First rule of self defense

Postby jian069 » Fri Feb 09, 2001 5:25 am

There is an appropriate time to take the offense. If you are dealing with multiple assailants, then it would be much wiser to make the first move instead of waiting for the attack to come to you. You will have to disguise your true attack with a feint.

I have only recently begun to see the true aspects of the internal (neija) requirements. There is a saying, and it goes something like this: on first notice of your opponent attacking, one reacts and makes the first strike. Similar to the Bruce Lee quote mentioned previously.

Fortunately, the taiji system was designed to defend and attack at the same time. One hand is defending the primary assault leading the opponent to a less favorable position and the other hand is attacking.

I'm saying hand to keep it simple, but in all honesty, we know that it's about the entire body reacting properly. Emptying one side to neutralize and absorb while the other is transferring energy to the full side.

When opening/closing the door that is being attacked, we are closing/opening on the opposite side to discharge. I use opening/closing and closing/opening because it will depend on the situation.

If we take this view, then you can see that attacking contains defending components and vice versa. I believe that is the true science we are learning to become proficient in from a martial arts perspective.
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Postby vajrab » Tue Feb 13, 2001 2:03 am

I think awareness of where you are and the high probability of someone having a weapon and the consequences that may happen and NOT "opening up the opponent" and other stuff. Most encounters are mind games and people who are intent on using weapons are an extremenly high probability.

Too many martial artists see Hollywood movies and use this as a template for action and this is a fallacy. Everybody wants to be right so the best offense is leave it alone and walk away slowly.

Another main point is separating illusion from reality and if the reference is correct, then one will survive the encounter.
If one were to rely on action on some of these neijia boards, their there will be problem during such encounter.
1. Awareness
2. Observation
3. Keep mouth shut
4. Walk away quietly
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Postby Michael » Wed Feb 14, 2001 5:17 pm

To avoid confrontation is THE first Rule, the second, if the first one fails is to diffuse. If that fails. neutralize/attack.
There is no diffence in some ways between yin and yang as one proceeds the other and in our art they cannot be seperated. But in that regard defense must proceed offense, absorbtion triggers the issueing of energy. It is of utmost importance to use the energy of the opponent to defeat himself.
For years I was a true believer in the "the best defense is the best offense." I used that way of thinking in fencing and TKD. My offensive capabilities were very good. But what I discovered was that the good offense is often a cover up for a poor defense. This can get you into trouble with an opponent that is skilled or can take a punch.
I agree with most of what has been said here. I would differ with Audi on one point--that about probing. It would be better to leave a door open and set a trap to test the opponent than to maybe fall into his. The trap is an offensive action, and should be done with only the utmost care. It is always better to LET something happen than to MAKE something happen. You can change something that is happening, but when you initiate it is the other person who has the opportunity to change what you have done. How many times have wished we had not opened our big mouth? You can't take it back. It is the same in combat.
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Postby Audi » Thu Feb 15, 2001 6:22 am

Perhaps I have left T'ai Chi orthodoxy by my reference to probing, but let me try a further clarification or justification. I basically agree with the other statements on this post, but am concerned about some that could be interpreted as suggesting that using T'ai Chi strategy commits one to a passive wait-and-see attitude.

In my opinion, T'ai Chi requires us to react immediately when we feel or "hear" (ting) our opponent commit to a threat and before our opponent moves. By react, I do not mean necessarily with a stike, and by threat, I do not mean necessarily that the opponent has begun a strike.

There are two times in my life when I have relied on martial strategy when I felt I was under threat: once in a game room and once while driving a car. In neither situation where blows exchanged, but in both situations I felt that communicating a passive or even a reactive body posture or driving style might have invited attack. In both situations, I acted only after I felt that my opponents had committed to inappropriate actions and then were awaiting my response before escalating.

In the game room, I indicated both verbally and by my body positioning that I was uninterested in a "challenge," but that any excalation on their part would force me to react in ways they could not predict. I did not assume a fighting stance, judging that to be too provocative or liable to embarass my opponents into attacking me. On the other hand, I positioned myself so that they were forced to commit either to an unprovoked attack against an unknown opponent in a public setting or to de-escalate the sitation and act as if no confrontation was ever intended.

Throughout the situation, I tried to "listen" with all my strength and react to every nuance of my opponents' verbal and physical actions. My intent was to show that I was keeping just one level below whatever level of threat they exhibited, and willing to follow and overtake them in whichever direction they led.

In the driving situation, I was being followed on lonely road in a very rural area in the middle of the night. I felt my opponents were trying either to intimidate me into flight or to get up enough nerve to attack me when they were sure there would be no witnesses. To this day, I do not know if they were drunken kids having a lark or more sinister types.

