The Science of Self Defense
An approach to minimizing injury related to interpersonal violence.
By Bernard McPherson
RN, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, MS in Physiology, 9 Black Belts, 13 Years Army Ranger (ret.), Self Defense Company Elite Training Member since 2014
You must understand that most criminals that will attack you are not like you.
Social reform, politeness and respectful behavior training did not work on the individual who will target you in a physical, sexual or armed assault. Certainly, if you could “talk down,” or talk them out of the assault, they probably would not be assaulting you. If they followed social norms of behavior, if being polite and respectful were values they held, the assault would not happen. Behavioral modification training is successful in elementary school settings, (___), and has been shown to decrease bullying in schools (___). The present research project has a focus on the moment of the physical assault, with the possibility of physical injury to the intended victim or companions.
So the program being developed for this dissertation is not a strictly “self-defense” or martial arts program. Awareness and pre-emptive strategies have a good place in the continuum of protective concepts. It is legal to walk down any dark street in the city at 2 AM, but that does not make it a good idea. A “self-defense” program should include such ideas as avoiding potential danger by being aware of the environment, or taking pre-emptive precautions.
My research does not include awareness or pre-emptive recommendations, but they will be included by other researchers. (Two paragraphs on awareness and pre-emption here)
Awareness strategies include (_)
Pre-emptive strategies include (_)
Do you have a plan for an attack that begins with a right hand punch? A grab of your shirt? A push that may imbalance you? The threat of a weapon? Many persons have planned for a flat tire or an auto accident. Do you have a plan for resistance and escape in case of assault? Most collegians do not. This study will develop possible responses to each of the mentioned assaults in the Discussion and Conclusion sections.
Regretfully, martial arts training is not a good answer to self-defense. Since the 1990’s martial arts training has been supported by the media images of the Karate Kid, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the Power Rangers. The typical Black Belt instructor has had no experience with interpersonal violence, and has not taken a critical look at what they have been taught. Much of what I survey in martial arts training is martial arts babysitting. Most martial arts students in the 1940’s and 1950’s were soldiers. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, everyone admired Bruce Lee, and emulated him along with world champions like Chuck Norris and Benny Urquidez. But recently, the media have created an image that does not portray the warrior who will resist assault. The Karate Kid is a farce, Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a far cry from the horrible reality of assault.
Different confrontations require different approaches. Different assaults require different approaches and skills. In combative sports, boxers don’t look or move like weight lifters: boxing skills like speed and agility are different from power lifting strength. Fencers tend to be tall and thin. Judo champions are short, stocky fighters. Action stars in the movies are not boxers, fencers, judo players, or even weight lifters. Actors are pretty – not gnarled, scarred fighters. Movie fights look pretty too. They are carefully choreographed to sell tickets. You can easily see the action, and can often identify specific moves. Movie fights don’t end with the loser laying in a pool of vomit and blood, gurgling and clutching his abdomen. It ends the moment the director thinks the audience is hyped and not bored with the movie scene.
Movie fights cater to the audience idea of fair: It is a close fight to the very end. Fair does not happen in a real assault. The assailant has planned the attack with the goal of winning, not giving the victim a fair chance. The perpetrator has selected a target that he thinks is vulnerable, probably weighs less (sanctioned fights have weight classes), and have little to no experience with violence (perpetrators have been arrested, to discover they have 60 – 80 previously completed assaults, quite a bit of experience). Can the movie action heroes, or the martial arts instructor, apply their skills in a real assault? Ask your instructor how many real fights they have been in. Not tournament matches, but physical assaults.
Much of martial arts and self-defense instruction is theoretical. Unless the class is built around ring fighting, there is no experiential aspect, no way to test the theory of movement and defense. Imagine going to a swimming school. They will talk to you about swimming theory, have you lay on the ground to practice the arm movement, drill your flutter kick, and coordinate your breathing with the physical movements. But, you never get in the water to swim! Getting in the water, after all, is a safety hazard, and the instructor does not want to scare students away. Preparing for assault should include some aspect of contact; this is not ballet. If a resistor has never experienced contact, they will lose their composure and orientation at the first contact. Imagine the first time a swimming student gets in the water; it can be a bit disorienting. Being disoriented during an assault may be fatal.
Martial arts do much more than promise self-defense: they promise a combination of discipline, self-discovery, fitness, confidence, skill in movement, perhaps tournament trophies, enlightenment and spiritual growth. Self-defense skills are just one of the by-products of many martial arts.
Watching martial arts movies teaches you as much about fighting as a taxidermist knows about animals. Watching boxing or the MMA fights can teach you a lot, but it will be similar to trying to learn Mammalian Physiology from a trip to the zoo. Understanding resistance to interpersonal violence includes knowledge taken from anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, athletic training, biology, evolutionary science, endocrinology, criminal justice, evolutionary psychology, chess strategy and even moral philosophy. Here is a simplified strategy: close in, hit hard, damage the attacker so he knows it is too costly to assault this target.
