The Ten Cardinal Rules of Self Defense

Self Defense Rule #1: Your Attacker is Armed.
Even though you may not see a weapon, that doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. Martial arts train you to master separate techniques for weapon attacks and another set of techniques for unarmed attacks. While in THEORY this sounds like a good idea, in REALITY it will get you a spot on the medical examiner’s slab faster than you can say “CSI”.

In low light conditions that punch may be a stab, how can you tell the difference?

Did you know that according to the Department of Justice Uniform Crime Report, in over 80% of criminals arrested in connection to a violent crime a weapon was present? This means you need to treat each attack as it it were an armed attack.

Self Defense Rule #2: Your Assailant Wants to Hurt You.
Don’t hope that your attacker is not going to hurt you.  Never trust your attacker, no matter how persuasive they may be. DON’T PROJECT – this animal doesn’t think or reason like you – THEY ARE COMMITTING A CRIME OF VIOLENCE and that’s something you would never do so don’t “put yourself in his shoes.” 

Most criminals are repeat offenders, nearly 85% of them have spent some time in the criminal justice system so make no mistake, they are dangerous and are no stranger to violence. Martial arts teach you to wait for your attacker to escalate the attack, why in fact the opposite is true – you need to “react as if your life was in danger” immediately and then once the threat is neutralized, you can “deescalate” your force. You control the severity of the attack NOT your attacker. 

Self Defense Rule #3: Your Assailant has “friends”.
Your attacker wants to stack the odds in his favor, more times than not that means he will have help. Unfortunately you won’t know it’s a multiple attacker situation BEFORE its too late. Martial arts teach you different tactics for single and multiple attackers. The truth is you can only “fight” what’s right in front of you. Your mind is a serial processor NOT a multitasker – try pouring coffee and reading the news at the same time (don’t forget to have paper towel handy). This means you can only deal with one thing at a time, so you need to get rid of what’s in front of you FAST as possible and keep moving – avoid going to the ground at all costs because you will get stomped to death. If you do go there, fight like hell to get to your feet. 

Self Defense Rule #4: You’ll be Attacked When You’re Injured or Older.
Criminals, like predators, attack targets of opportunity. If you appear to be weak or distracted you have a greater chance of being targeted. You must prepare yourself for those times when you’ re not at your best. Martial arts require athleticism, tremendous strength and coordination. How many times have you missed class because you were sick, injured or out of shape? How often have you put off training due to your current physical condition? 

We have a rule at the Self Defense Company: If you can leave your house, you better be able to save your own skin! If you currently train in a program that requires you to be in shape…it’s a fighting sport not self defense. 

Self defense is an education before it’s an activity. It’s a life skill that should allow you to adapt to your current age, size and physical ability to survive a violent encounter. 

Self Defense Rule #5: Your Assailant will be Bigger than You.
Tigers don’t eat other tigers. They choose smaller and weaker animals. Chances are your attacker will be larger and stronger than you.

Martial arts typically match you up by size, age, sex and ability and in the nice comfortable class. Going against someone of similar stature is a lot different than facing a larger, younger attacker in the street. You need to know how to use any resource to level the playing field.

You must be able to exploit your attacker’s vulnerable areas with large motor skill techniques. You use momentum and forward drive to increase your size and use weapons (improvised or concealed) to increase the effectiveness of your defense. 

Self Defense Rule #6: You’ll have to Fight ANY WHERE. 
The training room is nice. It has a smooth, matted floor and plenty of space, but its not reality. Reality is not so nice.
There’s pavement, rocks, tree stumps, snow, ice and sand. There’s pavement, broken glass and garbage.

No matter where you move, inside or out, you can’t walk 10 feet in any direction without bumping or tripping over something. Martial arts are designed to work in the ring or a matted area designed for safety.

You need to prepare for all environments and you can do this with one simple type of movement (stomping and driving footwork) that takes any and every possible environment into consideration. 

Self Defense Rule #7: The fight is NEVER over.
Don’t assume because he’s down, he’s out. After the initial confrontation, when your adrenaline subsides, you are the most vulnerable. While you’re admiring your handy work, thinking he is going to leave, he may be securing a weapon or his friends have decided to give him a hand (or a knife).

Martial arts teach you to “fight fair” by instilling rules and etiquette. You shake hands or bow and when the fights over, you accept your win or loss and go away.

While this is the spirit of sportsmanship, it has no place in the kill or be killed world of self defense. You must keep focus after the initial assault and either remove yourself from the area or make sure the target is out of commission.