I felt that flight would be like like running away from a dog and would make them escalate the situation just out of principle. Stopping the car might also precipitate a confrontation. Instead I tried to drive in such a way as to make my intentions and awareness of their actions ambiguous until I reached a place where I could make a turn that was improbable for one car, but impossible for two cars in a row to make coincidentally. The offending car broke off, after about five seconds of hesitation at the decision point.

I do not relate these situations to recommend any of the specific tactics, but rather to stress what I see as the importance of listening to threats and striving to control them through sensitivity to the situation first, rather than committing to any particular course of action, whether offensive or defensive.

If a guy at a bar walks up to you out of nowhere and says something like: "What the h-ll are you trying to prove standing there?" Do you wait for further action, a punch, a lunge? Or perhaps, do you try to gently and sensitively force further commitment on your own terms and thereby begin to attempt to control the situation? In my opinion, you don't want to remain silent and unmoving and perhaps look like a victim, nor do you want to puff up your chest and say something like: "I can stand where I d-mn well please," thus issuing a challenge to attack. I think you have to begin your T'ai Chi response immediately and find some middle way that yields, but begins to stick and control.

Any thoughts?
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Postby jimmyg » Sat Feb 17, 2001 11:26 pm

The thoughts expressed have all been very interesting, as to my own ideas on the "first rule of self defence" it has to be.
Assess, Control, Defuse.

There is no point in discussing the best stance, blocking move etc. unless you can control a situation, control is does not mean pinning someone to the ground or hurting them. If you act confident an aggressor will back down, they will not know how to react to a person who is calm and confident.

Therefore the lessons we learn in Tai Chi(and other systems), should stand us in good stead when faced with a potentialy violent person, and if all else fails then take my advice run, and run faster and further than your opponent.
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Postby Steve » Tue Feb 27, 2001 7:57 pm

Generally speaking, predators prey on the weak and unsuspecting. If there is one advantage martial artists (of all schools) have in terms of self-defense, it is this:

They walk with confidence, and appear internally strong and externally alert. Their bodies are upright and healthy, and their eyes are trained to spot the slightest movement. Thus, being so trained, they are already precluded from the list of vulnerable targets. While some thugs might want a fight to prove something, most will avoid the trouble and seek easier prey.

In Indonesia, villagers walk the forests with a mask on the back of their heads. This way, they are protected from attacks by tigers, because the tiger perceives this as an alert victim. Tigers never attack head-on.

Even the lion will not attack a healthy bull.
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Postby nik79 » Fri Mar 02, 2001 7:54 am


about the Defend&Strike @ the same time.. i agree with that totally. But it's very hard to do 'instinctively'. i suppose with years of training, you can pull it off. i've seen that in WingChun tho.

about the MA practitioners being these healthy hardbodies strolling the streets, sounds to me like more of a target or a challenge for many people. i've always respected the 'i can handle myself, but i dont boast about it' type more.
i.e. my friends father studied Kenpo for longer than i've been alive, but you would never know unless he showed you. he was a tall, plump guy. balding. No 'military' posture going on .. (quote)Their bodies are upright and healthy, and their eyes are trained to spot the slightest movement.(endQuote) he wore a business suite everyday. all darn day!

but he could take down anybody. i've seen him do it! very tough guy, but my point is just that not all MA practitioners are so ...flamboyant **for lack of a better word**
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Postby gene » Fri Mar 02, 2001 7:24 pm

With the unfortunate proliferation of handguns, and the willingness of people to use them with little regard for human life, I'm not sure how relevant this discussion remains. To the extent the discussion remains relevant, Steve does not appear to be talking about strutting around like Rambo. Like Steve, I believe that carrying yourself with a quiet, alert and confident presence makes the average thug less interested in assaulting you. Walking around with your head down and your hands in your pockets is victim behavior, and increases your risk.
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Postby Steve » Mon Mar 05, 2001 10:25 pm

Indeed, I was not talking about walking around with your chest puffed out, fists clenched and a bad case of I.L.S. ("invisible lat. syndrome"). It is an intangible "air" of confidence...that aura that surrounds the competent fighter. It is not a challenging demeanor; rather, it is as Gene said, a "quiet, alert and confident presence."

As to simultaneous attack and defense, there are some fairly obvious examples in the form:
Brush Knee, Shuttles, Single Whip, White Snake Spits Tongue, Horse's Mane, Fan Through Back, etc. The timing takes work, but the applications are fairly clear.

