The first rule of self-defense

“Muscle is good, but craft is better.”
Wace, Arthurian Chronicles Roman de Brut. (Wace, 1115 – 1183, was an Anglo-Norman poet.)

Wildebeast chasing lion?
Wildebeest chasing lion?

Wing tzun is scientific system of self-defense.  It is powerful, explosive, and effective.  So what is the first rule of self-defense?

The first rule of self-defense is to avoid a fight if it can safely avoided.  The most powerful weapon we can have is our mind, our brain.  Through training, we can slowly, gradually learn the best methods of fighting.  Then through practice we can embed those methods into our brains and our physical memory.  Eventually, our lower levels of training become second nature to us, as we develop our training at higher levels.  Even as do this training in open-hand fighting and weapons fighting systems, we know all of this is built upon the bedrock foundation rule of self-defense: avoid a fight if it can be safely avoided.

For most of us, most of the time, training in Wing Tzun provides and opportunity for physical and mental strength development.  But its focus is on real world self-defense.  Fortunately for the most part, the necessity of self-defense rarely arises.  But on those occasions when it does or will, what will you be capable of doing?  Will you be able to keep yourself safe from a violent attack?  Will you be able to keep those around you safe?  Gaining strength and craft in the EBMAS Wing Tzun system can help you answer those challenges is an effective way.

Once a fight begins, it may be over quickly.  The outcome is uncertain.  Someone will likely be hurt.  Death could result.  The survivors may face legal problems as well.  Yes, of course, we should avoid a fight if it can be safely avoided.

Often though not always, belligerents provide verbal or non-verbal clues and cues that they will attack.  In addition, situational factors may make a violent attack more likely, such as the use of alcohol or a location (such as a transitional space like an ATM or gas station).  We listen not only to the words spoken but their tone and manner of delivery.  Two common types of verbalization before a violent attack are distracting and baiting.  Distracting verbalizations may be designed to stop third parties from intervening.  These can include words intended to make observers believe that aggressor knows you when in fact they are a stranger to you, or that there is a personal dispute between you (even though you’ve never seen this person).  A classic example would be: “Where’s that $20.00 you owe me! I want it now!,” as a precursor to a robbery.  Another common type of pre-attack verbalization is designed to bait you into engaging physically (or to work up the aggression level of the belligerent).  These could include insults or other challenges.

Non-verbal cues can often be observed as well.  Is the person’s body language indicating readiness for a physical attack?  Does the person appear to be covering, holding or hiding a weapon?  What is the person doing with their feet?  What is indicated by the person’s face and eyes?

Trust your intuition.  Do not ignore that sense of unease – pay attention to it and act on it.  Yes, the first rule of self-defense is to avoid a fight if it can be safely avoided.  But have the skills, capability and training to effectively defend yourself or others is you need to do so.

How can a fight be safely avoided?  It depends upon each situation and circumstance.  If you can create distance between you and the threat, that can be effective.  The farther away you are from a person presenting danger, the safer you will be.  Depending on circumstances, turning and running as fast as you can, may be the best self-defense choice.  Then perhaps, in a car or other vehicle.  If that cannot be safely done, backing a way slowly may be best.  While retreating, taking cover (behind a strong barrier) or taking concealment (visual concealment) from someone with a weapon may be an important tactic.

Verbal de-escalation can sometimes help.  It won’t likely help where a predatory criminal is verbalizing to neutralize observers, but it can help with the aggressor who is verbalizing fight-bait.  For the belligerent motivated by ego and anger (perhaps under the influence of alcohol), soothing words designed to de-escalate may help avoid a violent conflict.  If “pride comes before a fall,” don’t be the one weighed down by pride – for pride is a sin of the weak-hearted and weak-minded.  Say whatever will de-escalate conflict.

Next, we have the tool of distraction.  Humans have a limited capacity for attention.  Anything that requires the use of any  percentage of the 100% of attention we have available to use at any given time, reduces our ability to pay attention to other things.  This is a key component of fighting and self-defense, but it also can be a good tool for avoiding a fight if it can be safely avoided.  When we perceive verbal or non-verbal cues of imminent attack, we can try also to use distraction to avoid the conflict.  In terms of words, we can try to redirect the issue to something else or to something that might tend to de-escalate.  An apparent apology might be an example, or a change of subject or redirection of blame.  In terms of physical distraction, a glance behind the belligerent just prior to fleeing, throwing something prior to running, or creating physical obstacles during retreat could be distracting.  If there are bystanders, shouting out to them a request that they “call 911 now!” could be effective in distracting, delaying or deterring an attack.

No doubt there are many other things that a person can consider, depending upon circumstances, to avoid a fight if it can be safely avoided.  Come practice with EBMAS Wing Tzun kung-fu Twin Cities to explore this aspect of self-defense, among others.

What are some of your ideas?


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