Examining some aspects of sport combat, dueling and assault would be helpful. A duel from times past was not an assault. It was a contest designed to maintain or increase social standing. The goal was to win with style. The danger was usually dishonor, loss of face, or embarrassment. Rarely someone died from the duel. In sport combat, such as boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, mixed martial arts, judo, jujitsu, karate tournaments, etc., it is a contest between carefully matched competitors. They have similar ring records, similar height and weight, similar training, similar years of practice in a similar art. The sport is a test of self, and involves ego validation. There is a fear of losing face or embarrassment at losing. There is an athletic focus, being “in the zone.” It is a test of training and skill. There is a danger of injury or damage to the identity. Some people engage in martial arts training for spiritual growth, an interest in Asian history, or general fitness. Each of those is a worthy goal, but outside the subject of this research.
If you study judo, jujitsu or aikido, you will probably never throw an attacker, but you may use the breakfalls to minimize injury to yourself if thrown, or more likely, knocked down. The martial arts give agility, flexibility, balance, muscle development, strength and aerobic training. This training and fitness will help dissipate the hormone rush you will have in the first moments of an assault. But, personal protection is about dealing with surprise, pain and fear. None of that is a focus of fitness training.
The focus of this research project is to minimize injury resulting from interpersonal violence. There is no mention of “beating” the opponent. The entire focus is on preserving the integrity of the potential victims or companions. No one “wins” a physical assault. In combat sports, there are rules, a referee to enforce the rules, safety regulations, timed rounds, and a designated fighting ring. No one may invite friends to assist or use weapons. Sport combat is not about domination, but about what the athletes can do, what they have learned through training. Rage is not allowed. None of that is true for physical, sexual or armed assault. No rules, no referee, no regulations, no rounds, no ring. Multiple attackers may bring weapons of any sort. While in the Army, I used surprise, serious conditioned practice, superior weapons, superior numbers – every way we could cheat, we could use to win. It’s not a focus on winning, it is a focus on survival.
Police officers on patrol avoid close quarters combat: they stand a chance of being injured. They rely on their voice, pepper spray, a baton, tazer or handgun before wrestling a suspect to the ground. Even if they “win,” there is the potential for injury, hepatitis, HIV, or a lawsuit. Close quarters combat is brutal. The focus of this project is to minimize the potential for injury to the victim or companions; it is unconcerned with damage to the attacker.
Soldiers and police officers, those familiar with interpersonal violence, will tell you that surviving a physical assault is a combination of intuition, reflex response, emotions, smells, sounds, and has very little to do with theory.
Never, ever, delegate responsibility for your own safety.
The purpose of this conclusion is to systematically unify and integrate a diverse array of martial arts knowledge into a concise and functional whole that is meaningful and practical. The approach gives priority to scientific analysis rather than history and tradition. Scientific analysis emphasizes rationality, logic, justification and criticism. Limits and weaknesses of a system are clearly stated. The sciences of anatomy and physiology will explain why certain techniques work. Political disputes about who is a real master, or what martial art is authentic have no part in a scientific study. A true martial art promotes humility and selflessness in service to others.
Balance and movement are keys to successful assault resistance. Balance governs advancing, retreating, moving left and right, and deflecting attacks. Bending your knees will lower your center of gravity. Standing with feet parallel exposes 25% more of your body, and the center targets, than using the boxing stance, with one shoulder in front of the other. Also, this stance allows for power generation during a push or strike, due to torque force. A resisting attack is made through a center line running through the forehead, through the front hand (held high to protect the head), through the forward leg. The boxing stance also protects your centerline: the torso is held at an angle, and the feet are placed to provide maximum power during a pivot.
Do not use two hands to do what one hand can do: in the case of the double lower X block, the head is now vulnerable to attack. Hard blocking against a kick is not prudent: defense against a kick should be soft, deflecting and flowing with the attacking force. Offense should be hard, directing the hard attacking weapons against the soft weak points of human anatomy.
Fundamentals of footwork, tempo, and timing.
Footwork, as any good boxer or kickboxer knows, is important in power generation in punches and kicking. Attacking power is developed by launching body weight into the punch or kick. Falling body weight adds power to a punch. Good footwork enables rapid changes in body position in relation to the constantly changing reality of combat. Timing, tempo and rhythm are three important concepts. Timing is defending or attacking at the moment the opponent is open to attack. With good timing, an attacker will walk into a strike. Good timing will maximize the force of your counterattack: the force that strikes the attacker is the vectorial sum of his forward force, plus your full body weight launched into a riposte. By counterfighting, the opponent will bridge the gap himself. With precise timing, you attack through his opening. Whatever attack is launched against you will leave an opening. Timing and footwork will leave you in a position to counter effectively. Timing is only developed by the work of sparring practice.
