Self Defense for the Streets

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Linda Heenan
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Self Defense for the Streets

Post by Linda Heenan » Sun Nov 29, 2009 4:49 pm

What are the best techniques you know for overcoming an attacker who wants your handbag/wallet, and does want to leave you lucid enough to identify him? Obviously the best thing to do is hand over the wallet, but what if he's not satisfied with that? What if he is going to physically hurt you?

I'm in my 7th year of training in taijiquan and I do not think I could defend myself easily against a fit young male or several of them, on the streets of Sydney. If I had a stick handy - yes. My sword skills are up to good defense with a weapon.

I do not think techniques that take years to train are a lot of use in a moment of attack. I've seen Laoshi defend himself without thinking, under street attack, and I've seen him have enough control to hold the strike in a split second when the threat backed down. But that's not me. I'd like to hear what people think about the simplest ways to defend ourselves.
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Re: Self Defense for the Streets

Post by J HepworthYoung » Mon Nov 30, 2009 9:25 am

Self defense is a touchy and tricky topic.
I am not sure I could defend myself using taiji moves alone.

Between the ages of 6 and 17 I was in hundreds of fights in school, at home, and at church. Nearly all of the fights at school were with bullies, the vast majority of those nobody won, in terms of injury also nobody won. I have not fought with real violence for about 10 years, but have been punched, elbowed and smacked in fast speed push hands like free play. I have training hitting things too that I never had as a child or teen.

I have many friends from many walks of life, this might sound strange for an aspie, but I was homeless at one point and was given a place to stay by some rock musician friends and I met hundreds of people living at that house. Some of the people I met were fairly violent types, criminals, gangsters, 3-4 ex aryan nations enforcers, one of whom was head of security at a seedy local bar. I met lots of non-criminal people too, all types, however they aren't going to relate to this topic.

I've seen and heard a lot of violence from the hard working, hard drinking and hard fighting crowd. Rather than tell you stories let me just narrow self defense down to three fundamental things:

1 timing,
Timing is everything in a fight, if you cannot hit your target or avoid being one with the right timing then you will lose. In relation to an attack some ideal times to hit are before it starts, during its initiation, and just after its peak power after attack is launched but before it flows into a new attack.

2 reading the threat,
Know your enemy, size them up, observe their balance, speed, power and aggression level. Let no move, not even their breath go unnoticed. Some ideal points here, do not underestimate, err on the side of caution. More importantly know what distances are required for an attack, most knife and gun attacks happen within 10 feet according to a Deputy friend of mine. Fist and foot attacks often happen close but can be launched quickly by some people. Reading the threat is important for timing to be ideal anyway.

3 de-personify your opponent,
A real threat is not a person, it is a danger to your life, it is an energy contrary to your existence and health. As long as a threat exists, a person does not. In a real fight there is not so much time to think, there is often hardly enough time to act. Some opponents will get in range and launch a practiced attack, a special move, that you cannot dodge, block or stop. I worked with a man who was a boxer and had never been hit once in a street fight, when his opponent would raise their arm he would strike them so quickly and powerfully with his arm that his single strike would not only end the fight, but hospitalized his opponent most of the time. His brother in law told me he had seen him get in 6 fights where the same thing happened. Not even the few ex-aryan nations enforcers (US bikies) I have met are this dangerous, and they are very violent.

Now I am assuming you have a proper foundation of speed, power and technique here.

In general for effective moves, if you are attacked and have to defend yourself it is good to have strikes down to the eyes, throat, ears and knees. A good blow to any of these places is most often a fight stopper.

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Re: Self Defense for the Streets

Post by Linda Heenan » Mon Nov 30, 2009 4:52 pm

Thanks Joshua. That's really good information. I think I would have the most trouble with de personifying. I suppose, since I'm not fast enough with trained taiji moves, simple reactionary moves such as a slice to the eyes with the fingertips, headbut, hard slap to the ear, etc, would work well. The one I can always get in in time is the elbow, so that at least is useful.
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Re: Self Defense for the Streets

Post by Tashi James » Tue Dec 01, 2009 6:15 pm

This may have been answered but I'm in hurry and didn't read all the posts.

