The Eight Cardinal Rules Self Defense – The Self Defense Company

The Eight Cardinal Rules Self Defense

The Eight Cardinal Rules Self Defense

The following 8 cardinals rules are used to evaluate the validity of any self defense system.

I’m writing this to help you make an informed decision.

So read through the following and see how your style of choice stacks up, you might be surprised.

For any fighting system to be considered a legitimate form of self defense it must prepare you to:


  1. Assume that an attacker is intent on permanently injuring or killing you.

The fact is when you’re out on the streets you don’t know who you’re dealing with. If you bump into a person, the vast majority of people will be more than happy to accept your apology and go about their day. However there are a small percentage of people who will use that as provocation to escalate it into a full on attack.  People are assaulted all the time for trivial reasons like parking spaces, spare change or simply crossing paths of some psycho like what happened to that poor Petit family in Connecticut.  Has your training prepared you to deal with a life and death struggle against someone who has no regard for life? You must train with INTENT.


  1. Consider any and every environment.

I’ve seen some impressive acts of strength and agility, but those usually take place in a nice gym or dojo.  Will your skill set be effective in the park, on a snowy street, or even in the jungle?  Real fights don’t take place in the ring, but where ever people are in conflict.  While every environment has its own difficulties you’ve got to be able to function effectively no matter what. Take a look around you; you probably can’t go 10 feet in any direction without running into

something or a change in elevation like a curb or a step. The world is a hard, unforgiving place. Motions where you slide your feet work great on the smooth floor, but try that in the middle of the woods where there are rocks and stumps or grappling on broken bottles and concrete. You must train to ADAPT.


  1. Defend yourself even if you’re not feeling 100% 

You’ve got the flu,  pulled a muscle, or you’re on the mend from surgery.  All you want to do is get home from the pharmacy and fall asleep.  The problem is there is a whole class of scum out there looking to take advantage of your situation, and they won’t have any pity.  When you’re in great shape you can do a lot of things easily, but can you pull off what you know when you’re under the weather?  Bad things happen to people on their worse days, so you always need to be ready to fight. Predators pick the weak because they’re easy targets. You must have a skill set that will enable you to be effective NO MATTER WHAT your physical state is. If you can leave your house you better be READY.


  1. Assume there is more than one assailant.

Unlike in the movies in a real fight people won’t politely wait to take their turn to beat the hell out of you.  Trust me I’ve learned from personnel experience people get brave when they have numbers on their side, and they’ll use this to their full advantage.  If you’re only used to dealing with one person at a time you can quickly be over come by your attackers.  It might not be fair, but they want to win so you’d better be able to take on more than one attacker.  It’s never easy to fight more than one person, but if you practice in training you’ll be able to protect yourself. Truth is you can only “fight” one person at a time. So you must train to get rid of your attacker as FAST as possible.


  1. Assume your assailant is larger and stronger.

It’s common practice in training to match up people who are around the same weight, so that they can improve their abilities.  While this might be great for sports the real world is filled with bullies who take whatever they want from people who they think are weaker.  Can you fight off someone who towers over you? Ladies have you ever practiced fighting off someone who has 50lbs on you and a distinct strength advantage?  If you can’t say you’re ready to deal with a monster than your style won’t do you any good. You must be READY to do whatever it takes to survive.


  1. Assume your assailant is “tougher” and accustomed to violence. 

There are always people that are ready and willing to fight.  Thugs and bullies know their business and their business is hurting people.  Things like sportsmanship and human decency are foreign concepts to them.  They know what they’re doing and they will hurt, rape, or kill you if you don’t know how to fight back.  Be honest with yourself and ask yourself are you truly ready to deal with a real street fighter? Rules are for safety. Training with rules creates a habit of following them. Training without rules is the ONLY way to train.


  1. Assume that your assailant is armed.

An attack can turn deadly in seconds when an assailant pulls a weapon, and you’ve got to be ready to deal with this change quickly.         

Knives, bats, and guns along with a host of other objects are used in fights all the time.  If you don’t know how to deal with an armed assailant you’re at a tremendous disadvantage.  You might want to win a fight without hurting anyone, but some people will do whatever it takes to win. Treat EVERY attack as a weapon attack.


  1. Assume that you’ll be dealing with the worst-case and most nightmarish scenario you could ever imagine.

It could be a shooter blasting his way through your school or place of work.  Terrorists turn what should be the time of your life into a living hell.  You wake to the sounds of someone invading your home.  He keeps coming closer as you fumble for your car keys and he doesn’t give a damn that you filed a retraining order.  There all kinds of situations that scare people, and some are so scary you don’t even want to think about them.  You don’t pick the time and place of the attack, THEY do.


Don’t get hung up on a system or style. If you’re intent is self defense then there’s only one thing you should care about…RESULTS. It either works or it doesn’t work.

