I observe that a good deal of survival related information is centered around gear, politics, guns, BOVs, BOLs, BOBs, how to plant a garden on the south slope of a rocky mountain in the wintertime using solar panels to warm up the non-hybrid seeds and so on ad nauseam. Meanwhile the most basic, primary, and must-have survival skill is largely ignored. What I’m referring to is personal, hand to hand self-defense. Now I know what a lot of you are thinking, especially the CCW guys and gals out there. “If someone messes with me I’ve got a surprise for ‘em.” Concealed carry is a wonderful thing, but it should not be the sole method of self-defense. “Defense in depth” is a phrase you should already be familiar with and it should apply to your person as well as your home. As gear-laden as you may be there are times and situations where we have nothing but our hands, our brains, and our warrior spirit to protect ourselves and our loved ones. What if you’re at the pool, the beach, the gym, a bank, a Federal Courthouse or walking to your car from work? What if someone grabs a hold of you or sucker punches you before you can draw, flick off the safety, aim and squeeze the trigger? What if you run out of ammo or there are multiple assailants or the tool just goes click instead of bang?
You see what I’m getting at. Not only is the ability to defend one’s self without weapons a vital skill, but the warrior mindset that comes with training your body to defend itself carries over to every single aspect of your daily life and survival preparations. I can only speak from my own humble perspective, which is shaped by my experiences and which for brevity’s sake I’ll describe as many, varied and hard for even me to believe in the retelling of them. I live very close to the Texas/Mexico border and have all my life. Street fighting here is like the national pastime and I started as a white boy in public housing and rose to the top of the local scene. For a time I dedicated my life to martial arts and I was blessed to be able to train with some of the best martial artists in the country.
The most important thing of course is not to get into a fight in the first place, especially without a weapon. If this happens you have failed miserably and there’s a decent chance you’ll die or maybe spend the rest of your life with an IQ of 50, both of which have happened to people I know. A lot of avoidance is common sense stuff, i.e. don’t get drunk in public, don’t drive aggressively, and don’t escalate a minor thing by mouthing off. Hold your damned temper in other words. Stay away from bad scenes and bad people. If you’re attacked unprovoked and can’t flee you better have some training and forethought. Some of you are naturally good fighters and will stand up well to the challenge. Most will not without training and preparation. Even I’m in the latter category and the most highly trained people still lose fights. There is always somebody better, luckier or more devious so start training now and get your wife, kids and your mother involved.
You won’t learn what you need to know from this article or any DVD course. Get into a gym, dojo, dojang or boxing ring and do it yesterday. There’s no reason not to, Karate schools and boxing gyms are in every strip mall in the country it seems. Every martial art has something to offer and you’re best trying a couple of them and seeing what you think is most practical for your age, gender, conditioning, etc… It’s more about the teacher than the style so ask around and find someone who teaches practical self-defense. Interview the instructor like he’s applying for a job not the other way around. Stay away from these new Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu dojos popping up everywhere unless they also teach a lot of striking. Some grappling/wrestling training is important, but wrestling on the ground is only good for getting back on your feet and grabbing a weapon. You can’t wrestle multiple opponents and you can’t wrestle even a single opponent with a knife so don’t try it. You have to train to fight a larger stronger opponent and more than one of them so you need to approach self defense scientifically and logically. There are no ancient Chinese secrets. You must learn kinesiology and human anatomy and bilateral symmetry. You have to learn to attack soft body targets with hard body weapons. Learn how to throw a correct punch with the top of your hand in perfectly flat alignment with the top of the ulna using only your two front knuckles for impact. Learn how to keep a fluid and moving 45 degree stance which opens up your weapons and closes off you targets. Learn the correct parts of foot to kick with so you don’t break the darned thing. Be practical about yourself and your limitations to begin with. If you’re a 90 pound person with limited upper body strength then don’t waste your time training to stand and trade punches with a 250 pound gorilla. Learn how to use your car keys or your two fingers to gouge out an eye and plan to bite carotid arteries and kick groins. Find out what the Xiphoid Process is and how to exploit it. You have to be serious about training and learn to weave it into your daily life. Remember that practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.
Once you begin to do these things and learn how to better protect yourself I promise you will feel better protected than if you went out and bought ten of the latest whiz bang survival gadgets. You will learn that the level of fitness you attain as well as the fundamental principles you learn will translate effortlessly and seamlessly into many other aspects of your life and survival preparations. If you can shoot well then you will begin to shoot very well because shooting is a martial art in its purest sense. The exact same principles of muscle memory, focus, elasticity, and environmental awareness apply to both shooting and fist fighting, which are essentially two versions of the same thing. The exact same techniques you learn for unarmed self defense also translate into armed self defense with blades and blunt force weapons. I’m a gear head like many of the rest of you and I’ve got the retreat, vehicles, larder and other things that are essential to emergency preparation, but I also have confidence that if I’m caught unawares and without all my gear, I can essentially take care of myself and that is priceless.
Now that I have hopefully convinced some of you that self defense training is a worthy addition to your survival/preparedness regimen allow me to add a few warnings. Don’t jump into the deep end your first day. Even though some simple and valuable things can be learned right away this is still a large undertaking and it will take time. If you think you are going to be Bruce Lee or Matt Hughes right away you will only be disappointed and more likely to not stick with it. Take your time, work on your basics over and over and enjoy the learning process. Do not over train and injure yourself. If you feel uncomfortable with the other students or the instructor at the school you chose just choose another one or get private lessons. Oh yeah, don’t sign a contract right away for 6 months worth of lessons at some big flashy black belt factory. The uglier and more informal a place is the more likely it is to be oriented towards practical self defense. In fact, try boxing if you have a good gym near you. I’ll take one good boxer over three Tae Kwon Do black belts any day because they train harder, they hit harder and they train to take hits. I know we don’t all live in a large city with lots of options so just tailor this information to your situation. If you are truly isolated then go ahead and get that DVD set, it’s still better than nothing. If you have kids then by all means sign them up. I promise you won’t regret it. It is the discipline and self respect my martial arts training gave me that got me out of public housing as a kid and into the beautiful home I have now, no question.
As a last thought I would like to remind you that knowledge, once attained, does not rust, go rancid or get stolen. It is something which can be passed on to others, bartered, or sold in perpetuity. Knowledge is the five loaves and two fishes in our survival pantry and with that said; Don’t you think it’s time to stock up?