Can You Defend Yourself?

Most martial artists train to learn how to protect themselves and others. Eventually they ask themselves how well their training is preparing them for this task. After all, there are many styles and systems and not all really teach adequate self-defence skills. This oversight, in my opinion, could have grave consequences.

Since I am a police officer being able to protect myself and others is an essential skill. Of the many tools at my disposal when dealing with violent individuals, the most important is the spoken word. Often a situation can be diffused through talk. However when that doesn’t work, then empty-hand tactics may have to be used.

Having martial arts skills is great but if you are not sure how to apply them then what good are they? In the karate program I teach, the emphasis on practical self-defence is shown very early. I have my students learn the moves properly and then try them out on one another to make sure they work. I want to be sure that if a student ever needs to defend themselves, that they have the skills and knowledge to back them up.

During the 33 years I have been training I have developed a tip sheet that is useful not only for martial art students but for anyone interested in avoiding or dealing with violent situations. Here are my 21 tips:

21 Tips for Self-Defence

  1. Always be aware of your surroundings
  2. Never park in a poorly lit area
  3. Always carry purses or fanny packs in a protected manner
  4. Always lock your vehicle
  5. Always do a visual check of your vehicle before entering it
  6. Have your keys ready before you arrive at your vehicle
  7. Never let strangers enter your car (or your house) to use your phone. Keep the door locked and offer to call help for them
  8. Never leave purses, cameras, or other expensive items on vehicle seats, whether your are moving or not
  9. If you need help, yell, “Fire!”
  10. In a violent confrontation, always fight back mentally even if it’s physically impossible
  11. Be aware that attackers are often people you know
  12. You must be prepared to defend yourself with as much or more aggression than the attacker is using
  13. When in a fight, be prepared to receive injuries as well as give them
  14. If possible try to create a rapport with the attacker. This will help identify you as a real person and not just an object of attack
  15. Never carry or brandish a weapon you are not prepared to use; the attacker may take it away and use it against you
  16. Remember your greatest defence is common sense: stay out of areas and situations with known risks
  17. If an attack has happened – whether verbal, physical or sexual – go to the police right away
  18. It’s your right to live and travel in safety; no one has a right to take this away from you
  19. Always walk confidently and appear as though you know what you are doing and where you are going, even if you are lost
  20. Always listen to your feelings, that sixth sense you have for danger
  21. Be aware, if you are attacked, you will probably be alone, so it is up to you, and no one else, to defend yourself.

Remember, common sense is the key, awareness your edge and avoidance your goal.

—Peter Zehr
Grey-Bruce Ryusei Karate-Do