[This message has been edited by Steve (edited 03-05-2001).]
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Postby Bob3 » Tue Mar 06, 2001 2:08 am

I have studied Tai Chi for several years and have followed the thread of discussion here. Make no mistake, most all of the moves in Tai Chi have elements of attack and defense, if properly applied (and practiced). The only move that I don't know if it has an attack feature is the form closure.
Tai Chi can be used for attack, if the intent is present to control/subdue the subject of the attack. In one of the beginning scenarios, two people were waiting for the other to move. This demonstrates lack of intent and spirit. An attempt to demonstrate a control feature of Tai Chi takes cooperation of the subject. Without this cooperation, the subject can be attacked and subdued using Tai Chi principles. While this can be accomplished, it does take more practice and skill as well as the intent to perform the action.
I am not advocating the use of Tai Chi for use in attacks, just that it is feasible. The training tends to emphasize the reaction to incoming forces and to listen and take an appropriate reaction based on the form. This is workable and can tend to defuse situations with little effort. Unfortunately, in some situations, with multiple subjects, an attack may be the only viable option, even to put yourself in an advantageous position with regard to the environment, and to take further action with the other subjects or to flee.
The one thing to emphasize is that when in a situation requiring a conflict, Tai Chi itself will not prevent you from receiving blows (unless you are very good!), but it will enable you to return more energy to the person attacking you and thus control the situation. The important thing is to keep calm and relaxed so the form can be properly applied, otherwise it is just physical force involved. This is very easy to say but very difficult to achieve. That is why the old saying is that you don't want to attempt to use any of the form until it has been practiced 10,000 times.
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Postby DavidJ » Tue Mar 06, 2001 4:46 am

When I started this thread I though that things would be straightforward, but no... Image

The first idea is not to start fights, or wars. The second idea is, to paraphrase an old expression, do as little harm as possible.

There is a story in the myths of a Tai Chi master who was widely respected, but was thought to be dangerous by some political types. These politicos hired 12 of the best, from among the different martial arts schools, to waylay the master and do away with him.

The Tai Chi master was walking home on a Thursday evening when the 12 set upon him with all the strenghth and skill that they had.

'Round and 'round they went, left, right, up, and down through fields, and woods and streams, until finally, three days later, they were back where they started, and there were 12 totally exhausted, but completely unhurt men on the ground.

The master shook the dust from his clothes, and walked calmly to a tree near his home. He climbed it and slept.

On Monday morning he arrived home to find that he had 12 new students.

I think of this master's actions as something to aim for: Do No Harm.


[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 03-05-2001).]
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Postby Michael » Tue Mar 06, 2001 6:32 pm


What you speak of is the ideal, It is a great teaching story.

A drunk once punched me in the face and walked away as he could not get me to respond. He came back and did it again thinking he had a victem. I did nothing. He came back and did it a third time. This time I stood up. I did not let him hit me again but nor did i try to hit him. After awhile, he had become so arm weary that his arms almost had to be assisted across the space between him and me. His friends eventually took him away as they thought i was playing with him and saw his vulnerability.
i consider that one of my greatest victories....not over him but over myself.
But things may not have evolved the way they did. i may have had to "fight". If I could have gotten away with giving him a black eye , OK, a split lip, OK, a broken nose, OK, a busted arm or leg, OK.....I only recently started studying TKD at the time--no taiji yet. HE would have to determine the degree of escalation.

It would be nice to develop the skill of that master in more ways than one. But reality sometimes tell us that at some point (for us non-masters) if we don't stop the fight (as gently as possible), he might--and gentleness may not figure in.

David, I agree with you 100%. Do no harm is the way to live period. Do no harm in our language, our thoughts, our actions. In hurting others we only hurt ourseves ten fold. There is no higher Ideal. We should all practice that--even harder that our taiji.

[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 03-06-2001).]
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Postby Audi » Wed Mar 07, 2001 4:29 am

David and Michael,

Great stories and great inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

I have to confess though, that if I could kick higher than my waist, I might have fantasies of getting in one good spinning back kick. Thankfully for me, kicking somebody in the shins just doesn't have enough macho romance to make looking for fights attractive. Image Trying to do no harm while trying not to get harmed seems a lot more appealing, and certainly healthier.

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Postby Michael » Thu Mar 08, 2001 9:58 pm

Audi, kicking them in the shins may not be romantic, but it sure is safer. You wouldn't no harm!
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Postby Bob3 » Sun Mar 11, 2001 12:06 am

David and Michael,

I agree with you whole heartedly. But I am also realistic. Having an ideal is a worthy goal, but it is not always obtainable. Take the least action that keeps a situation in control, and the least action that leads to harm to another. These are good precepts to live by and practice.

On the other hand, one needs to be aware of one's abilities and be able to assess the situation at hand. Old masters lived in an environment where banditry was more rampant, and the social structure allowed them to teach and practice for long hours. As a result, they achieved a level of ability in their art that is not often or ever achieved today. The stories about the old masters then serve to provide an inkling of what is possible to achieve, but not usually what is achieved by an individual. By being aware of one's abilities, and not the ideals of what could be achieved is the mental awareness that is needed when one is confronted by a situation involving personal threats.
Words or minimal action can be effective to defuse potential danger. If such are not effective, the Tai Chi form can be used for attack or defense, as the situation and one's abilities warrants. If nothing else, it can provide the opportunity to flee to allow all to live for another day.
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