There is no best technique for any situation. Whatever technique you use..must be automatic, in your bones [hence repetition, focus on form and principles is necessary], which is to say, you need to be able to react without thinking about it. If you think in moments of pressure and immediacy which such encounters demand you may hesitate, freeze and end up in a more dire situation. However, do not take impulse to act in the moment to be one of raw/savage/rabid attack, it needs to be direct, controlled [as much as possible]and rational. Otherwise you may be the one fighting a conviction while some nutter is claiming compensation as a victim of crime.
"There is nothing that does not become easier through familiarity" (Santideva).

"We become what we do repeatedly. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit" (Aristotle).

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Re: Self Defense for the Streets

Post by Tashi James » Tue Dec 01, 2009 6:27 pm

One moe point, if a person is intoxicated or suffering a mental illness they wont always respond to the clique like a kick to the groin or whatever. Hell when I'm in pain I laugh not cry so someone who is really messed up coul;d prove difficult. In fact my ex-girlfriends mother was faced with this situation when her drunk and dug induced psychosis affected brother threatened to kill himself, she tried to wrestle the knife from him and kicked him multiple times with no effect. He then slashed his own throat [and survived] which ended the messy situation.

So when sizing up a situation, it may happen that you need to flee to survive, there is no inherent shame in this.
"There is nothing that does not become easier through familiarity" (Santideva).

"We become what we do repeatedly. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit" (Aristotle).

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Re: Self Defense for the Streets

Post by Linda Heenan » Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:47 pm

I've never been a fast runner - even as a skinny kid. I'd come last in the sprints and usually placed in the distance races. So fleeing might not be the best option for everyone. I totally agree that only what is automatic will come out in the moment of need. For us, that would be some of the section 1 applications. You don't really know until you meet a threat. I'll be alone on the streets of Sydney late this Friday night. It's not usually dangerous though if you don't go looking for trouble. Hopefully, I'll never need to use any of these skills. I'd just like to know for sure that if that rare moment came, I'd come out best.

So who has actually been in a street attack? I know some of the Aussies have. Did you use taijiquan, run away, some other defense? Talk your way out of it? What? What comes out when you need to survive? As a kid I got beaten up several times a week until I was twelve. I'd like to know that all the training I've put into taijiquan is actually useful enough to win.
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Re: Self Defense for the Streets

Post by Tashi James » Wed Dec 02, 2009 1:14 am

leeing is a bit ambiguous in retrospect. I thing evasion might be more accurate, meaning to flee (run) if the situation allows or otherwise put an object between you and the attacker. A wall, post, shop-shelf or whatever to create distance so that there is time to evaluate the situation a little [it can help, but it can make things worse as well].

I've been in several incidents. I've had a shotgun pulled on me and had pistol put in my face, been threatened with stabbing, ambushed 3 times and targeted several times. I don't know how i managed not to get shot, obviously it was an attempt to intimidate rather than maim or kill. The stabbing threat happened in a train, one person was holding my arm while another was making threats, i yelled f*%* off as loud as possible startling the guy holding my arm changed carriages and evaded them when they tried again when I got off the train.

I was punched in the back of the head and heckled in a race attack, apparently it was meant to be for someone else. That one really shook me as I was just into high school and hadn't really experienced violence at that point directly, but it ironically helped me to develop a sixth sense of when imminent danger was around. Not always a good thing, In a night club a friend came up [apparently joking] from behind but found himself thrown over my shoulder and the pool table in front of me. I didn't think about that it just happened.

