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Personal Defence Flow...

“Jeet Kune Do does not beat around the bush. It does not take winding detours. It follows a straight line to the objective. Simplicity is the shortest distance between two points.” Bruce Lee - Tao of Jeet Kune Do

Effective personal defence is the art of simplicity applied. In application a process for effectively protecting oneself from a physical attack must be direct, instinctive and above all responsive. From beginning to end the overriding goal is to facilitate escape and by definition the avoidance of further conflict. Escape and avoidance are wholly dependant on personal awareness. This awareness of self, in regards to others, provides us the opportunity to change our behaviour responsively given the nature of the situation which presents.

In his development of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee was heavily critical of the “classical” martial arts approach, largely due to their relative inability to be responsive. In his view the “classical” styles dictated that attack A would always be met with defense B and from this there could be no deviation. Moreover he perceived that the lack of biomechanical efficiency in some of the “classical” movements diluted their effectiveness in respect to personal defence. Bruce Lee derided the stylised response of “classical” martial arts, advocating the need to adopt a fluid awareness, where the mind could be free and allow for a responsive and direct “self expression”.

“Observe what is with undivided awareness.” Bruce Lee - Tao of Jeet Kune Do

The purpose of this article however is not to provide journey through the development of Bruce Lee’s martial arts philosophy. It is simply and directly to reinforce that the mindset for effective personal defence is one of responsiveness. Training is key and the nature of the training performed is equally key. One cannot expect to compete in a motor race without learning to drive a car at high speed. Repeatedly practicing driving the car and progressively increasing the speed is fundamental to ensuring the physical capabilities are developed in order to be successful. The same is true for personal defence. One cannot simply attend a singular “workshop” and acquire ninja like reflexes to enable the successful destruction of any would be assailant. Indeed true responsiveness for personal defence is necessitated by a fluid training approach. This approach must be able to provide the necessary repetition to hone and perfect techniques, whilst also providing the conditions to “investigate” and “test” the individual application. Through this training approach the physical techniques then become more unconscious, reflexive and instinctive. The method then becomes more responsive, allowing application without conscious obstacle or over-thinking.

Responsiveness is however not just limited to the application of physical technique. The mindset for effective personal defence must allow fluid responsiveness at all points. Risk analysis and safety awareness can be conceptualised using a myriad of differing terms and models. The essence of these, as is the case with most things,can be distilled and simplified into three key steps: #1 ASSESS #2. DECIDE #3. ACT The initial step ASSESS is the proactive observation and information gathering stage. This is the point at which all aspects of the environment are taken in and filters applied accordingly. For personal defence these filters require us to consider the source and nature of potential dangers.Are there potential dangers within the environment (such as moving vehicles, poor street lighting, issues with the terrain or obstructions present)? Are there any obvious and potential dangers from individuals or groups within the area (often these are highlighted by erratic physical behaviours,loud and potentially offensive verbal behaviour and/or generally suspicious behaviours which don’t “fit” with the general environment)? In addition to the details pertaining to the potential hazard, we also need to be gaining information regarding the general environment, including alternative routes, exits and sources of assistance if required.

Open minded awareness is critical for authentic and unbiased observation. Whilst we must be complete this assessment as quickly as possible, the more detail we have the better opportunity we have to make the correct decision. Each identified hazard should be rapidly assimilated into a virtual hierarchy, grading the significance of the threat posed, potential risk of harm and likelihood of occurrence. Essentially we need to complete a spontaneous and immediate risk assessment for each hazard. Having this information clear we can then respond in the most appropriate manner.

Step two DECIDE is the stage for determination of your response. The decision we take needs to be immediate and appropriate to the threat/risk identified. First and fundamentally we need to decide whether and what response is required. If the the threat is significant can we avoid or escape it? If we can then we should. Simply the first and only decision to make is how best do you minimise the threat or risk present. In respect of risk management the hierarchy of controls prioritises elimination and substitution above all other steps. Avoiding the threat, or deciding to undertake behaviours which will minimise it (such using an alternative route to get from A-B) are the parallels for personal defence.

If however the threat is unavoidable, and we cannot substitute our behaviour to adequately minimise the risk presented the decision then needs to be concerned with how we best isolate ourselves the potential harm posed by threat. This may be through the provision of a verbal fence including dialogue/behaviours to de-escalate the situation or a physical obstacle/fence to maintain an area relative safety. The ultimate goal here is to effect the threat in order to create opportunity to escape and therefore avoid any further conflict or harm. The final stage the hierarchy of decisions concerning available responses to the threat is that which will directly oppose and physically confronts the imposed hazard. This clearly presents us with the greatest risk of potential harm and this response requires us to maintain a continual and unchallenged awareness. The goal here has not shifted and the response we undertake should be only to create the circumstances to minimise and escape the direct threat presented. An open awareness to the changing nature of the threat must be maintained (number of opponents, routes to escape, opportunities for assistance etc.) and responses made appropriately.

The final step is to ACT. This has to be immediate, direct and committed action. The simple responses are typically the most effective, however no response will work without a 100% commitment to its successful conclusion.

Whilst there is no linear form to any personal defence event, the ASSESS-DECIDE-ACT model does provide us a guide to the determination of appropriate response.It highlights at every stage we must indeed be fluid, open and responsive to the potential threat and our environment. The one constant in regards to personal defence is that there are no constants. The chaotic nature of confrontation means that we cannot adopt a linear approach to it’s resolution. Each situation will present differently, changing dramatically and spontaneously. Each situation will require the assessment of different conditions and variables. In the face of this chaos we must retain a fluidity to our response. The need to control this chaos drives us towards rigidly formed control responses which in the moment of their systemisation become redundantly ineffective. Our responses cannot be rigid. Our techniques must be direct, simple and effective but the application of these must be based on a fluid response to that questions asked. We cannot be preemptive in assuming the outcome of a specific strategy or technique; it may work and achieve a desired end; it may not work at all; or indeed it may an effect that we did not first anticipate. We therefore must investigate and train our responses repeatedly, but varying the conditions and parameters within which they are used.

For any personal defence strategy to be successful we must maintain an open minded approach to both our training mindset and physical responses. Through our training we must aim develop an approach which secures a simple confidence, based on effective and direct physical responses in all ranges. We must equally train our situational awareness, developing our cognitive responsiveness to avoid, escape and de-escalate conflict. The true “art” of personal defence is not built on fixed responses, but fluid understanding. Retaining a fluid nature to our approach provides the constant opportunity to continually respond appropriately to the chaotically, spontaneous nature of the situation. Ultimately, when we are simple, we flow. Our approach to personal defence is flow...


“The man who is clear and simple does not choose. What is, is. Action based on an idea is obviously the action of choice and such action is not liberating. On the contrary, it creates further resistance, further conflict. Assume pliable awareness” Bruce Lee - Tao of Jeet Kune Do

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