Tempo is the use of speed at which you respond to an assault. Rhythm is the spacio-temporal organization of the encounter, the pace of the fight. Speed and pace suggest ways of bridging the gap to the opponent. A feint on your part will create an opening, a response from the opponent. One way to open up an opponent is to attack his weapons: hit the forearms or upper arms of a boxer, kick the legs of a kicker. Their limbs will tire and reach fatigue quicker. When the guard drops or footwork slows, counter through the opening. The Filipino term is “Defang the snake.”
Defending against higher kicks requires timing. Legs are longer and stronger than arms, so the traditional block against a kick will put a smaller limb in the path of a stronger, larger limb. It is recommended to use timing to redirect or evade a kick’s full force. And, most people wear shoes on the street, so the feet are protected. Kicking has an opportunity cost: A slower kick may be more powerful, and a well placed kick is strong, but hand techniques are faster, more flexible and versatile than kicks. A kick may be easier to predict, but harder to block or deflect. Any kick above the waist causes momentary imbalance. But, a fast, well planned kick may exploit an opening and yield a good result. Keeping both feet on the ground increases the size of your base of support, giving greater stability. Thus, kicking the opponent’s knee or leg will disrupt their balance. If the attacker is barefooted, it is highly effective to stomp or kick the toes, instep or ankle. Use a heel kick to uki’s calf.
Knee strike uki’s side of knee. As you charge an opponent, lock his leg. Thrust forward into his knee joint. Or, lock uki’s knee, then violently jerk forward, stressing his knee joint and causing imbalance.
Any immobilization or lock is force of leverage applied to a joint in a direction against its natural path of movement.
Strength and endurance:
Muscular strength is the amount of force a muscle group can exert against resistance in one maximal effort. Power = force (strength) X velocity. Strength and speed is power. Proper strength training will improve speed and not hinder it as some propose. Muscles are like engines: the most powerful car, the car capable of generating the most mechanical force is also the fastest car. Weight training will not reduce flexibility if stretching and full range of motion weight training are combined.
Muscle endurance is the ability of a muscle to lift a load over an extended period of time. Strength training usually is low repetitions with high loads; endurance training is done with a high number of repetitions and a light load. Combine heavy loads with a high number of repetitions, and the result is strength and endurance. Motor skill specificity is strength development specific to the muscle group and the pattern of movement. Many call this muscle memory. Strength development is specific to the joint angles at which muscles are exercised. Thus, full range of motion exercises in any skill training, like personal safety exercises, should be encouraged in a training program.
Many college students may not want the look of bulky muscles. Building “body builder” muscles is a very precise and long term exercise program beyond the scope of this project. However, it needs to be said that building strength will increase the cross-sectional diameter of any muscle perpendicular to the fibers. Hypertrophy is increased muscle fiber size, accompanied by hyperplasia. Other mechanical factors in strength are the size of the body parts serving as levers, tendon attachments giving leverage, and neuromuscular efficiency from more efficient firing pattern synchronization by more muscle fibers. This is why a smaller person may be stronger than a bigger person. The higher the intensity, the better the muscles are stimulated. This will use the maximum number of muscle fibers.
The quality of training is more important than the quantity of training. Physiologically, it is impossible to train at full capacity for extended time periods. Brief, intense exercises will build muscle capacity and anchor muscle movements used in self-protective skills. Any safety training involving physical resistance to assault must contain multiple movements to produce desired results. High intensity workouts to failure require 48 hours of rest between workouts, but moderate intensity workouts may be inserted between high intensity workouts and rest. Any normal human body can perform moderate intensity exercise every day. High intensity workouts should be performed at least every 96 hours (four days), so a personal safety class that incorporates strength training could optimally be held twice a week in a college course.
Flexibility is the range of motion of a body part in and around a joint. The human body has an impressive capacity for flexibility given proper training. There are many advantages to flexibility training: 1) greater gains in strength, speed and endurance. Punching power is increased, since muscle will contract more forcibly if stretched prior to the contraction, 2) agility and kinesthetic proficiency are improved, 3) flexible muscles are less prone to tears and pulls, 4) coordination between muscle groups is improved, 5) muscle relaxation is improved, 6) there is decreased muscle tightening after contraction, and 7) flexibility extends the extensibility of the muscles, therefore kicks are more powerful, faster and higher. Other studies will examine the benefits of dynamic, static, rhythmic and resistive flexibility stretching, incorporating proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation.
The ability needed to minimize injury during an assault comes from a scientific approach to gravity and weight. Instructors and practitioners will attend to biomechanics like footwork, feinting, weight transfer and sequencing of movements.