Even if you “shake hands” after the proverbial bar fight, he’s even more of a threat because the next time he will attack you harder and more viciously. Don’t expect him to “accept defeat”, you never know who you’re dealing with…EVER. 

Self Defense Rule #8: You Will Miss …a lot.
Martial arts make you believe that every shot hits it’s intended target, every move is a knock out and every finishing move is a kill shot.

In the real world you miss. You slip, your attacker moves and you will miss.

To prepare for this you need to practice with the attitude of “keep fighting until the threat has stopped” by training in lethal combinations – that means you practice OVER KILL. 

In the real world you don’t stop when you score a point or get your partner a tap out. You must go far beyond the tap and you don’t get points for style and there is no justice.

Martial arts teach control and not to hit your partner – this is a huge mistake because what you do in training you will do in the street. In self defense you need to go 100% all of the time and that’s how you need to train. 

Self Defense Rule #9: You will be alone.
Almost 100% of people attacked are alone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a street crime by a stranger or sexual assault by someone you know. Criminals pick targets they feel they can defeat with minimal effort, they want the path of least resistance and that means they don’t want any witnesses or anyone intervening.

In order to determine you’re alone they will stalk you, so you need to PAY ATTENTION when you’re out and about. Listen to that little voice inside your head and take evasive action if you think you’re being targeted. Walk in a manner that will make you appear to offer resistance (head up, shoulders back, looking around) and don’t put yourself in places of ambush. 

Self Defense Rule #10: Self Defense “Counters” Don’t Work.
In martial arts you’re taught specific self defense counters. If he does this, you do that. When he grabs your wrist you do one defense, when he grabs your shoulder you do another defense. Well in sport fighting and in class, with a willing partner these appear to work. But the times you will be attacked – after a long day of work when you’re thinking about your daily grind and you find yourself faced with a threat, you will not be able to recall your complicated “self defense counters” when you move into fight or flight mode. 

What has been proven to work under the real stress of combat are tactics based on position and distance combined with simple, core power, body techniques that target your assailants vital target groupings. 

Bonus Self Defense Rule #11: You Will Survive. 
The odds are in your favor, 87% of people (both women and men) who resist either verbally or with force are successful…and that’s with NO TRAINING AT ALL. All criminals fear 3 things – being caught, being identified and being injured. The longer you resist the greater their exposure. 

Remember, they picked YOU because they thought you would be a push over. Your resistance puts them in a position of reassessment – that alone will cause many of them to leave. 

It’s not a prize fight, you don’t have to defeat them, just survive. Martial arts have made a successful self defense to mean that he must be unconscious. Every time you “finish” a defense by putting him on the ground you’re setting your expectation of a successful defense to mean just that, this is ridiculous. 

In self defense it doesn’t matter if you make them stop, hesitate his attack or leave him lying in a pool of his own fluid. The only thing that matters is you’re no longer being attacked.  

Remember 100% of people who don’t resist are raped, murdered, robbed and beaten.
Don’t be afraid to make a stand – The hardest step is the first one.

*No one can tell you what is worth fighting for – that’s your decision. Some people will give up their car, others will fight over a dime, either way the choice is your but MAKE THAT CHOICE NOW before you’re put in that position. Knowing where your line in the sand is will help you make that first step. 

  1. restif 4 years ago

    Excellent! Thanks. I will share it with our students.

  2. jabrown135 4 years ago

    Truer words were never spoken.  Well documented.

  3. StandStrong 4 years ago

    These are truly rules to live by if we value our life and the lives of our loved ones who can end up emotionally devastated, sometimes blaming themselves, and other times forever tortured by a traumatic loss of somebody close to them.   I think we have mutual responsibilities to ourself and at least certain others who care about us, and potentially even others that  we interact with, because we impact each other on a daily basis.  I know that I have personally felt great sorrow upon hearing  of the tragic death of someone I never met or hardly knew.

  4. […] via The Ten Cardinal Rules of Self Defense […]

  5. Via 2 years ago

    As a Woman Warrior, Self De•Fense, Situational Awareness and street smarts is what will save your A-S-S- everytime!

    Without it, women are walking targets for the demented lurking society.”

    Fuck not leaving home without makeup, I never leave home without something for protection against an attacker!!!!!!!!

    I make myself a “Hard Target”.

  6. Rhonda bienes 1 year ago

    Believe this or not coming from me I am a part of a self defense class and have been taught all of the finest self -defense techniques in how to best protect myself in the face of such danger !i have been going through a lot of the basic training skills and feel very proud in doing so !Rhonda Bienes

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