent some mental preparedness. Remember that your opponent should be the last person to see your attack.
This subject is so vast that I can’t do justice to it here. Just remember that fighting is like tennis, the player who makes the most unforced errors, generally loses. But don’t look at the obvious. Be sure to study our Sucker Punch Psychology and Non-Violent Postures theory.
You must know in advance that you will survive the authentic street fight. By ‘authentic’ I mean a true situation where you have a moral and ethical reason to take action. Only then can you be resolute in your conviction and only then will you have the support of good and the force of the universe behind you. This may sound corny to some, but when you use your skills for ”life” (for preservation), rather than “death”, (abuse of your skill) the emotional power that is available to you is exponential.
You must also appreciate the relationship to the pejorative ego in combat. You don’t “win” a real fight. You survive one. Win & lose are labels our ego uses. Think survival. Think about your life and why you’ll survive. This is true power.
Remember this: Never fight when your opponent wants to fight. Never fight where your opponent wants to fight. And never fight how your opponent wants to fight. Take care of those three factors, I’ll bet on you. Sun Tzu wrote: “The height of strategy is to attack your opponent’s strategy.” Study this.
*On purely a strategic level you can study the Samurai treatises about the mind and the ego and death. They reveal much about the appropriate mind‑set for lethal combat. If you catch a glimpse of the power of this mind‑set you will recognize true power and you will be sure not to abuse this power.
7 ‑ Thou Shalt Not Invite Disaster.
You’ve heard the expression “An accident waiting to happen”. So many victims of violence failed to use simple skills like awareness and avoidance. No one deserves to be a victim, but many street tragedies result from “planning for failure through failure to plan.” Though the world is an incredible and wonderful place, it does have its dangers. If you respect this simple truth and spend a little time developing your Survival Toolbox, you can get back to the real task at hand: enjoying your life.
For simplicity sake consider there are two types of victims. Those who deny and ignore (apathy will usually help seal your fate) and those who manufacture danger at every turn. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read Gavin De Becker’s excellent book The Gift of Fear, get yourself a copy. It is the first time, in my opinion; anyone has effectively explained the fear signal in a positive, useful light as it relates to danger and violence. His examples and theories are welcome additions to the pre-contact arsenal necessary to try to avoid violence.
It would be nice if simply ‘trusting’ survival signals were all we needed to detect and avoid danger. Unfortunately, there may be situations where we do everything right, but still find ourselves in the thick of things and must take physical action. Preparation is paramount.
Learn to evaluate a stimulus in advance. This mind‑set will spare you a lot of trouble if you do a little research. In the end, most situations are easily avoided with the right attitude, awareness and advance analysis.
Here are the critical areas you must examine:
· Evaluate your routine. Are there any obvious places you could be attacked? Is there something about your schedule, behavior, residence, etc. that sends a‘come and get me’ message to an opportunist criminal? When would you attack you and why?
· Evaluate your mind. What type of person are you? Do you find yourself in many confrontations? (Of any nature) How do you deal with them? Do youlose your temper quickly? Do you accept abuse (verbal, mental, etc.) too readily? Both reactions could create serious problems in a violent confrontation.
· Evaluate your arsenal. You may take care of the routine and have yourself in total control and still be faced with a threat. What specialized skills do you bring to the confrontation? Many of us become fairly proficient with our empty hands in a ready stance in the dojo where we know the rules, we know our opponent, the level of contact is agreed to and we’re wearing equipment and…I think you get my point. Do you really understand the nut on the street? Are you confident on the ground? Against a weapon? In a survival scenario? Total confidence results when you ask pertinent questions and research, to satisfaction, the answers. That’s being proactive. After all, this is your life.
Apathy and denial will seal your fate in a confrontation. Other personality aberrations like an inflated ego, misguided inferiority complex, and overconfidence all contribute to the issue of safety. These attributes will create problems during confrontations of any nature. Be proactive about the things that can cause you grief.
I have a simple belief that keeps me honest and introspective: I believe we experience confrontations every day of our lives, (“Confrontation” defined as any situation that affects our enjoyment of the moment – I know people who take traffic personally!). Therefore, the degree of calmness and clarity with which we deal with our confrontations will directly determine the quality of our day and therefore, the quality of our life.
8 ‑ Thou Shalt Not Kill, Unless It Is Absolutely Necessary.
Bruce Lee wrote in his Tao of Jeet Kune Do, “Forget about winning and losing; forget about pride and pain. Let your opponent graze your skin and you smash into his flesh; let him smash into your flesh and you fracture his bones; let him fracture your bones and you take his life’ Do not be concerned with your escaping safely ‑ lay your life before him!”
Hmmm? What do you think of this? Pretty powerful, huh? Note how it triggered a visual and how it affected your mind‑set: power or fear? Though Bruce Lee’s quote has much value, it sends a dangerous message if not analyzed correctly.
Many people who come to the martial arts for self‑defense buy into the mythological image of cool nerves, impenetrable defense and total control. Unfortunately, the sociopath’s intensity on the street bears little relation to the energy in the dojo and so those martial artists who have not done diligent homework for the street situation are predisposed to fail. This doesn’t mean they will. But, it means they survive in spite of the way they trained.