Most defenses that work in the dojo against willing attackers who “know their part” will not work out in the street, against someone who is hell bent on beating you into the ground. There is only one solution for self defense and it is SIMPLE, POWERFUL and BRUTAL.

There’s no such thing as “Advanced Self Defense”. It’s all simple because it has to be. When someone approaches you and decides to “turn it up” and your adrenalin hits – all those fancy and intricate moves go right out the window.

Why bother training 10 different defenses for a wrist grab when you can just HIT HIM!?!?

If it works, check that box and get on with your life.

It’s Not About Who’s Right, Only Who’s Left.




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Published by Damian (Instructor)

Founder, The Self Defense Company

Join the Conversation


  1. Your absolutely right.I wouldn’t know what to do in any of the situations you mentioned.But I believe a person has only seconds to act.Big fellows under the influence can be handful.It would be nice to be able to handle a huge person with out fear.I have no intention to hurt anyone.Just would want to make sure myself and my family are safe.

    1. No such thing as “…handle a huge person without fear….” Life and death fear results in immediate sympathetic nervous system reactions of FREEZE, FLIGHT, or FIGHT, “that’s it”, no other options at that time of extreme stress. FREEZE will leave you dead or injured at the scene; FLIGHT can save your life, if you can successfully escape but what if you are with loved ones who cannot get away on their own? The last choice is FIGHT! I heard at a U.S.A. Olympic games competition, “There is no substitute for good preparation!” So use your fear to motivate you, to get prepared, to be ready, to become the fiercest, most brutal fighting lion you can be, for the time needed to ensure the proper safety. Bravery is not the absence of fear, it is overcoming adversity in spite of fear! In life and death situations, police officers and military personnel often say, “It was my training that saved me. My training took over…. I reacted instinctively based on my training.” So use fear to motivate, train like you mean it, if you want the best odds of survival!


    1. Sounds like you either had the WORLD’S WORST LAWYER or your daughter did something INSANELY excessive.

      Oh, if you want to discuss this further, please post a link to the case file.

      You can find it by just googling the parties in the case.

    2. “Let the Buyer (defendant) Beware.” You MUST get an attorney who is well versed in self-defense law. You would not hire an international business law attorney to defend you in a murder trial. Just because an attorney is an attorney for criminal defense does not mean they are an attorney that is versed in self-defense protection. I am sorry your attorney was not ready to help your daughter. EVERYBODY LISTEN UP!!!! Now, before it is necessary, find an attorney that has handled many self-defense cases successfully. Or you can sign up with NRA or USCCA for self-defense insurance which includes attorneys and expert witnesses. If you sign up for SDC, you will be taught more “Self-defense and the Law” information than most attorneys know. Then you will know exactly what to teach your daughter. Or hook up with Andrew Branca and keep up with current law and the changes that may be coming. Train honestly. L-5

  3. Comprehensive self-defense requires not only the skills needed to survive a vicious physical assault, but also training to prevent or minimize possible victimization by the legal system as the “after-math” of an assault. An injured aggressor can obtain the services of a savvy attorney who might twist the truth completely out of anything believable, or an investigating law enforcement officer might draw the wrong conclusions. Innocent people have been found guilty, and there are those who are good at manipulating the legal system for their own ends. So I suggest you consider the proper training to increase your odds of avoiding or minimizing legal repercussions!

  4. P.S. If facing a brutal ass-kicking and escape is not possible, I am going to defend myself with every bit of savage tenacity that I can muster. I’d rather take my chances with the legal system afterward, than to be found dead in a dark parking lot with no signs of a struggle. I am not going to be a cooperative victim, “no thanks!”

    1. As my instructor said, “ Better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6.” When your well-being is threatened, deal with them as quickly and brutally as possible or YOU will be the one hurt. Say Nothing to police except that you feared for your life and you want a lawyer. Then hire a good lawyer to deal with the consequences.

  5. ..sound advice….

    plus u should especially train your own goto principles and techniques….a million times…..knife hands… get ups when on the floor……

    keep it real simple…eyes balls throat………over and over again..

  6. Staying out of certain potentially hostile environments helps a lot. Drinking establishments, racially imbalanced areas where you are the minority, urban areas past midnight are some examples. Avoiding street fights is the number one rule since there is extreme danger whether you win or lose. Bruce Lee movies are fantasy. If you are fighting three people you will lose and maybe lose really badly as in life ending, permanent infirmary or disfigurement. In a hostile environment hold head up but not cocked and avoid eye contact. Stay safe good people of the planet.

    1. John, thanks for posting…but I have to tell you, you just described the life of a sheep and I feel sorry for you.

      Fear is good…being afraid is BAD.