Bruce Lee said, “There is always a most efficient and alive manner to carry out a movement, the basic laws of leverage, body position, balance, footwork are not to be violated.” (Lee & Little, 1999, p. 165).
Lee, B. and Little, J. (1999). Bruce Lee: Artist of life. Boston: Tuttle Publishing.
Defensive choices for collegians should be simple. This is not intended to be a life-long pursuit, just a one semester class. With the pressure of an actual assault, collegians cannot be sifting through a large catalog of techniques. This project will develop the techniques to defend against the most common assaults. To know and use them requires a background of science: anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and forensic science.
Good application of techniques requires good techniques. Improving the skills will give more power, speed and successful application. Understanding biomechanics and kinesiology will improve performance and comprehension. A force is a push or pull, such as a punch is a pushing force on a punching bag. Force is also an internal capacity: muscles create pulling forces around joints, resulting in limb movement. All strikes are composed of linear motion, angular, vertical and horizontal components.
In kinesiology, velocity and speed are closely related. Speed is distance traveled over time. Velocity is both speed and direction, and can be illustrated as a vector quantity. A change in speed or direction is acceleration. Acceleration produces force. Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics says that the acceleration produced by a net force on a body is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, is in the same direction as the net force, and is inversely proportional to the mass of the body (Hewitt, 2002).
Hewitt, P. (2002). Conceptual physics (9th ed.). San Francisco: Addison Wesley.
Mathematically, it is expressed as:
Force = mass X acceleration.
Force increases with acceleration. An increase in mass of an object that is accelerating is also increasing in force. With every technique, the student should put as much of the body weight behind the strike as possible without compromising mobility or balance.
Bruce Lee said, “Regardless of distance, the final phase of a movement should be the fastest.” (Lee, 1975, p. 58).
Lee, B. (1975). The Tao of Jeet Kune Do. Santa Clarita, CA: Ohara Pubs.
The hand must retract at some point. This is a change in direction. A well performed punch or strike will move straight out, hit the target, then bring the hand back to resting position. This asks how long should force be applied to maximize force production. This is a change in velocity, a change in momentum. A change in velocity is a change in momentum.
Momentum = mass X velocity.
Acceleration = final velocity – initial velocity both divided by time interval.
Acceleration = final velocity – initial velocity
Since Force = mass X acceleration, substitute acceleration into the equation:
Force = mass X final velocity – initial velocity
Multiply both sides of the equation by the time interval:
Force X time interval = mass X (final velocity – initial velocity)
The product of Force X time interval is Impulse, expressed as Impulse = Ft
Impulse will separate pushing from punching. If the hand or technique stays in contact with the intended target for a longer amount of time, the impulse is diminished: a punch becomes a push.
Using the equation, force is inversely related to time. The longer the time of force application, the less force is required to affect a change in momentum. At the end of a punch, the hand must change direction and retract. The momentum changes when the fist stops forward acceleration. Changing that momentum is inversely related to the amount of force needed to make the change.
Fighters will use this equation. When a fighter takes a punch, they roll with the punch. This lengthens the amount of time that the boxing glove is in contact with the target: moving in the same direction lessens the impact of the punch. Conversely, running into a punch increases the force. Try it for yourself, try running into a punch. Boxing gloves are typically 12 to 16 oz. This gives extra padding and spreads the area of force application. More impact time means less force applied to a smaller target.
Bruce Lee advocated a punching depth of 2 to 4 inches beyond the surface of the target. This will penetrate the target without disintegrating the punch into a push.
Bruce Lee: “All punches should end with a snap several inches behind the target. Thus, you punch through the opponent yet end the punch with a snap.” (Lee, 1997, p. 211).
Lee, B. & Little, J. (1997). The Tao of gung fu. Boston: Tuttle Pubs.
This is true of all punches and strikes, not just straight punches. Move through the target for a few inches, even with angular techniques like hook punches, uppercuts and round kicks. Punches should leave the target with a tearing torque. Torque will speed the technique, increasing force.
In addition to torque, force, mass and acceleration, another science concept must be discussed: Projectile motion. A projectile is an object hit, thrown or dropped in the air (like a golf ball or bullet). Once in the air, the only forces acting on it are friction and gravity. Every time an athlete steps off, they become the projectile, or the back up mass of the projectile (in the case of a fist). The body becomes the projectile as the student throws their body weight behind the strike – giving more force production.
Gravity has an acceleration of 9.81 meters/second/second. The equation for vertical velocity is:
Vf = vi + g (delta) t
Vf is final vertical velocity
Vi is initial vertical velocity
g = -9.81m/s/s
(delta) t = change in time
Accomplished algebra students recall that y = mx + b. It is the parabolic equation where -9.81 m/s/s is the slope of the line. When a student punches or pushes into the air, the body follows a parabolic pathway. At any point, there is both vertical and horizontal velocity.
