Building Your Vocabulary

Where you strike is as important, or even more important, than how. There are many instances of people being stabbed up to 40 times and surviving, while once is enough to kill in another instance. The major difference here is the target.

In learning to survive a brutal encounter you must commit the softest and most vulnerable areas of the human body to memory. The best target is not only the one that will do the most damage or cause the most pain, it is the one you can reach from the position you are attacked in. If your instructor is particularly enamored of the groin as a kicking target and you are attacked at knifepoint while in your car, you may find yourself at a loss. Worse, your brain may glitch and you may not be able to think beyond how to kick the groin from your current seated position. You need a vocabulary with which to form answers to complex questions-A vocabulary made up of targets and attacks.

Consider these three things: The part of your body or the weapon you are using against your attacker, the part of his body you are attacking, and the many different positions you may find yourself in during an attack.

There is a certain amount of creativity involved here. Punching is not the only option. There are many strikes to be made with the back or side of the hand, with elbows, feet, knees, even the forearms and head. I know martial artists who only use a few of these. Keep an open mind.

Debilitation not just Pain

In order to retaliate physically in a way that protects you, you need to attack the most vulnerable part of his body with the strongest part of yours or something hard or sharp. Strongest does not necessarily mean hardest, it means least breakable.

Buildings and bridges are made to bend in the wind,
to withstand the world that’s what it takes. All that steel and stone
is no match for the air, my friend. What doesn’t bend, breaks.”

~ Ani DiFranco from her song, Buildings and Bridges

When you practice or even think about self defense, ask yourself this: Is the target I have chosen vulnerable enough as to be debilitating? If it isn’t, don’t stake your life on it.

To state the obvious, the best target is one that, when you make contact, will cause the other guy more pain than it causes you. In movies people punch to the face. Because we see it so often it has become an instinctive response and part of the culture. The face is the center of personality and therefore what we as emotional humans seek to destroy first. It is, however, often, not the best target. Small bones in the hands break easily, unless highly trained (and the sad truth is that most hands highly trained enough to withstand punching to hard targets reap the reward of painful arthritis later in life).

It may actually require a conscious decision from you to attack something other than the face. And there may be no time for conscious decision, which is why we are preparing now. If the face is your only option, take it, but be aware that anything aimed at the face is briskly tracked by the eyes. Yet another reason the face is often not the best primary target.

By a debilitating target I mean one that will force your assailant to discontinue his attack. Pain is very subjective and difficult to quantify. Someone on drugs or used to being disciplined by way of systematic beatings or torture can endure quite a bit more pain than you may even be able to imagine. You can be in agonizing pain and still manage to give birth to your child without passing out. A violent criminal may be able to take quite a hit and still continue to hurt you.

The amount of pain a criminal will be able to withstand generally corresponds with his level of determination. If he is looking for an easy target, a bit of fight from you may deter him. If he enjoys a fight, has invested time and energy searching for you or vetting you and is intent on his decision, a bit of fight will only galvanize him or entertain him. If he’s on drugs, he may not feel pain. He may not even respond to broken limbs. I know a martial artist who won a tournament with a broken collarbone. My friends have much crazier stories.

We are planning for something that can’t be planned. We are gathering information in the event we need it. Whether or not it comes to our aid is anyone’s guess. Everything you know about crime and about yourself along with every bit of knowledge you have gathered about this criminal will need to come into play in the moment. You will have some idea of his level of commitment to this crime based on his behavior. You may be able to tell if someone is on drugs. You must find a way to connect with your focus and your plan and commit to the job at hand which is to make sure he can’t keep hurting you or your child. If luck is not on your side and you are alone, you will at the very least need to create an opening so you can run away, presumably by hurting him enough to make him rethink his choice, taking his legs out from under him, knocking him out or running really fast. Barring the less gory options you will need blind or disable him in some way. Or kill him.

It seems it’s both easier and not as easy as you think the to end someone. What does that mean? In the many stories I’ve heard and books I’ve read, and conversation’s I’ve had on this subject, there is a dichotomy. Accidents happen that makes it seem easy to kill or die. But we can’t harness or control accidents. As it turns out quite a bit is involved in killing and at the top of the list is your determination to live and your ability to override your natural human aversion to end someone’s life forever. This is something good people do only in the name of survival. And because it doesn’t always come naturally, we need a proper vocabulary in order to understand our options.

To be Continued in:


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