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Articles about Wrestling, Self-Defense, and Mixed Martial Arts > What to look for in a True Self Defense Program

1 Sep 2010

What to look for in a “True” Self-defense Program
A Full Circle Concept
Grandmaster Jody Perry’s Ph.D./M.A., Soke.

Since our terrible tragedy on what is now known as 9-11, self-defense and safety awareness has moved up to the forefront of most peoples concerns. With all the different martial arts styles and systems advertising that they have the best self-defense program available, the general public is left lost and confused, to say the least, as to what program is the best program for themselves and their loved ones. With high hopes and enthusiasm, individuals seeking the answer may search through some or many of the different martial arts magazines and Website’s for the program that “looks” or “sounds” like the perfect style or system for their needs. Someone may select a program that looks or sounds good because the marketing or advertising is good, but the marketing skills of a particular martial arts system or style do not guarantee an adequate self-defense program.
What is too often neglected in the curriculum of some self-defense programs is the fact that individuals have many different shapes, sizes, personalities, characters and abilities not to mention age and gender. Just as the martial arts styles and systems were originally created with consideration of these factors, so should a self-defense program be developed and Tailored for each particular individual. This is reality. Each individual needs to be taught a program that is designed for his or her needs and abilities. Therefore, if a self-defense program teaches the same techniques to all its students regardless of the aforementioned, it can not realistically be a true self-defense program.
To those individuals searching for the perfect self-defense program, consider what I have mentioned. You need, no, it is essential that you find a program that is tailored for you. Not your boyfriend or dad, girlfriend or mother, son or daughter. Tailored for YOU.
To the instructors teaching a self-defense program, do not let your marketing savvy win your students, let the techniques that you teach win them, protect them, empower them, save them from harms way. Consider; if the self-defense program you are teaching is not designed for each individual, as a particular, distinct individual, can you sleep at night, knowing you really are teaching techniques that will be “somewhat” effective if your student is faced with a life or death situation? If you the instructor have to stop and think about this answer, if you have any hesitation in saying yes, then you probably do not have a well-rounded, effective self-defense program. I am not saying that your style or system is lacking in this area, instead I am saying that maybe the techniques that are being taught at the present time are not the best techniques your particular style or system has to offer. Thirty years of research that I have conducted of different martial arts programs revealed that almost all the styles have some type of technique that addresses any situation that one might encounter; offense, defense, standing, or on the ground.
A good example of tailored techniques can be observed by watching the techniques used by wrestlers. High school, collegiate, and Olympic style wrestling are sports that are divided into approximately 10 different weight classes. The lowest weight class is around 110 lbs. and the heaviest is around 220 pounds. It goes without saying that the size, techniques, speed, agility, flexibility, strength, and tactics of a 110-pound wrestler are not the same as the strategies and capabilities of a 220-pound wrestler. Strategically, a 220-pound wrestler is more likely to want to stand toe-to-toe and have a Crush! Kill! Destroy! mentality, as opposed to the 110-pound wrestler that will be trying to slip, slide, weasel, and out-maneuver his or her way through the match.