On another occasion while leaving the same club a guy grabbed my hair [long at that point] from behind and I turned grabbing his throat pinning him to the wall, he was over six foot and alot heavier than me [i'm only 5' 7" and 130 lbs or so], nonetheless i had the advantage and wouldn't back down, he began sobbing and demanding that I kill him [weirdo] obviously drunk and depressed. All the time the bouncers stood by without intervening [maybe they knew i had self-control or didn't they care but they never tryed and didn't say a word]. Eventually the guy let go of my hair and I just walked away. The following week he came up and apologised profusely and kept buying me drinks, he would later tell me his girlfriend broke up with him and he became irrational.

One of the last times a couple of guys came to my front door and one started trying to get me to fight/spar, because most people new I studied MA by this time. I said no initially but eventually thought what the hell to get him off my case, he came in hard kicking my legs (he was into kick boxing), he had long arms and was taller than me but had a habit of sticking his head forward when he punched. I'm (or was) quite fast despite my lack of size and power
and proceeded to hit I'm with a combination of kicks, a right jab, left jab and spun backfisting him in the head. called a time out because he was going to have an asthma attack or something . After that no one really picked on me and he became a good friend so I think it was about establishing neighborhood dominance more than anything.
"There is nothing that does not become easier through familiarity" (Santideva).

"We become what we do repeatedly. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit" (Aristotle).

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Re: Self Defense for the Streets

Post by Tashi James » Wed Dec 02, 2009 1:18 am

I've not used Taijiquan in a situation, hopefully it would be automatic and I try to train so that it does. Given that I had the ability once before, I hope that it it still applies. But as the saying goes you 'use it or lose it' and without the sanshou that I had in other arts at present all I have is the repetition of form to develop intent etc.
"There is nothing that does not become easier through familiarity" (Santideva).

"We become what we do repeatedly. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit" (Aristotle).

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Re: Self Defense for the Streets

Post by Linda Heenan » Wed Dec 02, 2009 2:14 am

all I have is the repetition of form to develop intent etc.
.... exactly. It isn't enough. I'm in my 7th year of form and I know lots of first section applications but that isn't the same as the sword training I've been doing with partners. No worries with a stick handy, but I have my doubts about empty hand. I have a couple of good throws that are automatic, and the rollback and take control of the arm thing but most attackers would be stronger than me. I'd need something to take out an attacker immediately so there was no battle of strength.
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Re: Self Defense for the Streets

Post by Psi Man » Tue Dec 08, 2009 2:36 am

Hey Linda, anything in particular that made you think of this lately?

Here are my obvious fundamental rules for not getting attacked!

-don't go to dangerous places
-don't walk down the street alone at night, in an unfamiliar neighborhood, with an iPod or cellphone in your ear, or while intoxicated
-don't go to nightclubs or dive bars (these places attract people with attitude or substance-abuse problems)
-don't tell everyone that you practice martial arts
-don't think your martial art is going to save you because it's more effective than anyone else's practice
-don't expect the fight to end with one or two strikes, unless it's a pitiful drunk. Unless angry/violent people are actually scared or disabled by you, they will just get angrier until you take them down
-don't ignore your intuition that someone is going to hustle or rob you (and don't deny the possibility of a bad scenario)
-don't hang out with irresponsible people or let them control social situations
-don't aimlessly wander around, especially at night. Have a place to go, and don't be afraid to cross the street or do things signaling you're aware of a threat's intent

-do maintain good physical shape
-do know your surroundings
-do assess how your companions will react to a dangerous situation before it happens
-do know the limits of your own abilities (don't be stupidly brave and try something new in a deadly situation)
-do make the choice to fight for survival under certain circumstances (such as a kidnapping or home invasion)

The corollary to this is that you can't avoid all of these things all of the time and you can't live in a constant state of fear. But most of the times I've run into dangerous elements of society in the past were times in which I was behaving questionably myself. As for the aspects of life and society that are out of our control, that's what we train for.

And there are plenty of ways of learning how to ward off danger outside of studying martial arts. Simply being able to project genuine confidence goes a long way. In fact, a lot of people mistakenly draw negative attention to themselves thru the martial arts by never addressing their real phobias, anxieties and insecurities.

