THE FIVE LEVELS OF SELF DEFENSE
Many martial arts schools teach a subject which they call
More often than not, these schools teach various
methods of physically causing injury to an attacker to prevent him from
causing you harm.
While it is good that we have such schools around, it is unfortunate that
many of these schools are not teaching self-defense at all. Some are
merely teaching methods to win trophies in martial arts tournaments, some
of them are teaching ancient outmoded ways of combat, some are teaching
methods intended to be self-defense, but are really methods of committing
unlawful acts, and some of them are teaching elaborate methods to commit
suicide during the process of attempting to protect oneself.
first rule to learning effective self-defense is to know the meaning of "self-defense."
Dictionary defines self-defense as being:
"THE ACT OF
DEFENDING ONESELF OR SOMETHING THAT BELONGS OR RELATES TO ONESELF."
pretty well sums it up. It does not mention trophies, fighting and it does
not mention punishment. Self-defense is simply the act of protecting
oneself, one's family, friends or one's home and property. It does not
involve (in most cases) the wearing of elaborate uniforms, bowing,
squaring-off in fighting stances, rules of combat, trophies or any other
of the trappings that go with sport.
It does not mention the necessity for causing an attacker permanent
physical harm, the need to repeatedly strike an attacker as he is
attempting to flee or any number of idiocies which will land him in the
hospital and you in jail.
A common thread that runs through self-defense as an Art and as a
Science is that it should always be based on proven principles and laws.
Toward this end, the National Sungja-Do Association has spent over twenty
(20) years researching and testing various theories of teaching and
practicing self-defense so as to root out those superstitions, myths and
simply poorly-designed techniques which can result in more harm to the
defender than to the attacker.
five (5) levels of self-defense:
We know what
self-defense is and what the self is that we are defending. Our next step
is to decide what we must do to defend it. The number and variety of
techniques that can be employed for self-defense are endless. The one
thing that all self-defense techniques have in common is that they are
intended to prevent or minimize the harm caused by physical attack.
There are thousands of self-defense techniques. They vary all the way from
having only one movement in them that causes the attacker absolutely no
harm, up to techniques that include a myriad of strikes and kicks designed
to hurt the attacker.
The truth is that there are a limited number of strikes, kicks and tactics
that can be combined into an almost unlimited array of self-defense
techniques. The question is, " Do they all work?" The answer is " Of
course they work." Given exactly the right set of circumstances, any
self-defense technique might possibly work. It would be nice to know that
your self-defense techniques would work in almost any given situation. It
would be nice to know that you do not have to cause permanent injury to an
attacker in order to prevent harm to yourself.
This is the first
rule of self-defense:
SELF-DEFENSE TECHNIQUES MUST ALLOW FOR MULTIPLE OUTCOMES!
This is an
easy rule to state, but a difficult one to practice without self-defense
training. Many martial arts schools use a rigid method of teaching
self-defense. Each self-defense technique taught must have its own number.
That way, martial artists can say, " At black belt level in our style, you
have to know five hundred different techniques." Great. This is a very
easy method of teaching self-defense and it works really swell come test
time, but it can lull the novice into a false security. Self-defense
is not about how many different techniques you know, it is about how well
you know them!
When speaking of self-defense, most of us automatically think of whole
series of movements. We see some type of shifting of the weight; some type
of movement designed to parry the attacker's blow; and some type of
At this point, let us consider only the various individual movements that
make up these series and their purposes. Regardless of how simple or how
complex a self-defense series is, it can always be broken down into
different parts. True, sometimes these parts occur simultaneously or have
more than one meaning, but at their most basic level, there will always be
a single basic function they must accomplish if the technique is to work.
Another important point is that of martial arts styles (systems). Although
the movements of Chinese Gung-fu may look very different from those of
Japanese Karate, they all have a basic foundation of scientific principles
if they are effective.
Another important element to deal with before we go any further is that of
realism. When practicing self-defense, it is important to practice safety,
so there should not be any hard contact or sudden twisting of joints.
However, to insure that your training is realistic, you should react as if
a strike has landed or pressure has been applied to a joint. This
realistic reaction will help your partner see what the effects of his
techniques will be and he will be able to properly judge their
Always keep your physical limitations in mind. Although your skills will
improve with practice, there are some techniques that are too unreliable
Remember: If a technique calls for more physical strength,
dexterity, or speed than you have, it is not effective for you at that
time. If it calls for more strength, dexterity, or speed than the majority
of people have, then it is not realistic.
