Strategic Self Defence

Strategic Self Defence

Many people get confused regarding the differences between strategy and tactics; Even people who are well versed in various combat arts and sciences.

This post examines exactly what strategy is and what it is not - from a self defence perspective.

Then we go deep and explore how we can approach self defence from a strategic perspective. This will get you thinking big picture and how the deliberate big picture decisions we make flow down to everything else.

Are Combat Sports a Waste of Time for Self Defence?

Are Combat Sports a Waste of Time for Self Defence?

There are broadly two camps.

The first camp, they love the combat sports and feel that unless you train against a 100% resisting opponent you are not close to simulating real violent encounters.

The second camp, they feel that there are too many restrictions when training in combat sports which generates bad habits.

There is a bit more to it than this and we go deep looking at whether or not the combat sports are a good method for developing effective self defence skills.

13 Commonly Believed Myths About Self Defence BUSTED!

13 Commonly Believed Myths About Self Defence BUSTED!

This post explores 13 commonly believed myths regarding self defence and we bust them wide open!

Some of these are sacred cows that need slaughtering. Some of them may be eye opening. Some not so obvious. 

Regardless you are sure to get something out of this one!

The Warrior is Dead, Long Live the Warrior

The Warrior is Dead, Long Live the Warrior

What is a warrior? Is the term even relevant today?

Is a warrior only a soldier? What about a martial artist? What about an MMA champ? What about a cop? What about a mercenary? What about a cancer survivor? What about a sporting legend?

This post argues that most of the above are NOT a warrior. This post examines what a warrior actually is - in some detail.

Caution - some people may be offended.

Aliveness: Common Sense or Controversial?

Aliveness. Although the term is linked to Matt Thornton (who is known for really promoting the concept), Aliveness can and should be associated with all types of self defence or combat related training and not just bjj.

In this post we look into this topic of Aliveness in some detail.

Judo Throws in MMA

I found a great link while checking out TDA Trainings recent TDA Blitz. Judo throws being applied in MMA tournaments can be found at Formosa Neijia's post titled 'Judo in MMA'. Its a great link, check it out.

As a little bit extra, Ive compiled a couple of videos for you here, showing Judo throws being applied in live competition.

First, here is a video of some fantastic Judo throws being applied in Judo competition to highlight how devastating these can be. Remember, these are being done on people who are trying their hardest NOT to be thrown. AND they know how to defend and counter them.

When it comes to applying them on untrained opponents...

and here is a video showing some Judo throws in MMA

I hope you enjoyed.

Intimate MMA - Great Pride Video

This video is one of the relatively newer videos to come out of the now defunct Pridefc shows. It is a quite close up and intimate look at MMA from the perspective of the ref INSIDE the ring with the fighters! Its definitely worth a look if you haven't seen it and of course if you have seen it before, you will likely have another look now.

I think this video really highlights the commitment it takes to step inside the ring or octagon in an MMA bout and put it all on the line. This video is quite different from all the other MMA videos kicking around the internet.

Here it is.

Its a nice one.

TMA v Modern systems

Ive been thinking about traditional martial arts (TMA) compared to more modern systems for a while now and a thread on a forum today has sparked the matter for me. Like many older or less young martial artists and self protection practitioners, I trod my first steps on this pathway by joining a traditional martial art. It was a long process where I began at the back of the class in tracksuit pants and a t-shirt and gradually worked my way through the formation and ranks of the class up to the front where I was often the senior student there of about 40 students.

Humble Beginnings

I still remember my first night there where the assistant instructor took me to the rear of the class and taught me how to make a fist, what knuckles to hit with and that my wrist and fist should be in line which makes it stronger to strike with. I loved it! I was learning how to defend myself!

When I first turned up, I had absolutely no idea and that realisation is what prompted me to join up as there were numerous school fights happening at the time and I didn't want to get caught up in one and lose. The loser of these school yard fights lost stature and sometimes friends where the winner was swarmed with new friends. I wanted to be the winner! As it turns out, I never did have to draw on my new amazing super fighting skills.

Way of the Warrior

It was a long gradual process during which I read books such as The Book of Five Rings, Hagakure, The Art of War, and The Unfettered Mind. These books were quite an influence on me and directly contributed to my outlook on the martial arts broadening and my behaviour gradually changing. I tried to emulate the people I read about and tried to develop myself into a 'warrior'.

I guess the youngish age contributed to me seriously aspiring to such heighty ideals. Although those goals were indeed large, it certainly kept me out of trouble where many of my friends were getting mixed up in illegal activities and getting caught. I really wanted to be good and DO good. The lessons coming out of those books meant a lot to me.