Three kinesiology principles determine the parabola: horizontal distance covered, peak height, and the amount of time spent airborne. Horizontal distance covered is horizontal displacement. Here is the equation for horizontal displacement:
Horizontal displacement = initial horizontal velocity X flight time.
Bigger steps mean the body is in the air longer. The longer in the air, the longer the body is at the mercy of gravity, and cannot change direction. Therefore, small steps allow for rapid direction changes.
Projectile motion describes shifting a body in an altercation. It also is important to punching power. When a body pushes off, hit the target before the body fully settles on the ground. Force is a product of mass X acceleration. Acceleration is a change in velocity. At any point on the parabola, there is vertical and horizontal velocity, and the body is accelerating toward the ground. When the front foot fully stops and engages on the ground, velocity in the direction of the target is limited, perhaps eliminated. Forward momentum and gravity are no longer giving extra power to the punch.
Footwork should be close to the ground and moving. Shot putters velocity, acceleration nd force increase when the shot is released at less than 45 degrees (McGinnis, 2013, p. 73).
McGinnis, P. (2013). Biomechanics of sport and exercise. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Cover as much ground as possible with as little time in the air as possible. Use that force to project forward, not up then down. The faster you hit a punching bag, the more capacity exists for moving it. The bag will be displaced more with more mass, more body weight, behind the strike or punch. Bruce Lee made many references to alignment, good form and position. Good position, form and alignment will create the most potential energy.
Recalling the section on Impulse, remember the Impulse is a product of force X time. A related variable is the distance an object moves when a force is applied to it. The product of Force and Distance is Work.
Work = force X distance.
Work is done when footwork covers distance. During a kick, leg muscles contract, pulling on the leg muscles, tendons and bones. The leg movement covers a distance. The rate at which work is done is Power. Power and Work are related concepts. Here is the Power equation:
Power = Work divided by time.
Power and speed are related. A fast kick is usually a powerful kick. In kinesiology, energy is the capacity to do work. Mechanical energy comes in two forms: Potential energy is due to position, Kinetic energy is the energy of motion. A rock sitting atop a hill has potential energy, even if sitting still. When it rolls downhill, it is displaying kinetic energy. When a student hits a heavy punching bag, the moving fist has an ability to displace the bag: kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is determined by velocity and mass.
Kinetic energy = ½ (mass X velocity squared).
Knowing this equation makes measuring kinetic energy easier than measuring force or acceleration. The faster a body hits the bag, the more the bag will move. The more body weight – the mass – put behind a punch, the more the bag will be displaced.
Potential energy is the energy of position. Position in kinesiology refers to moving with good form, alignment and body position. Position is necessary for creating the most potential energy without losing safety, mobility, stability or effectiveness.
Two types of potential energy that affect movement are 1) gravitational potential energy, and 2) strain energy.
Gravitational potential energy is generated when a body is elevated, then dropped. Gravity will take the body downward into a strike or punch. Using good upper body positioning, more gravitational potential energy is created by using good footwork. Offset your weight just enough to let gravity help put power behind your punch. Gravity will yield more power and speed with less effort. Potential energy is converted to kinetic energy by proper footwork, proper foot position, proper push off, and body rotation.
Strain energy is created by stretching tissue like a rubber band or slingshot. A longer stretch gives more capacity to do work. In kinesiology, strain energy is leverage. Strain energy is represented mathematically:
SE = ½ (k delta x squared)
Where SE = strain energy
K = the stiffness or spring constant of the muscle
Delta x = change in length of muscle tissue from the normal, resting state.
So put the last snap into any technique to improve speed, power and penetration. In straight punching, the hip precedes the fist. For a hook punch, the hip precedes the fist. For kicking, the hip precedes the foot until after the kick hits the target. Stretching the legs gives more kinetic energy, more snap into the kick.
Recall that impulse is a change in momentum. Impulse will maximize the impact of a strike or kick. Here is the equation for impulse:
Force X time = impulse.
It can also be represented by:
Force X time interval = mass X (final velocity – initial velocity)
Force production is increased with an increase in velocity. Work is the product of force and displacement. A greater change in velocity comes from a greater change in in displacement. The boxing cross is an illustration. The trunk rotates during the cross, giving more distance to travel to the target. Larger displacement equals a greater distance covered. More work is more force production. Good body position will allow more force production. As an example, after a hook punch, the body is naturally rotated to provide a strong hip rotation supporting a cross. The body has already rotated counterclockwise, so a clockwise rotation is a natural next technique.
