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Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Stephen L. Brayton is both a mystery author and a Fifth Degree Black Belt instructor in the American Taekwondo Association. He began martial arts training in 1991, earned his black belt in 1993, and gained his instructor certification in 1995. He’s visiting with us today to discuss self-defense options. Visit Stephen’s website to learn more about him and his books. -- AP

Self Defense Options

I conduct several self defense seminars for high school students and women, as well as the various techniques shown in my regular classes. One of the things I teach those who participate in self defense courses is to have options available to immediately utilize.

For example, let me keep it simple and discuss a basic wrist grab. After determining the level of threat indicated, the person would pull his/her wrist against the opponent’s thumb, that finger being the weakest part of the hand in terms of grip. Depending on the intentions of the opponent, various follow up techniques can then be applied. However, what if the original pull-away doesn’t free the hand? I tell my students not to keep fighting because it isn’t going to work and will only bolster the resolve of the opponent. Instead, immediately apply two or three options, usually distraction techniques. These can be as simple as a stomp on the instep, kick to the knee, raking the shin with the side of the foot, poke to the eye, palm heel to the nose, or several others. Don’t forget to go back to the wrist release because that was the original goal.

Also remember to practice various techniques so you know with which ones you are most comfortable and are easiest for you to implement. If you aren’t sure about kicking, then that method would be wasted on an attacker.

In Beta, the heroine, Mallory Petersen, a private investigator/martial artist, uses various techniques when facing the bad guys, depending on the situation in which she finds herself.  In one scene, she plans to deliver a palm heel to the opponent’s nose, but because she has been hiding under a table, her calf muscles cramp and she stumbles during the attack. Immediately she changes her plans to a midriff tackle to bring the man down to her level before proceeding to incapacitate him.

Keep your options open and have a game plan already prepared before something goes wrong. You don’t want to have to be thinking of what to do next because seconds count in an attack.

Thanks for the advice, Stephen. These are things we should all know, but hopefully will never have to use. Readers, do you know how to defend yourselves in case of an attack? -- AP


Liz said...

Once upon a time, a Marine boyfriend taught me how to disarm a knife yielding opponent. Now, however, I would need to batter someone with my cane.

jenny milchman said...

This is such a useful and timely post! Thank you, Stephen, Lois, and of course, Anastasia...

Not, um, because I need to kill or disarm anyone, of course :)


LOL, Liz!

Jenny, good to know you're not turning homicidal!

Kate Gallison said...

I was in a class once where NJ state worker clerks were taught self-defense. What I took away from it was the news that a woman can do serious damage with a set of keys. Walk with them sticking out between your fingers; you can take out an assailant's eye. Never used this. I've lost the will to blind some other mother's son. Instead I moved out of Trenton.

KM Fawcett said...

Kate - Actually it's best NOT to hold the keys between your fingers. In my self defense classes, I teach women to make a fist around your keys letting one stick out of your fist by the index finger/ thumb side. This way you avoid hurting your fingers, you have better control of your weapon, and more mobility to strike an attacker even if they grab you from behind. Moving out of Trenton was probably a good choice. ;)

Stephen L. Brayton said...

Thanks for the comments. Along with my regular martial arts classes, I conduct specialized self defense seminars entitled S.H.A.R.P. - Sexual Harassment, Asault, Rape Prevention - which is about a four hour course for women only. This course looks at various areas of self defense. If you ever get a chance to participate in a course like this, it is worth the fee.

Marja McGraw said...

Very good advice, Stephen. Thank you! You never know when something might happen. I remember a friend being mugged, and I was right there. I had no idea what to do, so I hit him with my oversized purse. Well, tried. He was it coming and ran.

Patricia Gligor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patricia Gligor said...

Thanks for all the self-defense tips.
I haven't had a chance to read "Beta" yet but I plan to. Maybe I can learn some more moves from Mallory.

Kat Hinkson said...

I agree with all the ideas for defense. One thing that should also be said is 'Stay alert'. Know what and who is around you at all times. Don't talk on your cell phone. You can't be alert if you're talking on the phone. Great information though.

Melanie Jackson, author, editor, piano student said...

I am forwarding this to my daughter. Thanks, Stephen! I am also tweeting it.

jack59 said...

I served with the Royal Air Force Police and was taught Unarmed Combat- their name for self defense. After a high concentration of training I returned to my home town one weekend and whilst waiting in a line for my bus felt my rear(ass) touched. I turned and struck in one move without conscious thought only to discover I had floored an old friend of mine having a joke.
Self defense is good but remember if you train a lot it can become automatic.
Nice article Stephen.