Change of Outlook

Today, my study of the martial arts is very different to what it was. I no longer practise a traditional martial art (TMA). As previous posts explain, I study systems which fundamentally develop ones ability to APPLY their techniques on a resisting opponent such as bjj, boxing and general MMA type systems as well as similarly structured weapons systems. I do this because fundamentally, the practise of martial arts aims to teach skills which give one the ability to successfully defend and counter any physical attack that may come their way. The systems I practise today focus on doing that for todays threat.

Different Threat Today

The threat we face on the streets today are very different than the threat faced in south east Asia hundreds or thousands of years ago which is what TMA were developed for and is still today, essentially, the focus of these systems. TMA is basically formal military training for a thousand year old battle field complete with formations, weapons of the era (swords, nunchuka, Sai etc.), uniforms, ranks and compliments to senior ranks (bowing).

Today, the threat doesn't attack with the above weapons or on horseback which is what flying kicks were developed for.

The Urban Threat

The threat today has had too much alcohol, uses violence and the shock of violence to his advantage, uses superior numbers, takes belongings at knife point, lurks in the dark in urban areas, carjacks, breaks into homes and in the extreme actively tries to kill other people for no real reason.

This list is not exhaustive. It is a very different threat environment to what the warriors faced in the past. We need to study systems that are geared up for todays threat.

A Journey along MMA?

However, the scene surrounding some of the modern systems can appear quite unsavoury. A famous world champion boxer biting the ear off his opponent in the ring, MMA fighters puffing up their ego in pre fight slagging matches and general character traits not becoming a warrior that is espoused in the classics. Does this have to always be the case? Can systems like MMA be practised for their physical benefits and still facilitate the development of the mental and spiritual journey? Do fighters only practise boxing and MMA etc. with the hope to compete, become champions and seek glory and fame? Are there people out there who train in these systems and others because they ARE so effective then go home and read Musashi?

Best of both Worlds

I feel that the more effective, proven, high percentage systems of bjj, thai boxing, wrestling, boxing, dogbrothers, kickboxing and judo can offer a lot to the serious TMA practitioner if only they can look past the bad light that is sometimes shone onto these systems and look deeper at the fundamental true beauty of them. There is a lot to learn and studying these systems doesn't mean you have to give up your beliefs and become a hot headed fighter. Some of the most polite, respectful people Ive met have been MMA practitioners and the study of these modern systems involves a lot of hard work, commitment and dedication which is quite a spiritual journey to undertake in and of itself.

A Renaissance

Its my belief (and not just me), that the study of the classics, some of these listed above, combined with hard, effective training is actually a pinacle in the history of hand to hand or low tech combat and the way of life that follows. For the first time in history, the worlds martial arts are being tested against each other and they are mutating and combining where today, there have evolved certain systems which are 'specialists' in certain areas.

It is not just the martial arts that are changing. The self defence industry is evolving as well. We have self defence systems such as ISR Matrix, Red Zone and S.T.A.B. knife defence that use the latest training methods to quickly allow for them to train students up to a good standard very quickly. ISR Matrix even integrate the legal use of force in their progressive responses to the threats actions.

When these different specialists are combined they form extremely formidable systems which is contributing to a true renaissance in the combative arts today.

It is a great time to be alive to witness it. Dont deny it, embrace it.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment.

Where is my training at?

Well, Ive been busy this last week with finishing my first major assignment for uni. Also, Ive been wondering how my training has been going and where it is and if its going how I want...

My boxing skills have certainly improved and is something I have never really done for any focused length of time. I am much more confident now in not only using my hands and evading someone elses, but of getting hit and it not being game over so to speak.

No Surprises
About half of my time spent boxing has been sparring and Ive noticed that it has gradually gotten more and more intense and harder as Ive been sparring the same partners. As would be expected, Ive worn a few good hits in the last 6 months or so, some of them quite hard.

It gives me confidence to know that I can wear a few hits and keep going. This is a really good skill to have. I would say almost as important as conditioning in some ways. I would hate for my first experience of being hit to be in the real thing. I think it is best to experience as many things you are likely experience in the real thing as possible. BEFORE it is real.

Stress Testing
As well as developing core boxing skills and getting hit, another valuable skill Ive developed by boxing is operating under the stress of maybe being hit and making sure I do the correct thing like be offensive, cover appropriately and use counters etc. By training in boxing with gloves and mouthguard and sparring, it develops similar attributes as rolling does for bjj or submission wrestling.

