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Don't Listen To Nerds....

There has been a video recently doing the rounds on social media. Whilst it was originally posted in May 17, it has become the source of recent dissatisfaction for several martial art instructors and coaches.

The video concerns potential personal defence techniques one could use to counter a rear strangle hold and a potential strategy for countering being held on the ground. The instructor providing the information is a self confessed “self defence expert” and the video has been subject to several thousand views since it´s original posting.

I want to take issue with two things here;

  1. The video and it´s content

  2. The reaction from the wider martial arts community

It is absolutely the case that the video exemplifies everything that is wrong with mainstream personal defence instruction. It provides and reinforces a belief that every circumstance is the same and these techniques are not only `älways available´ they are functionally devastating and will work everytime. This is is not only misguided, it is a potentially dangerous belief system to possess. This however, to me, is the fundamental and sole issue with the video. The strategies and techniques employed are neither here nor there, in that they may work in a given circumstance and be fundamentally useless in others. The point is that no-one can predict the exact circumstances of an physical attack so to make claim that these techniques will or won´t be effective is itself fundamentally flawed.

Additionally here it is worth pointing out that there were some over-riding positive aspects to the video.

The instructor never referenced this verbally however her demonstrations of striking techniques showed her instinct to repeatedly strike (she even referred to biting the choking arm, which I totally agree with!), to effectively to use the fight/flight response in a positive and aggressive way. Whilst there is no guarantee that the psychological response will be a positive one for the defending party (freezing with fear is a fairly common psychological response…), the instinct to fight, and fight aggressively, is absolutely key to successful personal defence. A further unreferenced flaw in the video is the fact that repeated training, physical drilling, is essential for the correct motor learning to occur. Simply watching a demonstration of technique does not do anything in regards to preparing the viewer's physical responses. A individual will only acquire physical ability in a given skill through the repeated rehearsal and pressure testing of those techniques. Moreover if we are considering that we need to have these responses as immediate and fairly instinctive reactions the bottom line is that they must be trained and rehearsed repeatedly.

The video in my humble opinion is flawed. It is however as flawed as the raft of responses which have been posted in response to it. Most I have seen have been posted by BJJ players, who themselves have expressed their own sense of personal expertise in their field. Whilst I wholeheartedly agree that technically their solutions to the physical questions provided in the video are possibly more appropriate, again I find myself feeling that are as limiting and flawed as the original. For example the effective counter to a ´rear choke hold´ is to perform a step back and ´table top´ the attacker, or simply put fall over with them. How can this be right? What if there are multiple opponents? Yes breaking the hold is key but without a working knowledge of the arena and range you are entering this solution creates more issues than it solves. I agree that this is solved through studying, rehearsing, pressure testing and practicing a decent martial art/fighting system. However I stand by my previous argument too, no one can predict the chaos of the conflict and the functional success of the technique. Moreover the experts providing their counter views in my opinion have fallen into an common issue which predominates the martial arts, they have applied their system as a means of personal defence, to the exclusion and ignorance of any other. Not all roads lead to the same destination, some styles were developed as sports and have no practical use as a valid system of personal defence.

The bottom line is that to provide any set of techniques as, ´the counter to A is B´ is just wrong. There are always options. Effective personal defence is understanding that there are options and selecting the nearest and most available one to create that momentary opportunity to escape and evade further confrontation. Effective personal defence is understanding that the most effective techniques will be those that are simple and unreliant on physical strength and size. Effective personal defence in any range is knowing that the whole body is a target and also a weapon.

Technically there are only three outcomes to any technique employed; it works, it doesn't work or it kind of works. In respect of anything less than function (i.e. it works) the strategy for effective defence is to move the pain. If that trapping counter doesn´t work, hit something else. If that strike did not create an opportunity to escape hit something else and keep going until you can.

Physically personal defence is base, it is simple and it is aggressive. Aggressively asserting your counter attack and pressing this home to result in the destruction of your attacker's intention is all that physically matters. However, understanding that this is only available by overcoming the emotional battle, embracing the fear response and using this to your advantage is also key. Training, training and more training is the only path to enlightenment here. Finding a style which embraces all ranges and provides opportunity to analyse, experiment and research technique and physical options is the best start. At renegade martial arts this is what we do, we train, we question and we train some more.

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