Sunday, July 11, 2004

Some More on Self-Defense

I'm a firm believer in learning the basics of unarmed self-defense. I'm also a pacifist in that I'd never launch an attack on anybody. But my pacifism is combined with the idea that sometimes the way to hold the peace is to kindly (in a relative sense) but firmly restrain the person who tries to attack you. That way nobody gets badly hurt.

Still, the most important aspect of self-defense is what one does before a risky situation develops, and the most important skills to learn are the skills to stay out of trouble, to learn to anticipate it and to learn to diffuse it. Having said that, I also believe that it gives us more freedom and confidence if we know what to do in the undesirable event that fighting is necessary. These skills should be acquired with a good teacher of self-defense, and they need to be practised to really learn them.

So now you can understand why I blow my stack every time I see women practising 'self-defense' in traditional Hollywood movies. Imagine the scene: some nasty rogue has just picked up the heroine and holds her tightly against his chest, her legs flailing in the air. She arches her back and hammers his chest with her fists. Of course all this is totally useless, and seems to demonstrate to us, the viewers, that no woman can ever defend herself.

The only thing she's doing that would make any sense in a real-world situation is the leg flailing, but only if she was held with her back against his front. Then flailing the legs (or bicycling in the air, if you like) is a good idea: it moves the balance of her weight forwards and makes it very hard for him to hold her in the air. This is something small children do instinctively when they don't want to be held. Everything else she does is counterproductive.

The chest is one of the best defended portions of the human body. The ribcage serves as an internal armor, and it's really pretty pointless to attack the chest in any unarmed fight. It's especially pointless to attack the chest with fists, as the fists are wider than the spaces between the ribs. And arching the back serves no useful purpose here at all.

Thus, what Hollywood has been teaching women for decades is a way of fighting that wouldn't work even if the 'she' in the scene was twice as heavy and bulky as the 'he'. I can't help feeling that this is purposeful, though it probably isn't. But is sure is stupid.

In reality, you don't want to be picked up as the ground is where you get your power from. But if you indeed are picked up by an assailant, then hammering on his chest is the last thing you want to. The basic principle in fighting someone mean, nasty and most likely stronger than you is to go for the most vulnerable targets using the dirtiest tricks imaginable. Any good self-defense teacher can show how this is done. Don't trust the Hollywood movies on this one.
Please read the Consumer Warning to the next post, too.