What would you do if…? Have you really visualized different scenarios and analyzed what would be necessary to escape the confrontation safely? It takes courage to walk away. Is avoidance a component of your self‑defense system? How far would you go to avoid bodily harm? Would you kill? What moral and ethical issues do your responses raise? Do you possess a directive, one that would support you in a court of Law or when you looked in the mirror?
When you train with integrity, and respect all humanity, you will grasp the deepest message in Bruce’s words. As a last resort I endorse his message.
9 ‑ Thou Shalt Not Settle For Mediocrity.
There are three key areas of concern for this commandment. Human beings are designed for improvement. Our brains and bodies are built for success. We use only a small percentage of our brain’s capacity. Our bodies are capable of massive muscular and cardiovascular development and we have only just begun to explore the power of spiritual development.
Remember earlier I wrote that the mind navigates the body? I believe that there are three fundamental rules we all break from time to time that prevent us from maximizing our performance and development in many areas.
AVOID COMPARISON: Compete with yourself. Use other people for inspiration only. If someone is better than you are, use his or her “skill level” as a reference point. Find out how they train and what their beliefs are. Many people miss this point and experience frustration in their training. The pejorative ego is duplicitous and works overtime on comparison. It’s your job to defuse this emotional time bomb and get focused on your path.
DON’T JUDGE: Don’t judge others. Don’t even judge yourself. Learn to evaluate, diagnose, weigh, and consider. When you change the “judgment filter” to one of “analysis”, you will gain so much more. Like comparison, judgment is a detour away from our goals. Many times we enter some arena (relationship, job, fight) worrying about what the other person is bringing to the table. How can you be yourself and work on you when you are fixating on them? True education takes place when we start to notice our tendency to compare and judge.
LIMITING BELIEFS: Many of us have been fed negative programs during our life and these ‘ideas’ eventually become our very own erroneous beliefs. And they severely handicap our growth. How often do we say or hear statements like, “You can’t”, “That’ll take too long.”, I’ll never be able to do that”, “What’s the point?”. The list goes on… you get my point. Beliefs that do not serve your goals, success, happiness, or dreams must be purged from your mind. This is an easy process…unless you believe it is too hard.
Just remember that starting off positive is every bit as important as actually starting.
Here’s another key concept in the performance enhancement formula my company has developed: You’ll often hear motivators state: “Your potential is unlimited”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually ‘potential’ is quite finite, whereas ‘capacity’ is unlimited. Think about it [and yes I know this is completely backwards from conventional thinking]. Your ability is limited by your capacity. But you can work on your ‘capacity’ daily. And therefore ‘capacity’ is continually evolving. However, ‘potential’ is fixed. In other words, your potential is limited by the fact that you are human, or of a specific gender, age, size and so forth. Potential is also something we ‘can’t do’ yet. The trick in maximizing performance therefore, will be our ability to reframe, to create a personal paradigm shift and really direct our energy into our ‘current abilities’ and forget about where we could be if…
Confused? Read the next two paragraphs and then reflect a little.
I have done a number of motivational seminars on this very important paradigm shift, an empowerment process I call The Myth of Peak Performance. To consider, evaluate, plan and proceed, you must understand the difference between “capacity” and “potential”. What you can do is your capacity. What you would like to be able to do is your ‘potential’. But, at the end of the day, you can only do as much as you can do.
Reflect on this expression: “You’ll never know how much you can do until you try to do more than you can.” In training, assess your capacity, recognize your potential as greater, and create realistic goals so that you experience success regularly and you will be on your way to self‑mastery. But do not fixate on your potential.
In the self-defense and martial art world many practitioners severely handicap their capacity by not sharing information, not investigating other options and ideas, not asking questions. Etc. To go beyond the limitations of style’, you must challenge all ideas so that your training results in unshakable faith in your skill.
10 ‑ Thou Shalt Not Rebuke Other Systems.
Bruce Lee said “Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system.” This commandment is important on two levels. Firstly, on an emotional level it is so important to make peace with everyone we contact. This attitude is contagious and if we all adopted a more loving and compassionate view of life and of our fellow human beings, we would all experience a significant increase in happiness and peace of mind.
In the martial arts world there exists so much comparison, pejorative competitiveness and politics, that our industry is simply a microcosm of the warring nations and rival gangs that pollute our cities and countries. Please reflect on this.
We are on the same team. We train to better our selves. We choose different schools and styles for a variety of reasons. But we all want the same thing. Peace. Inner peace. Confidence. Self‑control.
So keep an open mind. Maintain a “Beginners Mind”. A beginner loves to learn. He is intent and intense. Learn to communicate, listen to the words, and listen to the voice of body language. When someone shows you a different way or explains a different approach, listen keenly. Savor, digest and absorb.
And secondly, as a martial artist and self‑defense specialist, you cannot afford to limit your training. The more you understand any and all strategies, approaches, attitudes and methods, the greater your confidence.
So remember, training must be holistic: Mind, Body, Spirit
(*Note how each commandment interconnects and a flaw in one of the areas could very well throw the equation into flux.)
You can check out Tony Blauer @ Blauer Tactical Systems
(An excellent guide to one of the most practical self-defense systems in the world)