Newton’s First Law of Motion addresses inertia. An object continues at rest, or in a uniform motion in a straight line, until affected by an outside force. The speed of a defensive action is crucial. With less extraneous movement in a technique, the movement will be faster. Refined technique will improve speed. This is in accord with Ajzen’s theory of planned behavior (1991). Inertia is overcome by manipulating the center of gravity placement. A slight lean forward will initiate movement that overcomes inertia faster, yielding a faster, more powerful delivery of a strike. Falling into a punch gives more force production with less effort. A sprinter aa the start of a race will lift their center of gravity to move their inertia forward, giving a faster initial start. Bruce Lee said, “For an attack, the center of gravity should imperceptibly be shifted to the front foot in order to allow the back leg and foot freedom for the shortest, fastest and most explosive lunge. “ (Lee, 1975, p. 49).
Mass is directly proportional to the degree of an object’s inertia. An object with more mass requires more power to move it. Even small fighters like featherweights and lightweights can generate a good amount of power. Lighter fighters can accelerate their weight better than larger fighters. Force increases with acceleration.
Angular motion is another factor that effects power and inertia. An angular motion is one that rotates around an axis. Hook punches and uppercuts are angular strikes. Rotary inertia is also called the redial distribution of mass. The greater the distance between the rotating object and its axis of rotation, the greater the rotational inertia.
As an ice skater pulls their limbs closer to the center of their body, they spin faster. A hook punch is closer to the body than jab or cross punches. A tight hook punch is closer to the body, giving a fast turn into the punch. Hooks are used for close in fighting. Tight hook punches are fast, elusive and more powerful, because of radial distribution of mass.
Torque is a form of rotary inertia. Torque is specifically rotational, and results in a turning effect. Mathematically, it is this:
Torque = lever arm X force.
The velocity of a rotating object is dependent on a distance variable, so torque depends on the distance from the line of force to the axis of rotation. Distance is the lever arm, also known as the moment arm or perpendicular distance. Pushing on a door close to the hinges requires a lot of force to move the door, or pushing on the door where the doorknob is located makes the movement easier, requiring less force. You can produce the same amount of torque with a large amount of force and small perpendicular distance, or a small force and greater perpendicular distance.
In any movement, hip rotation generates force. Examples are the golf swing, baseball throw, or tennis movements. The rotation produces force, but the ball travels in a straight line. Pivoting the hips gives power to any punch: the jab, cross, hook or uppercut. However, kicks are more powerful than punches, and for this same reason: increased perpendicular distance. The distanced between the axis of the shoulder and hand is not as great as the distance between the hips and feet. The argument can be made that the hands are faster, but the leg kicks carry much more mass, yielding greater impact.
Another concept is balance. An object is balanced, or in stable equilibrium, if its line of gravity falls within its base of support. Stability is the degree to which balance can be offset. Being unbalanced makes evasion or counterattack very difficult: this is why an assailant will push a victim initially, to imbalance the victim. Without stability, power is greatly diminished, and it is easier to be knocked down.
One aspect of balance is center of gravity.
Response to interpersonal violence needs to be based on a scientific approach to body position and movement, weight, footwork, balance, leverage and gravity. The refined mechanics of response come from science based precision. Practice should be based on biomechanics, not history or respect for some martial tradition. A book on the theory of cooking will not cure hunger. Honing any skill will result in more accuracy, speed, and power, more successful application of the skills.
Biomechanics: A force is a pull or push moving an object. Punching is exerting a pushing force on an object, like a punching bag. Muscles create pulling forces around joints, creating limb movement. Motion is a change in position. Linear motion is moving all points on a body the same distance in the same direction at the same time. A straight punch or push is linear. A hook punch or judo throw is circular, an angular motion. Angular motion occurs when all points on a body move around the same axis. Most human motion combines linear and angular motion. Movement is linear, horizontal, vertical and angular.
Velocity and speed are interchangeable. Speed is distance traveled over time. Velocity is a measure of speed and direction, and is a vector quantity in biomechanics and physics. Vector quantities are shown as arrows, demonstrating speed and direction. When illustrated, arrow length represents speed. The direction of the arrow represents direction of the object. For an object moving in two directions, a triangle will find the two vectors illustrating the resultant direction using a parallelogram.
R= sq rt (V2 + H2)
A change in speed or direction is acceleration. In physical sports, we need to generate the most acceleration before applying a force to an object. A punch gains speed before it hits. In tennis, you want to gain speed of the racquet head at impact with the ball. In combat, move the fist or leg at a high velocity, and increase the velocity to maximum at the point of impact. This is Newton’s Second law of Motion: the acceleration produced by a net force on a body is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, in the same direction of the net force, inversely proportional to the mass of the body.
Force = mass X acceleration.