We break all self-defense series into their individual movements to
analyze them. In doing so, we have determined that there are five separate
classes of basic martial arts technique.
BLOCKING, STUNNING, COUNTER-ATTACKING, AND FINAL MEASURES (Finishing)!
These five basic
classes build from the first one, Evasion, which causes absolutely no
physical harm to an attacker, to the fifth one, Finishing, which can cause
permanent injury or worse to an attacker. Because of this building of
effect, we call them the Five Levels of Self-Defense.
Evasion is the act of moving the target (you) out of the range and/or path
of an oncoming attack. Put simply, evasion is nothing more than getting
out of the way. There are eight angles of evasion. When you evade an
attack, you will use one of these eight angles. In order to know which
angle to evade to, you will need to know where the attack is coming from
and what type of attack is being used.
While it is true that your attacker might come at you with anything
ranging from an empty hand to a foot or a knife, there are a limited
number of ways that he can attack you with it and also a limited number of
directions he can attack you from. There are two primary modes of attack;
LINEAR and CIRCULAR.
When looked at horizontally, linear attacks travel in straight lines from
point of origin to point of contact. Downward club and knife attacks,
front kicks, side kicks, reverse punches and uppercuts are all linear
attacks. All upward swings, downward swings, and thrusts are linear
attacks. Circular attacks travel in arcs from point of origin to point of
impact. Roundhouse kicks, turning kicks, outward knife hand strikes,
horizontal knife and club swings, crescent kicks, and the famous
"haymaker" punch are all circular attacks. It is important to know which
type of attack you are dealing with as that knowledge helps to determine
what type of defense you will use. For example, it is fairly useless to
use a high rising block against a spinning heel kick.
We need to discuss how you can evade. Important to this decision is the
question of what you will do after you have evaded. Will you kick him?
Will you punch him? Will you run for your life? There are four basic
ranges involved in evasion. Each range has as it's own your training and
your initial reaction. You can evade in such a way to place yourself in an
optimum distance for one of these actions. There are advantages and
Every evasive movement that can be accomplished in a single movement
will fall into one of these four ranges. It is important to know which
range you are in because some techniques will not work if you are too
close or to far away. Try throwing a spinning heel kick while
shoulder-to-shoulder with your partner. Now take two steps back and try
grabbing his shoulder. Ranges are very important to effective
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about evasion is when to do
it. Timing is all-important; if you evade too soon, your attacker can
alter his attack and hit you anyway. If you evade too late, then you get
hit before you can move. The key to successful evasion is to move at the
last possible moment; after the attack has been launched, but before it
Although blocking can be combined with a strike to cause harm to an
attacker (for example, a knife hand block to the radial nerve), the least
you need it to do to be successful is to prevent the attacking tool from
reaching you. This can be accomplished by jamming the attacking tool
before it can generate much energy, or by redirecting its energy before it
In self-defense, effective blocking is most often combined with an evasive
movement. Thus, stepping to the side of a punch and pushing it away from
you is much better than standing still and pushing it away from you or
just stepping to the side.
Blocks can often be used for more than a single purpose. If you use a
hard, fast knifehand strike to the inner part of the attacker's arm to
block his punch, you will not only move his arm away from you, but will
probably also numb his hand and cause pain in his arm. Another
dual-purpose block can be done by side-stepping an incoming front kick and
then performing a scooping block to the leg. This will not only throw his
leg away from you, it will also probably throw him on his back.
Stunning is an ingredient in self-defense that is too often ignored by
some martial arts schools. In order for most self-defense series to work,
the defender must find a quick, simple way to slow down the attacker. This
is the purpose of stunning.
Stuns cause a temporary interruption in an attack. They do not cause
long-term damage; they do cause short-term, temporary interruption in his
physical attack and in his thinking. Stuns should not use all the force
that you can generate. Stuns only last a few minutes at most, cause
bruises and sore muscles at worst, and can be apologized for easily.
Stuns do not even have to make contact to work. Let your training partner
step forward and punch at you, as he begins his attack, side-step slightly
and strike towards his face. If he is like most people, he will jerk his
head back or alter his motion to avoid your strike.
Another example: at the first sign that your partner is going to even
begin his attack, yell as loud as you can. The effects may not be as
dramatic and long-term as a strike, but he will be stunned nonetheless.
