Most self defense instructors and martial artists talk about maintaining a Reactionary Gap when confronted with a violent person. This gap is the space between you and the attacker that allows time — time to pull a gun, time to run, time to go from 0 to 60 mentally in preparation to fight.
Getting chest-to-chest or nose-to-nose with someone in a screaming match isn’t maintaining a good Reactionary Gap. Pointing a finger at someone and poking them in the chest with it isn’t maintaining a good Reactionary Gap. Shoving matches are the same.
But, sometimes the Reactionary Gap is gone before you know it. The attacker is suddenly in grabbing range. The time to think about a Reactionary Gap is gone for the moment until you can regain it by your actions.
Most people in smelling or grabbing range of an attacker will freeze or try to ball up into some protected position. If you know four Principles of Power (they come mainly from the grappling arts), this panic doesn’t have to own you.
Here they are*:
1) THE POWER OF PROXIMITY
People with any common sense don’t lift a heavy object far away from their body at arm’s length. If you have to pick up a heavy box, you hold it close to your body. Why? You are stronger in close.
This doesn’t mean you can easily generate power if your arm is jammed into your own body, but you can execute a powerful elbow into an attacker’s rib inches away from your body. Foot stomps are in-close power moves. So are hammer fist strikes downward onto the nose, knees into the plexus point on the calf, and head butts.
2) BODY POWER VS MUSCLE POWER
When baseball players wind up to hit a baseball, they are “loading up the spring” so the body’s power can release suddenly. The powerful hits rise up from the feet, travel through the fast moving hips, and direct outward with the arms and hands to the bat. Compare this to a bunt — a slight hit on the ball with a quick tap of the bat as the ball comes in. The first hit uses the source of force from the whole body and sends the ball flying. The other uses a little arm power and the ball only travels a short distance.
The key to more powerful moves is putting the whole body into your counter-attacks. Don’t be like the old film stereotyped woman falling forward to beat her fists ineffectually on the chest of the big burly guy. Get your body into it!
3) THE POWER OF THE CIRCLE VS. THE STRAIGHT LINE
Many traditional martial arts’ punches and kicks drive forward in a straight or linear move, but in close, the arc or circling moves hide more speed and power than you might image.
The previous discussion of the baseball players is a perfect example — the body moves in a circular unwinding motion as the bat follows along in an arc. It would be tough to move a bat in a linear fashion and get anywhere near the same power.
Many of the in-close release moves I teach involve turns, pivots, or other arcing or circling motions to negate the attackers hold or grab.
4) BORROWING POWER
Have you ever been on a rope tug of war team when the other team decides to let go of the rope? The ones still pulling fall down in a pile. All that force has to go somewhere.
So what if someone grabs and pulls you? I’ve seen this on movies and in videos of actual kidnappings: A man grabs the wrist of a girl or woman and pulls her along with him. Few people realize the pulling motion is creating power. Power that can be turned against the kidnapper.
Imagine if the target resisted a bit. The bad guy would pull harder, possibly with a lean forward to better drag the person along. A quick move forward into the bad guy could make him lose his balance. Using his force with a side kick downward onto his exposed front knee would be nice, too. Just saying.
A similar borrowing of power can happen in a shoving match, but you have to pivot and sidestep fast without losing your balance. If you do fall, make sure they are on the bottom. As you might guess, I suggest you fall with a downward strike since gravity is helping, but that’s just me.
I know this is tough to read and understand without the visuals I can provide in a class setting, but I think you get the basics. Add these concept to your visualizing drills. You know, the ones where you play “What if…” in your mind in preparation for self defense situations.
Feel free to visualize while sitting in traffic, bored in a line, or waiting for someone. Think to yourself, “What if that guy pulled a gun?” or “What if someone tried to carjack me at this stop light?” or “What if that car jumped the median and came at me in my lane while I’m in this traffic jam?”
Now you’ll never be bored while waiting again.
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Photo: Tambako the Jaguar