Force production increases with acceleration. An increase in mass also increases force. Put as much of the body weight into the technique as possible, maintaining balance and agility. You cannot increase your total mass, but you can increase the total back up mass moving forward or around an axis. Bruce Lee said: “Preserve the maximum acceleration up to the last instant of contact. Regardless of distance, the final phase of a movement should be the fastest” (Lee, 1975, p. 58).
Lee, B. (1975). The Tao of Jeet Kune Do. Santa Clarita, CA: Ohara Publications.
Newton’s Third Law of Motion.
Emotional preparation: It takes courage and determination to gouge the eyes or rip the testicles of an attacker. Perhaps just the fear or anger that you are being attacked will promote a response, but it will not be a trained, rehearsed response, possibly not even effective. The emotions of the moment may be guided by repetitive training. Conviction, determination and vision to be safe are necessary in a realistic training environment such as a college class. Intelligence, resolve and courage are also factors for success in college, and in resisting an assault.
Failing to prepare is preparing to do the wrong thing. You are unlikely to be attacked in the presence of a police officer. Whether you are injured or killed in the encounter depends on your actions in the first moments of the encounter. Once you escape, call 911, but dialing 911 when someone is punching your face is not a viable strategy. When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.
Mental preparation: Be smart. Avoidance is safer than fighting. Visiting dangerous neighborhoods, walking alone on a trail, or frequenting a drinking establishment are all legal and should be allowed. But recognize and prepare for some risk. Recognize and shun status-seeking signs of aggression. Social dominance encounters may lead to unnecessary but predictable violence. Self-defense is not about winning fights with aggressive men who probably have less to lose than you do. It is not about winning at all. It is about minimizing the potential for injury. Deal with your ego and impulse control issues ahead of time. Deciding a course of action in advance is the best advice, and best protection against a bad decision in the heat of a moment.
Trust your feelings about apprehension regarding other people. Revise your initial instinct slowly and with very good reason. We all avoid being rude, racist or suspicious, but violent predators use this commitment to civility. Read the reports of assaults, rapes and homicides: discover how easily good people are manipulated by bad people. You have no obligation to open your door to a stranger, or stand too close to someone on the street. If a man approaches you at your car window, you are not obligated to roll the window all the way down to engage in a conversation you do not initiate. It is okay to create distance and escape a threatening situation. Many crime victims report sensing something is wrong in the first moments of an assault, but were too socially inhibited to create distance and escape.
Avoiding violence and injury is the point. View any violent confrontation as an opportunity to die. Any confrontation can escalate, and unsuspected factors (weapons, more assailants) may emerge. But you also want to avoid getting shot for hesitating to pull your own trigger. When you find yourself without other options, respond with full commitment. To avoid physical injury, counter explosively, for the purpose of escape from harm, not to teach a bully a lesson, not to give out proper justice, not to apprehend a criminal. Get away with minimum trauma, harm your attacker in a way that will speed your escape.
Your attacker is probably a career criminal who has attacked other before. Don’t reason with an attacker, and don’t comply.
“Get in the car and you won’t get hurt.” 1) He is lying to you. If you won’t get hurt, why would he hurt you if you don’t get in the car? 2) Putting you in the car, tying you up, or moving you to another location will not improve your situation. 3) If someone confronts you with a gun, run. It is harder to hit a moving target. If he shoots you for running, he was going to shoot you if you stood still and at point-blank range. If an attacker directs you to move behind the bushes, off the sidewalk, into an alley, respond immediately: things are not going to get better in a worse place for you. Mobilize your physical, emotional and mental resources. 4) Resistance and escape will not get easier for you as the situation improves for him. 5) Listening to his instructions is limiting. Don’t listen: attack and escape. Don’t put yourself at the mercy of a sociopath. Nothing good ever comes from moving to a remote location with an attacker. Things are better for the attacker, and worse for the victim because of the isolation. 6) If he commits a crime in a more public place, you may get help, or at least someone will video the crime for use later.
As an example, your home should be a place of secure comfort to you, the least likely place for an assault. Home break-ins and robberies are performed by criminals prepared to hurt or kill the inhabitants. Burglars insure that a home is empty before breaking in, and flee at the sound of inhabitants. If your window shatters at midnight and someone comes through it, your life is at risk. There is no time for diplomacy, no offer of cash or jewelry, and no demands worth listening to. Do what it takes to escape harm. The more control you give a criminal, the less control you have. Mental preparation is determining in advance that you will take action to protect yourself and any companions. Power past the urge to freeze and acquiesce: fight with everything you have until you can escape.
You cannot train skills to proficiency by reading books, just watching videos or writing a dissertation on interpersonal violence. It is unpleasant to learn the details of violent crime. But some planning and preparation will greatly reduce any person’s risk.