You develop the ability to APPLY what you know on a resisting opponent. This is something I try to make sure is a major area of every system that I practise today. It is not only a form of stress testing but you can use tactics like set ups, break rhythm, fakes and draws which are skills of major importance to real life combat.

Indeed a feared streetfighter I was exposed to as a younger guy had just one move but he did it successfully on everyone he faught and because no-one had seen him before, they didn't know what it was. It was basically a sucker punch.

Alive Weapons Training
The weapons training that I do when I am able also uses a form of stress testing and free environment to routinely drill or spar certain movements. As each move is learnt it is immediately drilled with appropriate protective equipment against a live opponent.

Again, it is a form of stress testing and inbuilt learning how to apply the techniques against a shifty, thinking opponent.

Enjoying Rolling too much?
So yeah, im happy with my striking training at the moment but my ground game has stagnated. I think its because Ive recently gotten back into it and I am enjoying it so much. That may sound funny but Im actually just enjoying rolling again and am not aggressive in attacking, im more just wrestling for position and going for sweeps, reversals and turn overs and things.

By not being very offensive (going for submissions), it enables my training partners to be offensive which of course puts me behind the eight ball. But I am really enjoying it and my overall game is improving but I am certainly not putting my partners under the appropriate pressure thats needed and that is something I intend to work on in the coming months. I want to focus more on setting up and applying submissions which at the end of the day, is what it is all about.

Looking Forward
I havn't been able to do any weapons training lately but this will be rectified in a couple months. I really look forward to training with Ray Floro again. He is one of the most talented and best instructors I have ever met. And what he teaches is truly low tech combat. His is a truly great system.

My combat conditioning is fine at the moment. I finished Ross Enamait's Infinate Intensity program a few weeks ago and have since backed off a bit and have focused more on my actual boxing and bjj training and done things like skipping and hitting the bag to transform my general conditioning into more low tech combat specific conditioning.

All up?
Im really happy with the boxing as its something Ive never done properly before and Ive learnt a lot and my other training will be picked up in a couple months. My program lately consists of the following:

  • Mondays-boxing (padwork only),
  • Tuesday-no-gi bjj,
  • Wednesday-kickboxing (padwork only),
  • Thursday-no-gi bjj,
  • Friday- boxing (sparring only) and
  • Saturday-MMA (drills, techniques and some sparring).


Its limited but am biulding up areas where I have been weaker in the past. When I get back to Sydney in another month or so, my regime will change a lot and fill the gaps and look more like my last post.


The Full Spectrum

Im going to examine what the full spectrum of low tech combat is in today's world. This is as much for my own benefit as much as anything else. Just to put it down on paper so to speak.

Firstly, I think of low tech combat as the full spectrum of violence one is likely to encounter on the street today. That is primarily why I've called this blog, low tech combat. Violence on streets and in homes consists of unarmed, armed (impact or edged weapons), one on one and one against many.

Lots to Learn

The FULL spectrum would have to include activities leading up to the actual encounter as well. This is aspects such as awareness, knowledge of the victim selection process and signs and indicators of agitated persons or persons about to commit a violent action.

The full spectrum of low tech combat must also include events immediately after an encounter such as gathering witnesses, knowing what to say to police and being able to render first aid. Another aspect would be the day to day and 'industry' knowledge and lifestyle that comes with being a modern citizen warrior.

Further 'Soft' Skills

This could involve such things as studying the psychological and physical effects of being involved in violence, past warrior societies and the nature of human combat. Another area that should be included in the full spectrum of low tech combat is a knowledge of home security, mobile security and personal security measures. These areas can be included in the awareness or pre conflict stage.

Developing knowledge in the full spectrum of low tech combat is a long term process. However the basics can be learnt relatively quickly with modern training methods such as stress conditioning using scenarios and studying and applying awareness into your everyday life.

Combat is Linear

The different areas of low tech combat are linear in fashion. The process of an attack happening is linear. An attacker will not suddenly morph into your room at night, stab you then go about 'casing' your place out. He will 'case' your place out before breaking into it.

There is a process involved in any attack and there are certain identifiable stages. It is these stages which will be presented below, in the order of occurrence which will be the vehicle used to present the full spectrum of low tech combat.

Pre Attack Stage

The first stage is the Pre Attack Stage. This is the most important stage. What happens here will effect what happens in the actual attack stage, if it even gets that far. This stage shapes the next stage. An attacker can be 'defeated' during this stage with no need for physical confrontation. This can happen for many reasons.

I will begin with awareness. Awareness can relate to many aspects of the pre attack stage. Awareness can relate to being out on foot, it can relate to an awareness of home security principles and can relate to some basic security principles when driving in a car.

