Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sample Chapter from book "Nonviolent Self-Defense"

Core Skills of Nonviolent Self-Defense

Protecting the Centerline
Scenario One: You are walking down a quiet suburban street enjoying the warm morning sunshine, when suddenly several loud, percussive explosions split the tranquil air. Your immediate response is to crouch down, cover your head with your hands, and retreat several steps away from the sound of the blasts. Only then do you turn back to find the noise was caused by a kid lighting off a string of firecrackers.

Scenario Two: You are walking down that same quiet street when a
neighbor’s dog comes bolting off the front porch barking fiercely. In
response, you take an immediate step backwards, turn sideways to
face the snarling mongrel, and bring your hands up to a defensive
position. You then reinforce your ready posture with a few sharp
commands and appropriate epithets.

Both scenarios are good examples of the startle reflex. It initiates
an adrenaline-driven fight or flight response to imminent danger,
and it has helped to protect our species from harm for millions of
years. The defensive movements used to counter the two perceived
perils, on the other hand, are fundamentally different in nature.
In the first scene, the sudden, loud noise provoked a general crouch
and cover defense designed to protect as much of the body as possible
from an unspecified threat.

In the second scene, we began with the same reflexive reaction to
being startled, however, a clear and present danger was immediately
identified and adjusted for. A quick step was taken away from the line
of attack, and a classic defensive posture was assumed facing the
belligerent beast. The key difference in the response was the
identification of, and familiarity with, the direct threat. But a common
thread that runs throughout both scenarios is the instinctive move to
protect the centerline of the body.

This centerline is literally a zone a few inches wide that runs down the
middle of the body from the forehead to the groin. Nearly every body
part that could be seriously harmed, if struck hard enough, is located
either on this line or immediately adjacent. The at-risk organs along
this zone include the brain, eyes, nose, chin, throat, heart, lungs,
internal organs, and, for a man in particular, the genitals. While the latter
is of greater vulnerability for a male, the proximity of the femoral arteries
make the groin a sensitive area for both men and women and one the
body instinctively seeks to protect.

The human body is organized to protect the centerline. Witness the
fetal position of a baby in the uterus. It is not just a space saving posture,
adapting to its ever more cramped quarters as it grows, but also a position
of protection. The fetal position is an instinctive posture taken up by someone
being beaten who cannot, or will not, fight back.

In this protective profile, the hands cover the face or head, the elbows
collapse inward to guard the chest, and the knees draw upward to cover
the abdomen. Practitioners of nonviolent protest, for example, are trained
to take up this position when confronted with hostile crowds or truncheon-
wielding police. The body will reflexively sacrifice the outer extremities
to protect vital central organs. While being struck on the limbs can be painful
or debilitating to an arm or leg fending off a blow, being struck on the centerline
may prove extremely damaging or even terminal in its consequences.

All martial arts systems are organized along the principle tenet of either
attacking or defending the centerline. The “hard" systems, like karate, seek
to condition and root the center line and then use the arms and legs, toughened
by hours of repeated practice, to block a blow. While the arms and legs pay a
price, the centerline is spared the worst of it. In the “soft" systems, like Tai Chi
or Aikido, movement and a pliant body are emphasized in order to get the
centerline out of the way. If the centerline is struck, it is at least moving in the
same direction as the impact, thereby dissipating the worst effects of the blow

Of crucial importance in understanding how to react to the force of a blow are
three possible movement responses:

1) Moving into force

2) Standing still

3) Moving away from force.

With only a few exceptions, which we will discuss later, this list of responses goes
from worst to best.

1) Moving Into Force

If you move toward an incoming attack, the force of your own body moves
with you. As you collide, you will not only sustain all the damage of the incoming
blow but also add the full measure of your own force. Like two football linemen
charging forward at the snap of the ball, this is really a worst case scenario. The
winner, if one may use that term, is the player who outweighs and/or out-positions
the other. Either way, it is still crunch time for both.

Try this: Moving into force is best demonstrated in the safety and comfort of
your own home by clapping your hands together very hard. Take note of the
loud noise and sharp stinging sensation in your palms. Both are evidence of force
meeting force with the resulting sound and pain that accompany such an event.

2) Standing Still

Standing in place when being struck is the second worst thing you can do. You
are only slightly better off for no longer adding your own force and momentum to
the impact. In all likelihood, however, your contribution will be compounded by the
natural, fear-induced reaction of freezing up. Although tensing the muscles in
anticipation of being hit affords some protection to internal organs, it also creates a
nice solid, unmoving target for your opponent.

Try this: Having waited until your palms are no longer tingling, clap one hand into
the other, stationary palm. The tingling and pain are back again but not to the
degree evidenced in the first experiment.

3) Moving Away

The best reaction to an oncoming force, in terms of defense of the centerline, is to
move away from it. This means retreating (a) in the same direction as the blow with
enough speed to outdistance it, (b) dodging to the side, or (c) ducking under. It is far
better to attempt to evade a blow, by moving along or obliquely to the opposing lines
of trajectory, than to move in or stand still. A blow that strikes you as you move away
does much less damage than one taken full on.