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Re: Self Defense for the Streets

Post by Linda Heenan » Tue Dec 08, 2009 4:15 am

Hey Psi Man
Hey Linda, anything in particular that made you think of this lately?
Yes, it was the fact that I'd entered my seventh year of taijiquan training and was completely unsure of my ability to use emptyhand skills to defend myself. I had a pretty rough childhood - maybe everyone did in my generation. I couldn't possibly count how many times I got beaten up. I was also targetted by pedophiles. So when I started martial arts training, one of my hopes was that I'd be able to defend myself if it ever became necessary. Then, as I entered my 7th year of training, I realised that simply wasn't true - at least, not without a weapon. So it was the anniversary objective look that made me think like that.
-don't go to dangerous places
Hmmm, not possible.
-don't walk down the street alone at night, in an unfamiliar neighborhood, with an iPod or cellphone in your ear, or while intoxicated
I don't own an ipod or a cellphone and I don't drink alcohol, so those are all good. I do walk down streets alone at night though, often in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. That can't be avoided all the time and I'm not afraid - just aware.
-don't go to nightclubs or dive bars (these places attract people with attitude or substance-abuse problems)
Yeah, no worries there. I hate those sorts of places and I can't be anywhere where there is cigarette smoke. Also, I seem to have some sort of hearing dificulty that makes it impossible to understand what people are saying if there are other noises, so I don't go anywhere there is loud music or too many people.
-don't tell everyone that you practice martial arts
-don't think your martial art is going to save you because it's more effective than anyone else's practice
That's good advice. people want to test your skill if you say you practise martial arts. It's almost like a challenge to them.
don't expect the fight to end with one or two strikes, unless it's a pitiful drunk. Unless angry/violent people are actually scared or disabled by you, they will just get angrier until you take them down
Actually, that's a really good thought. I'd never considered a fight lasting more than a couple of strikes until you said that.
-don't ignore your intuition that someone is going to hustle or rob you (and don't deny the possibility of a bad scenario)
Yeah, that's good thinking. I was walking in central Sydney one day when a guy approached me asking for money for food. He had a group of mates very close by. My instinct was that this was dangerous and I had to get out of the gang feeling first. So I offered to take him to a food place and buy him something. He fell for it and followed me, leaving them behind. Then I ordered something he would have to wait for, gave him the money and left him at the counter, disappearing before anything could happen. Then, another time, in Washington, a man was following me. I didn't let on I knew and then quickly crossed the street in a crowd and disappeared. So I do listen to the instincts.
don't hang out with irresponsible people or let them control social situations
That doesn't happen.
-don't aimlessly wander around, especially at night. Have a place to go, and don't be afraid to cross the street or do things signaling you're aware of a threat's intent
That happened this year. I arrived in Washington from Australia and was very hungry because there is nowhere to eat for a long time when you travel - no time at the airport between fights and nothing I'd consider edible on the plane from LA to Washington - soggy salads that could be dangerous to eat and sandwiches made of wheat bread, which I'm supposed to avoid. So I got directions to a food shop and went to get a meal so I'd be able to sleep. Nothing was open and before long I was lost and disoriented. It felt like the most dangerous situation I'd been in for a long time. It was Friday night/Saturday morning and the streets were full of partying people getting drunker and drunker. I'd been without sleep for 30 hours and I was totally lost - wandering the streets, trying to find the way back to my apartment. I had no communication information on me. I was feeling ill and dizzy from lack of sleep, wandering - not aimlessly, but certainly looking like it. It took several hours to find my way back. That was accidental but from time to time I try to work out how to avoid arriving in America in such a mess next time :D . Fortunately nothing happened.
-do maintain good physical shape
Yeah ... right.... I wish you knew how much effort I've put into that to very little avail. Also, I'm a grandmother. The young person who used to be able to run for hours at a time is long gone.
-do know your surroundings
Next time .... next time...
-do assess how your companions will react to a dangerous situation before it happens
There usually aren't any companions. In Sydney last Friday night, I was aproached by men twice. One of them had a mate with him. I had a purpose for being there but most of Sydney is out to have fun and hang out with whoever, on a Friday night. Despite there being literally thousands of good looking young women in town, I got chatted up twice :lol: That might be considered flattering. Nothing happened. They were just friendly Aussie males who didn't want to be alone. I think females can be in trouble if they flirt back but I don't do that so you just have a little chat and move on.
-do know the limits of your own abilities (don't be stupidly brave and try something new in a deadly situation)
That's well worth thinking about. In a deadly situation though .... if you can't talk your way out of it, trick your way out of it, or run away, what other choice is there but to fight?
-do make the choice to fight for survival under certain circumstances (such as a kidnapping or home invasion)
Yes, I would do that. The interesting thing is, the way the law goes, it's actually better that an attacker ends up dead instead of hurt. I hope I'll never be in that situation, but home invasions happen all the time.