      Look – violence is a human condition and exists EVERYWHERE. Until you’re dead, THERE IS NO 100% guarantee against isolating yourself against violence. Any time humans interact, there exists a chance. Even if you lock yourself in your room and eat saltine crackers…there’s a chance you will get into it with the person who brings the crackers.

      Shit happens ALL OVER, small towns, rich towns…heck there were 4 assaults at kids’ sporting events in my area just last week…

      Oh and you should ALWAYS make eye contact. Eye avoidance and lack of eye contact is the behaviour of PREY and INVITES attack. Basic behavioral studies support this.

      John, if you choose to live your life afraid, that’s your own personal hell. But there are many of us who respect violence enough to prepare for it to give ourselves a fighting chance so when we do take that wrong turn, or evil kicks in the door – we will respond accordingly.


      PS. I don’t know where the Bruce Lee comment comes from…but you obviously don’t know what we do here.

  7. Stay Connected. Stay Informed. Stay Protected.
    Texas LawShield®

    Damian is correct. The number one person in a fight is yourself. These 8 rules will help you. Avoid certain enviroments and situations win possible. Use your brain . . . don’t knowingly put yourself in “harms way”. If sh#t hits the fan, there are no rules. Almost anything can be used as a weapon. Don’t walk around complacent like a sheep . . . stay aware.

  8. This is excellent advice for a true self defense situation against a predator.

    It shouldn’t be confused though with the more common “bigger dick” situations that people deal with.

    I always tell the story of the fight I kinda “lost” at my cousin’s graduation party. We were drinking and playing basketball and there were some elbows thrown. My cousin’s best friend got pissed and went to take a shot at me.

    I knew this kid. He’s not a violent predator. He wasn’t armed. He wasn’t a bad ass. He was just a good kid having a bad day and too much to drink.

    When I saw his fist cock back, my first thought was to use my training to send him to the hospital. Fortunately, a voice in my head spoke up and said no.

    I just covered up and blocked a couple of blows until other people broke it up. My shoulder and ego were slightly bruised. But we shook hands and had a beer together later. No biggie.

    Of course, situations like the one I’m describing can go south quickly. If I’d missed a block maybe I’d be in the hospital.

    But they are still quite different from someone jumping you in a parking garage at 2 in the morning. And people need to be clear on that. I think.

  9. The basic 8. Unfortunately most martial arts are sport oriented nowdays and those who practice them have a misguided belief that they are prepared for a violent encounter. In a violent encounter there are no rules and you will respond how you train. You train with rules you are bound to lose. I enjoy these posts that Damien presents because they are straight to the point and succint.
    I have been a practicing martial artist for over 4 decades and have studied well over a dozen systems. What I have learned is there are more similarities than differences and the basics are somewhat the same. From there they can become so accumulated with techniques that they will never work in a real self defense scenario. Jerry is on point with his statement of how intricate techniques fly out the window when adrenaline dumps into the body. Keep it simple student!
    There are more people who have survived a violent encounter and never stepped into a dojo simply because they chose to do something about it instead of to do nothing. Part of the predators job is to accurately choose prey that will not fight back! Think about that. Being situationally aware in your surroundings is number one. Being prepared to do something in the moment is number two.If what you are learning in your dojo hasn’t taught you these 2 points within the first month, it’s time to find another school. That is unless your intention is to become an MMA fighter or looking good in the dojo.
    Thanks again for another informative post Damien!

  10. The more fighting experience that you possess, the less likely, that you will fear. Degrees of adrenaline apprehension, yes.

    At the top of the fighting food chain, are war hardened hand-to-hand combat soldiers, who had a law enforcement career, and fought in prisons – jails – streets.

    There is a big difference, in a fight that only lasts seconds, as opposed to competition fights that last minutes.

    The fighting intent is to kill, as opposed to anything short of death.

  11. Hi Damian,
    Fear is good…being afraid is BAD. LOl, after 33 years as a federal corrections officer this is the best information any newbie should understand. Thanks for reminding me.

    true north strong and free

  12. This is a very good discussion. And I do appreciate all of the input. The being situationally aware of everything and everyone around you is one of the main things a person can do. The other is as has been said several times prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

  13. I am not a small man. I walk with confidence with my wife being aware and not stupid. I am now 78 and realize I am a potential target. I am a Marine and was never taught in boot camp how to lay down. My safety as well as my family’s safety demands I respond 100 percent regardless of size or how many scars they have on them. I don’t give a shit if I am arrested or go to court. My family and I are alive is the only thing that counts


  14. Hi Damien,you can’t live in fear, i have been a target several times,but one thing my native american father taught me was never show fear. He taught me to shoot a gun at the age of 12,then at 14,how to protect myself,and i believe in what i was taught, you can never learn enough,so i will sign up for your courses.

    1. Awesome feedback and you are so correct. Three things you never want to show an enemy in a fight are fear, pain or that you are tired. Glad you are wanting to take the courses.

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