High Risk Environments

Encompassing all of these areas is an awareness of high risk environments. Knowing where and when certain types of attacks are likely to occur.

Typical environments include car parks, the fringes of busy areas where they transition into quieter areas and getting money out from an ATM at night. For more information about higher risk environments, click here .

Alertness can Deter

An awareness of these environments will heighten your alertness to appropriate levels at the appropriate times and places. Simply being alert can be enough to deter most attackers as an attacker wants to find a low risk target where the risk of injury or of being caught is low.

Being aware of your surroundings is an important trait to develop. A high level of awareness will give early warning of possible threats. This early warning will do two things.

Firstly, it will prevent you from being caught by surprise. This is a MAJOR factor. Surprise will turn the best cage fighter into a frozen startled mess. Surprise will do that to almost anyone. It is very difficult to recover from surprise with a half competent attack. Time in the encounter and pressure testing in training are the major factors and a continued attack will make it very difficult.

Secondly, noticing a possible threat early will give you time to plan. Appropriate actions can be analysed and options can be considered. Once appropriate actions have been considered, early action can be undertaken. It may be best to leave the area, go into a shop, go into the kids room and lock the door, call the police, wind your window up on the locked car door or any number of things. You will not have that luxury of early action if you have not detected the threat early.

Colour Codes of Awareness

If you are not sure how to apply awareness when actually out and about engaging in this thing called life, a good place to begin, is with the Cooper colour code system of awareness. This can be found here .

The Alpha Male and the Predator

There are basically two types of attackers. One is the Alpha Male and one is a Predator. Anyone who has watched any wildlife documentaries will instinctly know what I mean by this.

  • The Alpha Male wants to beat down anyone it sees as a threat. This is typically seen in fights out the front of pubs. Young aggressive males.
  • Predatory attacks are ambush attacks. This is the type of attack used by someone after a wallet or money, all the way up to kidnapping, rape and murder.

Basically all types of attack are one of either these two. It is important to know the differences as different strategies are required to deal with them. More can be read about this key aspect of Low Tech Combat by visiting my post Alpha Male v Predatory Threats.

Know what to Look for

Knowing the attackers tactics and key indicators is another important area of the pre attack stage. An attacker will generally try to position himself in an advantageous position or already be waiting there and it is important to know this so as to know what to look for.

There are also behavioural signs which can indicate that a person may be about to attack or is looking for a victim. There is a lot of information out there regarding this. Some can be found here or here .


Once someone has selected you and decided to have a go, and you are unable to leave the area, the next step of an actual attack is when he approaches you. This is where the de-escalation strategies come into it, such as non aggressive posture, and verbally talking and diffusing the situation. There are a numerous strategies for this stage of conflict which may be found here .

If this part of the process does not get resolved or deteriorates further, we move onto the next stage...

The Attack Stage

The second stage of an attack is the Attack Stage. This is the stage in which most people spend all their time training in. This is where the actual attack is under way. It is physical.

From the beginning of an encounter, perhaps the best approach or techniques and tactics to use, are those that come from Reality Based Self Defence (RBSD) systems. RBSD deals primarily with the pre attack and the first immediate actions to do once the encounter has gone physical.

This enables a seamless transition from pre attack into attack and this is where RBSD systems excel. RBSD use various scenarios which can be scenarios inside a pub on a friday night, home invasion, robbery or anything. Scenarios can range from the most likely to most dangerous.

Its all about Initiative and who has it!

The beginning of an attack or encounter will give the person with the best initial response the initiative. Who has the initiative has the advantage. At this stage, who has the element of surprise pre attack, or initiative at the beginning of the physical attack, will have a massive advantage.

RBSD specialise in these areas of low tech combat. They generally practise in an open system of no rules at all and win at all costs methodology (including using improvised weapons) which is what is needed if it gets to this stage.

When Fight Skills come into it

But what happens if your counter attack or pre emptive attack doesn't work? Keep going of course. But if this happens and the attack can't be stopped quickly, any advantage had by an aggressive start and initiative will be eroding rapidly.

Once an encounter lasts longer than several seconds, fight skill comes into the equation. From here, someone who was caught by surprise can begin to regather themselves and sort themselves out and bring there game into play. This is where the combat sports and related systems come into their own.

Combat Sports

The combat sports are by their very nature competitive systems such as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Boxing, Judo and some Filipino weapon systems. These systems routinely practise and compete against another resisting human being. This is a major factor in the success of a medium to long term encounter.

Practitioners of these systems have an understanding of how humans react to certain moves or pressure as they do it all the time.