Try this: Clap one hand into the other as it moves away. Depending on how you
play it, the first either never reaches the opposing hand, or it or strikes it with far
less power or noise. As will become clear in the skill-sets of Nonviolent Self-Defense,
presented in Part Two of this book, evasion is the best reaction to force and always
provides a better outcome.
Movement: Getting Out of the Way
In the art of boxing there is one cardinal rule: Protect yourself at all times.
After all, the whole point of boxing is not to get boxed. Some have suggested that
during a crisis intervention scenario you should adhere to the Hippocratic oath:
First do no harm. As noble as that sentiment is, it is more prudent to first ensure
that you yourself are not harmed. In other words, don't get boxed. If you cannot
keep yourself safe, you will have a difficult time protecting others; this includes
your attacker as well.

The easiest way to keep from getting boxed is to get out of the way.
Therefore, movement is the cornerstone of Nonviolent Self-defense training.
It is much simpler to duck and scramble away than it is to learn more sophisticated
skills such as parrying or blocking an incoming blow. Ducking and scrambling away
rely on instinctive, defensive reflexes our species has been honing for millions of years;
parrying or blocking requires complex motor skills, or learned technique, combined
with speed and timing. The greatest probability of success lies with getting out of
the way.

Try this! Have a friend stand facing you, at arms-length, with his hands at
his side. Ask him to reach out quickly with his right hand and touch your left
shoulder. Try to fend off (parry) his touch with your left hand. You probably
will not be able to intercept his fingers. Why? Because he has the advantage
of moving first from close range; while you, even if you have quick reflexes,
are handicapped by reaction time.

As you can see from the exercise above, standing in close proximity to a
potentially aggressive person is not a good first step in keeping safe. If you
are close enough for a person touch you with a hand or foot, he has penetrated
your threat perimeter. The threat perimeter is a 360 degree defensive zone
around your body defined by the length of your opponent’s longest appendage
(including the length of a weapon he may be wielding). If your opponent is faster
than you are, and you allow him into your perimeter, you will have little chance
of avoiding an incoming blow.

One way of creating a little added space between you and an aggressor is to
remove any target of opportunity. To do this you will need to bend your knees,
relax your hips slightly, and turn the attacked side of your body toward the rear.
This will pull your shoulder away from the incoming blow. In addition, by keeping
leg and hip joints bent and relaxed, and by twisting the axial-skeleton (i.e. hips
through shoulders), you create a pliant and flexible body that is more capable of
absorbing a push or hit.

Now try this! Have your friend attempt to touch your shoulder again. This time,
as you raise your hand up to intercept his touch, simultaneously twist your waist
to move your shoulder away. By combining the deflection and evasive movement
in tandem, you will have greater success avoiding his touch. Even if your parry
still cannot connect with his 'rattlesnake-quick' fingers, at least you will be retreating
from the force and can absorb most of the incoming energy.

Projecting a Layered Defense

A core strategy of Nonviolent Self-Defense, and one we will come back to again
and again in Part Two of this book, is the concept of a projecting a layered defense.
A layered defense means combining two to three counter measures to deal with
one threat. This is often referred to as the klutz factor. Simply put, it is fairly easy
to klutz things up if you rely on only one defensive technique to protect yourself
during an event as random and spontaneous as a physical assault.

No matter how knowledgeable or well trained you may be, if something can go
wrong in encounter, it probably will. It is better to provide some backup of your own.
Projecting a layered defense, metaphorically speaking, is like placing several barriers
between you and a speeding vehicle that is careening out of control and heading your
way. These layers include: defensive posturing; pliancy; evasive movement; and
maintaining distance. Any one of these layers might be sufficient on its own to keep
you safe. Applied in concert, however, they wrap you in protective layers like a
security system with built in redundancies.

In the last demonstration, above, you countered your opponent's attempt
to touch your shoulder with force deflection (the parry) followed by evasive
movement (twisting the upper torso away). If the first did not stop the attack,
the second would probably mitigate any damage. Creating and maintaining
distance can add a third layer of defense to this scenario. You can increase the
space between you and your opponent by taking a step to the rear. Stepping or
shuffling back along the same line of trajectory as the blow will place you in a more
protected position by increasing the radius of your threat perimeter.
Finally Try This! If you are still having trouble evading your partner's touch,
take one step back so he cannot reach you. If he cannot reach you, he cannot
touch you! Now you have three defensive counters that may be performed nearly
simultaneously in one seamless sequence:

1) Raise the left hand up to parry your partner's incoming right. (deflection)

2) Twist the waist leftward to pull the shoulder away. (evasion)

3) Step to the rear with the left leg by pivoting on the right foot. (creating distance)
The Protective Profile
You may add a final layer of defense by raising your forward hand up to face
level in preparation of warding off a second blow. You are now standing in
what is called the protective profile. Both hands are raised in front of the face,
with elbows guarding the chest, and the body is aligned at a forty-five degree
angle to the opponent. The centerline is now well protected from a frontal attack.
This looks very much like a classic boxing stance; however, the hands remain open
and relaxed with palms facing obliquely forward.

The protective profile is a well-covered defensive position that affords your
opponent few openings to attack the centerline, and, yet, it gives off few
aggressive signals that might escalate the encounter. You survived the opening
salvo by remaining aware, relaxed, and mobile. You can now attempt to verbally
de-escalate the incident from a position of strength.

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