Thursday, November 13, 2008

Escape as a Strategy in Self-Defense

Pat at Mokuren Dojo has a post (The aiki gift that keeps on giving) which made me think, a lot. And I don't usually like that, but I chose to respond here as opposed to in his comments (which you should read, to get the whole picture). The point of his post, to me, is two-fold:

  1. Develop the skill of evasion as a technique because it will give you more options, make you more slippery as a defender, and give you the option of escape if you choose to take it. Therefore, "Try it for a month and see what it does for your aikido..." A great idea. Anytime you try to develop a new skill, isolate it, then fit it into the rest of your skills naturally.
  2. Open your mind to the idea of escape first, as many of the techniques which are your first choice in Aikido are actually counter to the ideals of the art, as espoused by the founder. As Pat puts it:
    "Aikido guys like to claim the moral high ground by talking about peace and not fighting with the enemy and etc... We drone things (often in a spacey voice) like, “get offline... No, don't oppose force... avoid... evade... don't fight with the attacker... Blend...”"

I appreciate and agree with the first point (again, as I see it), but the second, to me, is an ideal which is not easily met. I actually object to it (too strong a word?) for the following reasons:

  • Immediate engagement can be your best defense - evasion and escape only work if you can outrun or otherwise escape your attacker - if you can't, you could be toast.
  • If you have no idea what kind of weapon the attacker may have, counterattacking can be the best way to prevent it from being brought to bear. For me, hitting quick and escaping fast can prevent a ranged weapon from entering the picture.
  • Most of us don't have the time, in a realistic attack, which is likely an ambush of some sort. If I could have escaped, I would have done so. If a situation makes me uncomfortable, I should get out - it's my moral obligation to avoid violence. If, on the other hand, I haven't left, then I didn't expect the attack in the first place. I subscribe to the "stop-hit now, ask questions later" school of preemption.
  • Too strong a response? Not likely. If someone is deranged or aggressive enough to attack little old me, a peace-loving, non-threatening, nice guy, then he must be really dangerous.

Keep in mind that this only fits with my personal philosophy of self-protection, and may not apply to anyone else. I agree with the sentiment of escape. But when it comes to the evade part, once it's on, it's on.

Please read the post on Mokuren Dojo, then Aikido Philosophy, Taekwondo Technique ... Is it possible??? at Colin's Traditional Taekwondo.

Have a great day, and stay out of trouble!


BSM said...

Ha! .50 cal it is! Seriously, I agree with escape and avoidance and using that muscle between your ears. It saved my butt a lot in prison.

That having been said: When all bets are off I plan to throw down with everything I got. I made that mental commitment back in joint.

While I now work in la-la land I tend to agree with you:

"I subscribe to the "stop-hit now, ask questions later" school of preemption."

Colin Wee said...

Nat, I'm not so sure about how much focus Pat is placing on the issue of evasion. I think it is more of the alignment between aikido premise or philosophy versus day-to-day technique and application. He seems to say that the day-to-day practise, like your example, shows how proactive the practitioner/student is required to be. See the following quote ...

"When attacked, do you, “turn aside and lead uke into offbalance?” You've just attacked him!"

However, saying that, I totally agree with your self defence logic. I like the saying, and share it with many participants of my women's self defence courses ... "When there is no way to defend, ATTACK!"

There is still something to be said about keeping one's head cool and to think rationally about the choices at hand and your self defence objectives.


BK said...


Wholeheartedly agree with you regards the difference between being ambushed and getting into a fight. One is about self-defense (in which escape is not an option in many cases) and the other is about ignoring the option to escape in the first place.

One thing I always caution is that "running is not a plan...its the start of a plan." To say that you should "escape" a violent encounter assumes (and we all know about ASSume...) that you have someplace to escape to (pardon the poor grammar.)

What drove this point home for me was an incident that occurred in North Carolina about eight years ago. A woman was attempting to escape from her very abusive boyfriend and was running down the street barefoot and in tattered clothes. Fortunately, a good samaritan woman stopped to pick her up and drove her to the nearest police station. Unfortunately, as they were running up the steps to the front of the police station, the boyfriend drove up, got out of his truck and shot them both to death on the steps.

Naturally, he was arrested after the fact but that doesn't do them much good. The self-defense in this situation is high risk, he was larger, had a gun, etc., etc. But my point was, they did what everyone says to do...escape, go to the police for help. But it still didn't work.

And I would argue that MOST people don't even think that far in advance. They get jumped in the parking lot of a bar. They survive the initial attack and what? If the attacker wants to press the attack you're just going to get beat down tired (to borrow a T-shirt quote).

Part of self-defense is being aware of your surroundings. Everyone knows that. What often gets left out is...what about your surroundings are you supposed to be aware of? For me, its THECOW...Threats, Help, Exits, Cover/Concealment, Observations/Fields of Fire, and Weapons. In this case, Help, being the most important aspect..."If I were to get jumped right now, where could I go for help? Who has the capability to help me?"

A guy pulls a gun on you, running to a bouncer may not be that useful. In the case above, if I knew the boyfriend was actually in the truck following me, I probably would have driven up the stairs of the police station, horn honking and lights flashing.

Just a few thoughts of my own...