In the Bruce Lee movie “Game of Death,” Mr. Lee has a fight to the death with a character played by Abdul Karem Jabal, a man that stands close to twice Bruce Lee’s size. Although Mr. Lee defends and attacks with an array of combination punches and kicks, including flying kicks, it is not the punches or kicks that win the fight. Instead the fight is taken to the ground and won by a choke applied by Mr. Lee. What we can learn from this fight is that Mr. Lee, the much shorter man of the two, had to bring the taller man down to his advantage point to take him out, that being on the ground. Trying to stand toe-to-toe with Mr. Jabal got Mr. Lee a nice size 22 footprint on his chest from a kick delivered by the long legs of his opponent. His tailored techniques were for a short man against a much taller man.
In one of the first Ultimate Fighting Challenges, Keith Hackney, fighting out of the Lions Den, was matched up with a gentleman that weighed 600 pounds and stood 6,8" feet tall. The man was quite larger then Mr. Hackney in height and weight. Trying to kick or punch into the body of a man that size is almost a joke. However, punches to the face, even if it required jumping up to land them, and constantly and strategically maneuvering to stay out of the bigger man’s grip, rewarded Mr. Hackney with the victory. Here the tailored techniques were for a short man against a taller, thicker, and rounder man. Although these examples are sport oriented, they do express the necessity of learning techniques that are tailored for the essential qualities of an individual.
Turning away from sport and back to self-defense, I would first like to say that I can not over emphasize the importance of teaching kids different techniques then adults. True, kids do need to learn how to defend themselves against their peers with punch, kicks, blocks and grappling, but they also need to be taught how to Effectively defend, and escape the grip of an adult abductor. Being kidnapped is probably the most terrifying fear of any child and his or her parents. When I watch a self-defense program being taught to kids that have them learning inward, outward, upward, and downward blocks, with loud yells like “K.I.!” I can’t help getting sick to my stomach knowing that the only effective component in those instructions is the yelling. Realistically if you really believe that a child will be able to chop an adult abductors arm hard enough to make him or her release their grip on the child, you had better wake-up and smell the coffee. I’m sorry, but unless the child can break boards or bricks, it’s not going to happen.
At one time or another, while shopping in a store, I’m sure that you’ve seen an out of control child complaining about something while trying to tear away from the grip of their mother or father. Twisting, pulling, pushing, and spinning in and out under the arm of their parent until the child breaks free of the parents hold. These techniques of twisting, pulling, pushing, and spinning in and out under the arm(s) of their abductor are truly effective self-defense maneuvers for a child. Besides being natural and automatic responses to the grab, they can be very efficient if practiced with more emphasis on the intent – to break away from a would-be kidnapper. Add a snap-kick to the groin, a side-kick to the back of the leg (which will make the abductor’s leg bend, causing him/her to drop to one knee) and maybe a round-house-kick to the fallen abductor, and you have an effective defense tailored for a child.
At Perry’s Full Circle, this is precisely what we emphasize for kids; grip releases from every grab imaginable, hand and finger traps to inflict pain to the would be abductor while breaking free of the grab, and kicks to the back of the leg that will cause the leg to bend and force the abductor to drop to one or both knees. We also teach them how to use hanging arm-bars such as those used in Sambo or Gracie Jujitsu. A hanging arm-bar is applied when a child drops to the ground to fight off his or her abductor, and the abductor reaches down to grab the child. The child is trained to throw their hips up, wrap their legs around the arm of the abductor and apply an arm-bar that is capable of breaking the abductors arm with little or no effort. We want the child to escape, not try and stand toe-to-toe and punch it out with his or her would be abductor. This is a tailored self –defense for kids.