Matt Thornton is a major proponent of this concept. He calls it "Aliveness". A great piece on Aliveness can be found here .

It is training in an environment where both practitioners are mobile, they can resist offensive moves, use strength, use the opponents strength against him, bait him, feint him and generally engage with each other in an "alive" manner. It is the opposite of static.

Train against a 100% resisting opponent safely

These training systems allow for almost full on, 100% effort against each other in a safe, controlled environment. This is an absolutely vital aspect of low tech combat. This is why there is such a great advantage to practitioners of these systems the longer an encounter goes on.

It is your practise of these combat sport systems which will be the major contributing factor in your success of an encounter at this longer length. It is your real fighting skill that will determine the outcome at this stage of what is now a fight. It is no longer an attack. You are engaged in a fight. There is nothing else to fall back on except outside intervention or your attacker quits his attack.

RBSD v Combat Sports

Of note, generally most people espouse either RBSD or the combat sports. It is generally one or the other.

The RBSD community say that it uses realistic scenarios where there are no rules, weapons are encouraged, along with multiple attackers where they are under adrenal stress. This is how it's gonna be.

The MMA community say that you need to train against a resisting opponent who is actively trying his hardest to fight back using everything they have.

They Compliment Each Other

By what I have already stated above, I believe both systems are equally important and have something to offer each other. The RBSD crew can implement more 'force on force' or free sparring type activities and the MMA crew can implement multiple attackers, scenarios and weapons. They can complement each other well. This is happening already around the world. People are combining systems in a very effective way.

Post Attack Stage

The third stage is the Post Attack Stage. The first actions to do after an encounter is the Immediate Action.

  1. No matter how it ended, look around. Are you actually safe now? Is a friend of the attacker coming up? Safety first.
  2. Is the other guy hurt? If so, you should render first aid. This is done for two main reasons. One, it is the right thing to do, regardless of who started it. Two, imagine if there is CCTV cameras around and the footage ends up in court.

If you did all you could to avoid the encounter, did what you had to do and then rendered first aid... It will look good in court. There is one other option in any violent encounter. You may want to leave the scene in a hurry. Just get up and run off. This could be for any number of reasons that don't need to be discussed here. It is a very real option.

Post Encounter Administration

After the primary security considerations have been taken into account, it is time to move into the post encounter administration.

Look around and ask for witnesses, neighbours or help to call an ambulance or assist in some other task like move the injured attacker off the roadway or stack fallen chairs or whatever. Ask these people for their details.

Police and Security

It is at this stage where security or police may already be involved or even earlier. An interview and/or statement will likely be required. Know how to do this. You don't want to needlessly incriminate yourself. Think of legal terminology.

Instead of throwing someone to the floor, they attacked you and you sidestepped and they then lost balance and fell over...This post attack admin may not be required. It may be a brief, remote encounter where you just get about on your merry way.

Remember, if statements are required, get legal advice as soon as possible. Give serious thought to obtaining legal advice before putting anything to paper. It is a very good idea. This is not a sign of guilt, it is a sign of an understanding of today's legal system.


Below is a summary of the full spectrum of low tech combat in its linear order as I see it.

Pre Attack

-Environmental Awareness (Home security measures, knowledge of high risk areas etc)

-Awareness (Scanning, knowledge of key pre attack indicators, attackers tactics etc)

-Avoidance and Evasion ('Bust them', leave area, enter shop, cross road, lock door etc.)

-De escalation (Verbal dissuasion, non aggressive body language etc.)


-Initial physical encounter (Pre emptive strike and follow up, aggressive counter attack etc.)

-Fighting stage (intial attack not successful or effective, now fighting etc.)

-Encounter is finished (Success, separated or mutual stopping etc.)

Post Attack

-Immediate action (Check for further threats, administer first aid if req, leave area? ask for witnesses etc.)

-Administration (Get details of witnesses, leave area etc.)

-Get legal advice before giving statements

There is a lot to learn. Most people involved in the protection of themselves spend the VAST MAJORITY of their time only practising the actual physical attack stage. And of this, the practise of the physical aspects is limited to one area such as striking or groundfighting. Even the practise of one stage of low tech combat such as the Attack Stage must be well rounded. If you have a whole in your armour, Murphy will find it.

The Beginning Influences the End

The pre attack stage can have a major influence on everything that happens after it. This is the major area most people can rapidly improve on if they spent the time.

The full spectrum of low tech combat covers a lot of areas. Actually all of them. I personally try to balance out the pre attack and attack stages in my training and the various aspects inside each stage in order to be well rounded. After all, we are only as good as our weakest link.

Happy training