Stay Safe on the Street

The one element that truly unites all martial arts is the systematic application of learnt skills in a self-defence scenario. Whether it be in the form of blocking and striking styles, parrying and trapping methods or control and restraint training, all tuition offers a platform for self-protection.

Much has been written and discussed on the current issues and subject of self-defence, street safety,awareness and anti-social behaviour. Unfortunately, the need for self-defence and protection skills are rapidly becoming as essential as learnt skills of reading, writing or swimming.

Not everyone possesses the personal confidence, skills and self-assurance needed to stand up to an aggressor in order to defuse a confrontational and potentially violent situation, though through closed skill training and rehearsal it can be achieved. The wide majority of scenarios will be initiated and follow a series of similarly defined levels, as briefly highlighted below –

  1. Verbal exchange
  2. Finger pointing and verbal exchange
  3. Double or single handed push or shove
  4. Double or single grab
  5. Strike

It goes without saying that some may appear as a combination i.e. numbers 4 and 5, and it also makes sense to suggest that depending on the situation, the confrontation can move through any of these stages at any time.

There are many suggested methods of control and diffusion through stages 1, 2 and 3 and body language can play a major role. For example stepping forwards towards your aggressor with a clenched fist suggests aggression and is likely to accelerate and increase the chances of physical violence, whereas a step backwards with a lowered posture is almost suggesting weakness and defeat.

Positioning yourself in a more neutral position, side facing or at least at a slight angle will allow the protection of primary strike targets such as the groin and mid-section area and may also allow for more efficient evasive movements or striking capability should the need occur. Raised open hands will also suggest a neutral ‘want no trouble’ position but will serve as a good position to block and counter strike, almost Thai style – see Fig 1.


Assessing the previously suggested ‘Stages of Confrontation’, stages one and two are not serving an immediate danger or threat to your own personal safety but, depending on the situation, may quickly lead to doing so. You could chose at this point to defuse the situation through verbal communication or take a more proactive physical approach towards resolving the engagement.
When stage 3 begins ‘double or single handed push’ the confrontation has just become physical and will rarely be resolved without the involvement of stages 4 and 5.

As the Fig.1 suggests, the aggressor is on the right and is attacking with a double handed grab.

The defender should ideally position themselves accordingly, neutral body shape - side ways on with hands in a raised position.

The majority of aggressor strikes in this position is either a head-butt or knee attacks.

Lower your predominant arm, draw it under the aggressors forearm, a counter strike is optional at this point i.e. palm heel, punch to face or mid-section.
The hand that was taken under should come up inside as the other pushes over and inside the elbow of the opposite arm – therefore one arm is over and the other under.

This is the point where the aggressor is most likely to try and strike and control you, so with the arm that came underneath trap the back of the aggressors head and draw him in towards your chest and on to a possible up and coming knee strike – as per the figures below

Weight distribution and body positioning will determine the effectiveness of the following technique and take down. With your aggressors head lowered you should step backwards and draw him towards you as well as simultaneously pressing him into the ground either face first or with a rotation to their backside. Although the photo shows the loosening of the opponent (left hand) ensure maximum control as balance is a key issue.

At this point an optional restraint, counter strike or a simple return to a guard or safe position is important for the completion of the movement.

Don’t forget, prevention and avoidance is always the greatest form of selfdefence, and that there are a number of variable situational factors that could contribute in a worsened case result and scenario i.e. multiple attackers, size, strength and technical competency of your aggressor, to name a few.

 The suggestion that body language, gestures and communication can also effect these stages can also be said to be true as a verbal comment can generate an ‘automated response’ from an aggressor and of course the effective diffusal or in turn, possible escalation of an engagement.

Most will already be aware that during the verbal exchange aspect of a confrontation your vocal tone, pitch and content can be used as a tool, for example with clear and concise communication a situation can be calmed whereas being aggressive can increase it to the physical contact stage. On a more thought provoking level verbal exchanges and gestures can be used as a distractive method and technique as it can be used to draw the aggressors train of thought to something different other than the immediate danger and engagement i.e. an open ended question requiring a thoughtful response, hence leaving the opportunity for a more proactive approach to a physical counter strike or diffusing technique.


Obviously, providing a verbal exchange can take confidence and self assertion but through correct rehearsal and scripting responses, its efficiency can be achieved. The following technical example shows, at first glance, quite a simple weapon based self defence technique but as with all drills and skills, done at face value the technique will be learnt in a couple of minutes but to master it will take the strategic breaking down and analysis of all the key elements and stages.

  1. As the confrontation starts the defender should assume a comfortable neutral body position, as discussed in the previous issue. Attempt to distract through verbal communication, open ended questions i.e. ‘Sorry sir, what’s going on?’ but be vigilant as essential timing is key with their response as it may buy you the second needed to initiate a technique or movement.
  2. From your neural position step in palm strike the shoulder (the majority of the initial power in your aggressors strike is sourced here) simultaneously checking the aggressors hand that wields the weapon – balance, grip and control is of course important.
  3. Being close to an aggressor has obvious danger implications so using a shorter range counter strike in the form of an elbow strike or change of position may be useful at this point so as to ensure the aggressor does not use a secondary attacking strike i.e. a left hand punch or grab.
  4. The weakest part of an aggressors grip is between the fore finger and thumb and though a single pull away / downward or drawing technique can be used to release the weapon, the application of strategically placed strikes can also open a grip – the wrist and forearm to name a few.
  5. In the photos you can see the drawing of the stick downwards, both hands are used for control, if the aggressors resists there are a number of wrist and elbow locks that can be implemented from here as well as low leg and groin strikes.
  6. Continue the rotation round until the grip is released, once the weapon is yours you have a choice of counter strikes, discarding of the weapon or returning to a neutral safe guarding position.

Defence against a weapon wielding aggressor will obviously differ from a situation where there is not one involved, firstly the perceived threat of danger and risk of injury is greater. When being placed under this pressure and stress, nerves and adrenaline can confuse logical thinking so often a simple response and technique is a better more effective one.

For those who already practise the martial arts don’t forget the roots and skills your style has instilled in you as the vast majority of attacks are thrown from the same place and could warrant the same natural response with or without a weapon – for example a bottle or knife lunge could almost represent a straight punch or an inward baton or stick attack could be likened to a ‘hay-maker’ or over hand right style punch!