The fourth level of self-defense, counter-attacking, is what most people
consider self-defense being. This is not always the case. In some
instances, it may not be necessary to counter-attack -- you may be able to
evade the attack and run. Counter-attacking is best defined as "
controlling the attacker." The first three levels -- Evasion, Blocking,
Stunning -- do not leave the attacker incapable of continuing his attack
after a few seconds or minutes, nor do they allow you to control his
movement until you can decide what to do with him. Counter-attacks allow
you to take control of the situation away from the attacker and allow you
to control the situation.
"Control" does not necessarily mean a restraining hold. A strike to the
head that causes disorientation is also a form of control. Spraining a
joint or bruising a muscle so that the attacker can not use a limb is also
a form of control. The point to counter-attacking is to stop your
attacker's initial attack and to prevent him from attacking again.
Counter-attacks fall into three broad categories: Ballistic, Flowing and
Restraining. Often, one leads to the other. Ballistic counter-attacks are
those which require the impact of a weapon (hand, foot, elbow, knee and
stick) against a part of your attacker's body. Ballistic techniques
establish control through the use of pain, numbness, inability to move a
body-part, restricted breathing or disorientation.
Flowing techniques rely on the use of the momentum of the attack against
the attacker. Flowing techniques include throws and take-downs. Throws and
take-downs are similar in that they both use the attacker's momentum
and/or a joint manipulation to subdue him. Whereas throws simply require
you to perform the technique, reissue your grip, and let him land where he
will, take-downs require you perform the technique, require that you
maintain constant control over his motion throughout the technique.
Restraining techniques involve the use of a joint manipulation technique,
a hold, or a choke to gain control over your attacker. The point to a
joint manipulation is to turn a joint in such a manner as to cause pain,
numbness, or unconsciousness to subdue your attacker. Struggling against
your manipulation will cause him such pain that he will stay put and
cooperate. Holds place the attacker in such a position that he cannot
generate enough leverage and/or strength to get away.
Counter-attacks are an important part of self-defense, but they are only a
part of it. Many times it is best to evade an attack, stun the attacker
and then run.
Remember: If a stranger attacks you without provocation, he might want
your money, your life, or he might just be intoxicated. Also remember that
he may be better trained than you, so running might be the best policy.
-- FINAL MEASURES
The fifth and final of the five levels of self-defense is final measures.
As its name implies, these are the last elements in a self-defense
situation. Once you have taken the advantage away from your attacker, you
must still insure that he will not attempt to attack you when you let him
go. The finishing techniques found in this level are generally
continuations of techniques begun in the earlier levels.
If you have evaded and blocked your attacker's punch, stunned him and then
have applied a joint manipulation take-down, it is fairly simple to now
apply a finishing technique that will pin him to the ground until you are
sure that you are safe. Depending on the circumstances of the attack, you
may choose to use a passive-restraint hold, a joint manipulation, a ground
pin, a bone-break or a choke or sleeper to subdue your attacker. The
severity of the attack, how many attackers are involved, and what weapons
are used will greatly affect how extreme your final measures will need to
As a martial artist, you should have the knowledge to be able to analyze
an attack and determine the least amount of force you can use and still be
effective. The goal in self-defense is to cause as little harm as
possible. Self-defense does not involve causing death or permanent
traumatic damage. It is the martial artist's responsibility to know his
own abilities and strength, so as to not prevent accidental death.
Our rule of thumb is this: Use only the amount of force that is absolutely
necessary to stop an attack. If is convenient for you to evade an attack
and then run, do so. If you are attacked by a friend who has misunderstood
something you said and is angry, control him without hurting him and talk
the situation out. If you are attacked by three individuals with knives
while escorting your spouse down a dark street, do everything you have to
in order to prevent harm to her and yourself: situations change reactions.
A true martial artist should always keep the Code of Self-Defense in mind:
Run, rather than hurt.
Hurt, rather than maim.
Maim rather than kill.
Kill, rather than be killed: Self preservation comes first.
Always keep in mind that any self-defense situation can turn deadly.
Your attacker may strike you with the intent of knocking you unconscious
but may use too much force and kill you. In response to an attack, you
might accidentally use too much force in a strike and accidentally kill
your attacker. By learning and practicing self-defense according to the
five levels of self-defense, you will have a proper understanding of how
techniques work and will be able to properly react to a situation.