Women’s attackers often outweigh them by fifty pounds or more. Jiu-jitsu training and contests intentionally match competitors according to age, weight, height, length of training, etc. None of the equivalencies is present in an assault. The best initial response to an assault is to hit hard, fast and accurately, then run away to get help. You don’t know who you are talking to, what they are capable of doing, and if they are armed. Even small, out of shape men can conceal weapons. If you carry a weapon such as pepper spray, don’t draw the weapon and threaten to use it. Just use it. If you are so threatened that you need to draw a weapon, use it. Displaying a weapon almost guarantees you will need to use it, or they will take it and use it on you. So use it first.
As of 2009, violent offenders in the U.S. served an average of 52 months in prison before release. That’s just over 4 years. The re-arrest rate for violent offenders is over 60% within 3 years. The American justice system does not keep violent offenders off the streets. Violent predators will continue harming innocent victims.
Attempting to clear your house of intruders is difficult. The police will arrive with five officers, body armor, specialized equipment and backup available. Interior walls do not stop bullets and criminals know this.
Those who are not aware are more vulnerable and easily surprised, tricked, isolated and controlled. Many victims confess that “it happened so fast . . . “ When crime control and prevention fail, proper preparation and knowledge will fill the gap. A decision must be made, regardless of whether a woman has planned for the assault. A woman’s choices will be affected by her personality, training, limitations, criminal behavior and situational conditions. If a threat cannot be avoided or de-escalated, choices are then limited. Determine your best chances for survival. Knowing how to resist from a scientific basis allows for informed choice in a very stressful situation. Resistance allows freedom of choices and freedom of movement. Training experience will convey the “look strong, walk tall” image that will dissuade a criminal before an assault. Students will gain experience by applying skills learned in a safe learning environment. Learning self-protective exercises will also confer improved physical conditioning, flexibility, fitness, increased balance and coordination, a sense of competitiveness, and combative skills.
Martial arts schools require constant repetition of skills to insure proficiency. Many schools have problems with high dropout rates, inconsistent attendance, and teach perishable skills. Even dedicated students after two to three years of martial arts training will not be able to demonstrate effective defenses against common street assaults. And, most women training in martial arts train with other women. Female students need to practice defense against someone with the speed, strength and size of a male assailant.
One important shortfall in self-defense research is the lack of research regarding how women are victimized and assaulted, and what specialized training is needed to counter these attacks.
The emotional aspects of personal safety require exposure and experience with realistic (scenarios). The terrifying images associated with sexual assault can be significantly lowered through repeated exposure in training, decreasing fear and transforming it into less frightening emotions. Exposure in training can develop modified responses to assault.
Most self-defense training will focus on defense against strangers and escape. In the cases of domestic violence, acquaintance rape, or intimate partner violence, factors such as abusive history, stalking, emotional attachments, living arrangements, finances, children and other factors may influence the overall choices available to the woman victim. Options other than striking back need to be researched.
Assuming a martial arts or boxing stance and hand positions may be ill-advised. Standing toe-to-toe and exchanging punches with a male assailant is rarely an advantage for the woman, who is usually smaller and has less muscle mass. The highest cost in producing a realistic safety course is labor cost in training the trainers. If the issue is “Cost prohibitive,” then it is posed, “Compared to what?” The cost of a completed sexual assault?
The Top Techniques.
Edge of hand, forearm. A hard blow with the edge of hand or forearm will cause unconsciousness due to the disruption of blood flow through the carotid artery and shock to the nerves that surround this area depending on the force used.
Edge of hand, forearm, heel of hand, knee, or boot to the back of the neck or top of the spine. If struck hard enough the spinal cord and the Medulla Oblongata will be crushed and damaged. This part of the brain controls all breathing, blood flow and all the involuntary functions of the human body. Any serious impact will inhibit these functions from operating.
Edge of hand, forearm, fist, boot, strangulation or choke to the front of the throat.
Attacking the windpipe with a strike or strangle will crush or collapse it until the sides are close enough that the mucus lining of the throat will seal the passage way and cut off the airflow to the lungs thus suffocating the target.
Striking the temple or the trigeminal nerve with a fist, elbow, heel of hand, knee or boot. While attacks to the face are generally not fatal and are only used to create distraction and opportunity to deliver more effective and lethal attacks there are two areas that are effective:
- The temple can be struck with enough force to cause unconsciousness or death.
- The trigeminal nerve in the face has a trigger point right along the side of the mouth in the mustache line. You will notice that most knock outs in MMA and boxing occur when this part of the chin is struck. When the head “twists and snaps,” the legs go.
I was fortunate enough to be contacted by Bernie during his research. We have since become familiar and are working on a project that will help our sons and daughters live happier and safer lives. It has been my honor to know him, ever so briefly and he is truly and incredible man.
Bernie will be joining me on the Kill or Be Killed Podcast this Friday for the Science of Self Defense, Part 1.
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