Another deceiving “self-defense” program for kids is the one that cycles kids in and out like a drive-through restaurant. These are the programs that run half-hour sessions once or twice a week and advance students through their belt system so fast that the kids can’t even keep track of what color belt they are. The parents of these kids know, though. Or they should know; all they have to do is add up how many checks they made out to the school this month. In no time the child is a black belt and the parent is $500.00 to $2,000.00 in the hole. But does the child really have the ability to protect him or herself? The child might be very respectful, polite, courteous, honest have great integrity and know just when to say “Yes sir!” or “No sir!” on command, but I don’t get how that is going to keep a would-be kidnapper away from them. Maybe I am missing something here. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in teaching kids these respectful disciplines, but let’s get real; these behavioral lessons alone are not likely to save them from an abduction.
If you as the parent are not sure whether or not your child has learned “any” techniques that might help them escape from an abductor ($500.00 to $2,000.00 later) try this test:
Have your child stand about five feet away from you. Tell the child that on a command you are going to try to grab them as if you were a bad guy. The child is to attempt to defend him or herself. (Note: this is probably not safe for most typical parents to attempt, so both you the parent, and the child need to maintain some degree of control.). Protecting your groin area and face, with or without yelling, try to grab your child. Try this about five times. Maybe the child will be able to keep you off at least once out of the five trials. Next, have the child turn his or her back to you, still five feet away from you. Now try to grab the child again, with or without yelling. How many times did your child defend him or herself? Now, let’s amp-up the situation. Blindfold the child and perform the same test. Try to grab the child from the front, then from the rear. Don’t be discouraged when you discover your child (the martial artist) did not have a chance against your adult size and strength. Instead, pull the wool off your eyes and look a little closer at the self-defense techniques being taught to your child for an ungodly amount of money. Are the techniques tailored for a child? For your child?”
Alright, so enough ragging on child self-defense programs. Let’s now take a look at self-defense programs for women. A “true self-defense” program for women should be different from a program for men. If a women is attacked by a male assailant or potential rapist, the man will tend to pull the women close to him, as opposed to a man attacking another man, who will be attempting to beat his victim to submission. The attacker is not really looking to grab, hold onto, or pull a male victim close to him. On the contrary, he would hope to keep the victim at striking distance and not engage at all. Therefore a true tailored self-defense program for women MUST include close contact hand fighting techniques and grip releases. As a bonus, a woman would hope to also learn hand and finger traps such as taught in Professor Wally Jay’s “Small Circle Jujitsu” or the martial arts system known as “Chin Na.”
The martial arts system “Wing Chun,” is perfect example of tailored techniques for close contact fighting. Created by a woman, it is a very efficient and effective hand trapping, arm locking, grip releasing, and hand controlling self-defense for women. Again, when a potential rapist attacks a woman, he will tend to bring her close to him, allowing the close contact hand fighting and/or grip release techniques of Wing Chun to be initiated. The would-be rapist will have a rude awakening, grabbing onto a Wing Chun practitioner. He will find he has a better chance standing back and throwing rocks at her.
Another very effective and empowering self-defense program that is tailored for women and effective is the program that is known as “Model Mugging.” There are many different venues of this type of program, but the one thread that ties them all together is that the students are taught simple, effective techniques, then allowed to use them against a fully padded ‘mugger’. The padding of the suit allows the student to defend them self using 100% of their power. There is no holding back. Having been taught at a high-adrenaline state, the techniques become automatic response.

The techniques of Model Mugging were developed to render an assailant unconscious as quickly as possible. This program requires that “the mugger” use foul, loud and aggressive verbal intimidation to raise the student’s adrenaline level, coaches them to “stay in their body” during the fight and take out the mugger. At Perry’s Full Circle, it is a requirement that any student wishing to obtain a black belt must take at least one of the Model Mugging courses conducted by our program. I have been a “mugger,” for 10 years. I have studied the martial arts, competed in competition, trained and taught for 33 years. With all this as a basis for my decision, when asked what I feel is the best self-defense program available, I have to say that all the arts have something to offer, but nobody really knows what they will do when taken to a high, deathly frightened, adrenaline state. Model Mugging gives you the opportunity to find out and really know yourself.
A tailored self-defense program does not stop at the physical abilities of an individual. The environment in which one lives, works, or plays should be considered as a big factor in most cases. Then, and most importantly, there is the mentality of you the individual in search of protection for yourself and your loved ones. What is your state of mind when you think of self-defense? How much do you value your life? Will you do whatever it takes to save your life or the life of a loved one? Anything? Whatever it takes? And how much time are you willing to devote to a self- defense program, a program that teaches techniques that one-day may save your life? To be true to yourself, you need to ask yourself these questions. To have a true self-defense, you need to search for a self-defense program that is tailored for you. Assailants like people that do not know these answers, and do not have a plan for what to do if assaulted. You make it too easy for them if you do not know your capabilities. Self-defense begins with YOU, the public, wanting to, and learning tailored techniques to, defend your – “SELF.”

Grandmaster Jody Perry