This is part 1 of a 2 part article from Richard Dimitri’s acclaimed book ‘In Total Defense Of The Self’ which has been dubbed one of the best books ever written on self defense! Reproduced here under Authority
1) Assumptions and Intuition: Never assume. Assumption is the mother of all failures. Trust your intuition. Most victims of violent crimes all had one thing in common to say, they all said that they had “a feeling” something was wrong. As Gavin De Becker states in The Gift of Fear, “Intuition is always right on two important accounts: 1) It is always in response to something and 2) It has your best interest at heart.”
Awareness is part of intuition. Being consciously aware of your environment is important. Emotion during high stress situations sometimes clouds our awareness. Don’t let your emotional content blind your awareness. In a potentially violent confrontation, the only safe assumption to make is that your opponent is carrying a concealed weapon. That’s it. That’s all. This safe assumption will heighten your awareness of concealed weapons God forbid one should be pulled out and used against you. If none is pulled out, all the more power to you but at least you won’t be caught off guard or by surprise.
With Awareness and intuition comes the ability to avoid. Avoidance is the best defense; if you’re not there then it can’t happen to you.
2) Panic: If you do not manage your fear accordingly, you will panic. Your panic will cause you to become a victim. As a victim, you will freeze and be in denial and will end up mugged, raped, beaten or killed. A victim’s most common words: “I can’t believe this is happening to me.” or “Why me?” Panic has to be addressed in the form of fear management.
3) Survivor’s frame of mind: is what you need to adopt to accept and deal with the situation at hand A.S.A.P. A survivor quickly changes his mind set and says “O.K. this is happening to me and I need to find a solution now.” A survivor’s mentality largely lies in his or her beliefs. If your belief system is not congruous with your objectives of survival, then regardless of how hard you train you will not live through violence. This is where most will win or lose the fight depending on their mindset.
4) Strategy and tactics: How do you develop the mental and emotional arsenal to be able to navigate through the chaos and mayhem? You need tactical awareness and strategy, let me define the word “Tactics”. Tactics are what will get you out of trouble, not your jump spinning back kick/lunge punch combination. Everybody knows… correction, everybody thinks they know, tactics. In my opinion, tactics are simply what you can do with what you’ve got at a given moment in time based on a previously thought out plan.
As Marc MacYoung writes in his book Cheap Shots, Ambushes and other lessons, “Strategy is the overview; tactics are the immediate manifestations of strategy“. Your tactics will have to be established in a blink of an eye and implemented in half that time based on your previously thought out strategies.
Therefore being pro-active and thinking out a strategy for any given situation in advance will tactically enhance your chances of survival. Someone once said that fighting is like chess at a hundred miles per hour with muscles. He who is ahead of the game wins. You have to take into consideration all of the variables we talked about earlier. Consider the terrain of the engagement, the possibility of artillery, multiple adversaries, if there is a bystander that has the potential of becoming an active participant etc. All this data has to be analyzed faster than the fastest computer and then has to be acted upon accordingly. No room for mistakes. Mistakes can lead to a world of hurt and possibly fatality.
Hand to hand combat is sixty percent psychological, twenty five percent emotional and only fifteen percent physical. Anyone can learn how to kick, punch or apply a choke with proper training in a short period of time but how do you piece it together when reality slaps you in the face and fear & stress are present? Options based on strategy.
The only way to implement a strategy of your choosing is to be versed in the discipline of fighting in all ranges without exception. Being able to flow fluidly from one range to the next at any time during a high stress situation is essential to your survival. (See Chapter on physical retaliation and ranges).
Your ability to deal with variables can be cultivated through regular realistic training. A responsible instructor or coach will constantly force his trainees to adapt to variations in drill format and will create circumstances where trainees will have to safely go beyond their physical and emotional limitations. Allow me to elaborate on this. Applying a hold on a willing partner is one thing, that same hold that you have spent hours perfecting can dramatically fail if you have to perform it after running for your life for two miles on an opponent that doesn’t share the same enthusiasm your partner did in class.
Bottom line: You are training to save your life, which on its own is the ultimate stress management challenge. If your training doesn’t improve your ability to think clearly under high stress situations or teach you functional combative training methods as opposed to spin kicks and katas, you are training at the wrong place.
In order to have a better understanding of how to act or react during the pre-physical altercation, you have to become a student of human nature. The recognition of behavioral patterns is paramount. Can you recognize Alphas and Betas in a gang situation? Generally speaking the more members in a gang the more cowardly each individual is likely to be. An Alpha is the group leader, the decision-maker of the bunch; the rest are Betas, followers, sheep. The ability to manipulate human behavior is more important than your ability to punch or kick.
Now go ahead and wonder: how on earth do I develop these skills? Well, the general manipulation of human behavior is something you do and can do everyday. Every time you interact with all kinds of people, you get an opportunity.
Let me submit that if you’re a good student of human nature, you then know how humans behave in various conditions and situations. You need to have a good sense of observation; you don’t need six years of training to become “brutally efficient”.
Your mind and keen sense of awareness are what’s going to do it for you. Drills such as noise reaction awareness will enhance your alertness, every abrupt noise you hear such as a truck honking, a car screeching or even a dog barking should be recognized immediately and assessed for what it is, give it a name. Being oblivious to your surroundings or to the body language of your opponent could lead to disaster.
Cheating is impossible when there are no rules. An intelligent warrior will attempt to verbally defuse to de-escalate a potential violent confrontation or will physically engage only if he has “loaded the dice” in his favor using all of his psychological tools from simple body language to verbal initiators. Prey behavior induces predator activity; any 10-year-old child watching the discovery channel knows this. How do you eliminate prey behavior? Simply by being pro-active. Knowing how a predator thinks and acts as well as evaluating our daily routines. Where would you attack yourself if you were a sociopath? Become the predator. Think like a sociopath, what would you do if…? Acting, bluffing or role-playing are all strategies to enhance your tactical edge. We act everyday, our personalities change to adapt to each and every individuals we encounter daily; you do not act the same with your mother or father as you do with your friends or teachers/boss or mate.
This is the end of part 1 of this article. Be sure to check out Part 2 which is available now! To get your hands on a copy of ‘In Total Defense Of The Self’ visit the secure online shop at www.protectselfdefence.co.nz (Member of the Senshido International Alliance).