We have very little time between grades and with all the work we must put in to be ready, certain elements of self-defence may not be addressed as often as they should. An often neglected area of training is the importance of leaving before or during a violent situation. This involves avoiding areas or situations where violence may occur, leaving when violence becomes unavoidable and defending with the intention of escaping at first chance.
As a general rule of self-defence; it’s better to avoid than to escape; better to escape than to de-escalate; better to de-escalate than to fight and better to fight than to surrender.
Avoiding a violent situation is the safest way to protect yourself, as you keep away from any threat of danger. This does not involve being paranoid or making any great changes to your day to day life. It simply means be aware of your surroundings. Choose the well-lit busy walkway over the dark ally; if you’re at a pub and it starts to get a bit too rowdy, know when it’s time to leave. Simple steps that don’t heavily affect your life, but stop you from being placed in an escalated situation which can have severe consequences.
Escape or leaving a situation is required when you are unable to avoid the possibility of violence, or if it has occurred suddenly. Imagine you’re at the pub, a bit tired, staring blankly at the wall, bar, TV screen etc. Unbeknownst to you, in your line of vision is a guy who has had a bad day/week/life and wants to take it out on someone. “What are you looking at” (might not be said as pleasantly as this), you focus your gaze and there is Mr Bad, hoping you say the right thing to give him an excuse to come closer. Get up and walk away (preferably towards a security guard do help deter him from following). He’ll be puzzled, might yell out something along the lines of you being a wimp (again probably not so G rated), but you just left a situation which could have been much worse than being called a name. Remember words can never hurt you.
De-escalation is your last line of defence before physical action is required. Same situation as above, but when Mr Bad yelled out, he immediately got up and walked over. He is now to close for you to turn and run and you need to use your words to defend yourself. Pay attention to your distance and what he could attack you with. At this point saying something to take away his steam would be useful. “Your shirt mate, my ex bought me the same one, you caught me thinking about her”. This is a good phrase, because you have not admitted fault by apologising and you have given a brief story which interrupts his aggressive thought process. At this point “You know what, I should go give her a call” gives you an excuse to make a quick exit. Information covering de-escalation techniques can fill an encyclopaedia and you will not get all you need from one article. I strongly suggest looking further into this as it may save your life one day.
Fight– This is that part where all our physical training comes into play however a few important things to remember:
- Australia like most countries has many laws in place to minimise violent behaviour. When defending yourself, most laws state that “reasonable force” can be used. This is the level of force a person perceives as reasonable to protect yourself and get away. Please research this for yourself to ensure you understand the laws where you live. This article is not legal advice!
- Your aim is to defend yourself and leave the situation with minimal damage to yourself.
- It is not your responsibility to teach the other person a lesson and doing so will make you the aggressor.
- Anyone who fights is considered guilty till proven innocent, so if you have to engage, defend and leave.
So back to our example with Mr Bad, “What are you looking at”, he gets up comes over and is inside your personal space (within 1 metre). Most of the time a situation will not get to this point, but some people go out on a weekly basis, looking to get into a fight. What you need to realise, is that these people have done this before; they are only coming over because they have sized you up and are confident that they can win. We train a lot, but in this situation, Mr Bad has also trained every weekend for years. He knows how to attack and to take a punch; incidentally making a punch a relatively useless attack on your part. Odds are he is the same size as you or larger so there will be no room for half-hearted or weak attacks here. The aim for you is to escape, get away from this situation without injury. Focus on getting him off balance so you can escape or targeting weak points and after a successful strike, LEAVE! If the leg buckles from a kick, time to leave. If you have to explain your action “He attacked me so I kicked his knee and left” is a pretty reasonable explanation and should result legal consequences.
The best self-defence is keeping away from situation where you need to physically defend yourself. If you need to defend yourself, leave as soon as possible to avoid elongation of a violent situation. It will only get worse for everyone involved the longer it goes on. If a situation starts and you can leave, LEAVE! Do not let a foolish sense of pride draw you into a violent confrontation that can cost you your freedom, home, family, career or your life. There is no shame in leaving a situation without fighting. It does not make you a coward, and anyone who says otherwise can go take a jump, let them be the ones to go out get into fights and ruin their own lives.
So, why do we train in taekwondo if we are not supposed to fight? Training in taekwondo is about much more than just learning to punch, kick and block. I have seen the self confidence in so many people grow through training, individuals become mentally and physical stronger. Many would be attackers will pick up on this strength and avoid starting a confrontation with an experienced martial arts practitioner. By training in taekwondo, we learn self-control and discipline, exactly what is needed to leave before a violent conflict breaks out. Lastly we learn a traditional martial art the gives us the tools to escape should we find ourselves in a violent situation.
Remember avoid violent situations, only fight when absolutely necessary using reasonable force and first chance for escape should be taken.