My son heard about this topic and told me about an incident when he was 14. He and a friend sat down at a Sydney railway station to wait for a train. Then two big Maoris sat either side of them on the bench. One of them turned to Shuan and his friend and quietly said, "Give us your wallets!" Shaun had had no martial arts training. He was a small town boy in a city, but he's very smart. He had noticed the railway station was full of people, so he turned to the big Maori and said, "No. What are you going to do?" The would be thieves hadn't thought that far ahead. They sat there for a few more moments and decided there really wasn't anything they could do in that situation, so they got up and walked away. It took Shaun 8 years to think to tell me that.....
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Re: Self Defense for the Streets

Post by stampe » Tue Dec 29, 2009 3:35 pm

Cheng Man Ching's student Robert Smith said if you wanna know how to fight- "take up Boxing!"

boxing has:
-stretching
-warm-ups- light hand weights, jump rope, shadow boxing
-defense work- covering, slip, duck, bob, weave, shoulder roll, parry, catch.
-stance work
-stepping work (attacking, defending, evasive, countering)
-striking (jab, cross, hook, uppercut) 1,2,3,4,5,... count combinations.
-stepping and striking work, ring craft
-endurance and stamina training,
-speed and power training.
-bag circuits (heavy, speed, double ended, uppercut)
-sparring drills
-partner drills: focus mitts, belly pad
-sparring
-fighting


After you take up boxing the information in the Tai chi forms will make sense. Both are very similar in principle believe it or not.

To bad Robert Smith didnt take up Sanda or Muay thai because they have everything that boxing does but with kicks, knees, elbows, and throws added.

That kind of training will add confidence for Self Defense for the Streets.
Train Hard, Stay soft, and Relax

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Re: Self Defense for the Streets

Post by Tashi James » Tue Dec 29, 2009 5:03 pm

Unfortunately, it may add unwanted body mass as well. Okay if one knows fang-song but if not it is working at cross purposes.
"There is nothing that does not become easier through familiarity" (Santideva).

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Re: Self Defense for the Streets

Post by stampe » Wed Dec 30, 2009 8:08 am

Tashi James wrote:Unfortunately, it may add unwanted body mass as well. Okay if one knows fang-song but if not it is working at cross purposes.
Are you talking about boxing creating unwanted body mass?
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Re: Self Defense for the Streets

Post by Tashi James » Sat Jan 02, 2010 12:42 am

Yes, if you add muscle mass to a body that is already out of alignment it may compound ones ability to apply Taijiquan principles. Perhaps Adam Smith was referring to Taiji boxing not western style boxing? In which case a different methodology in regard to power and strategy is employed.

The classics warn that to rely on 'li' muscular force is unsustainable. Case in point there are very few western boxers who keep their skill into old age, however, many examples of elder Taijiquan practitioners who continue to carry outstanding abilities.
"There is nothing that does not become easier through familiarity" (Santideva).

"We become what we do repeatedly. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit" (Aristotle).

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