6 Things You Need To Know About Self-Defense, From An Expert

The world is filled with bad guys who will only be stopped by great guys, presumably people with guns or kickboxing training. So you figure out the only real thing to do is strap a 9mm to your left foot and also become a black belt in Gunshido, right? Specifically to keep you from doing so, we sat down with Richard Dimitri. He has spent years coaching bodyguards and police officers in self respecting tactics, and has a whole lot to say about what to do (and furthermore, what not to perform) when faced with someone who’s itching for a battle.


Your Own Ass-Kicking Fantasies Can Get You Killed

At some point, you have probably encounter a viral narrative like this:

American News

The web loves a great narrative of an asshole encountering a trained fighter and getting a pleasant ass-beating. Richard Dimitri, on the other hand, prefers to talk about stories such as this of Alex Gong, a world champion kickboxer who was exercising a day when some random hit hit his parked car. Alex caught up to him and ran out. “Alex punches through the window,” says Richard, “the man pulls out a gun and shoots him two.” Gong died at the scene. This is a man who would have beaten some of us into lumpy red pudding with his bare hands, and it did not matter.

Richard doesn’t advise taking “combatives” (martial arts such as Krav Maga, etc) for any reason but exercise or Basic self-improvement, unless you are going into a project in which fights are routine. ” [T]he typical civilian out there who takes taekwondo three times per week, gets their black belt at some strip mall, and all a sudden thinks they can shield themselves against a psycho is dreaming.”

To illustrate, Richard advised us to see a movie of a stabbing that happened during an ATM mugging in China (you can Google it, we are not linking it here for reasons you will soon understand). It begins with two dudes standing alongside each other …

… then it turns out the man on the right has a big-ass knife hidden in his magazine. A literal fraction of a second later, this happens …

… and he keeps stabbing, repeatedly, relentlessly, over and over. Again: DO NOT GO WATCH THIS VIDEO. We cite it because Richard doesn’t believe any quantity of training, in any discipline, would have spared the sufferer’s life. “Once the knife is outside, at that range and that specific episode, there is nothing anyone can do. If you attract Bruce Lee back from the tomb, he’s getting stabbed, that’s the crude reality.”

You have all probably met at least one martial arts man full tales of fights he has won and jerks he has beaten down. (And in case you haven’t met that man in individual, scroll down to the opinions of the report. He’ll be there) Richard’s tales, by contrast, seem to all be cautionary tales about jumping into confrontations and winding up in a body bag. He describes a single experience on the job that started as an argument over a spilled drink and lasted on the road outside:

“One man hauls off and punches another child in the ribs and walks off. The child did not believe it and he yells after the man, ‘Fuck you, pussy! Your punches are weak!’ And he turns to cross the road, but currently there’s traffic so he’s waiting, and about a minute into it, he begins to get dizzy and collapses, and also my friend ran and caught him, held him before he hit the floor. And I hurried over to see if the child is OK, possibly an adrenaline drop, so he handed out … it was he wasn’t punched, he was stabbed, and he died in my buddy’s arms that night.”


You May Deter Some Attacks by Simply Appearing Alert

The man in the ATM video did not initiate that experience, obviously. He was simply minding his own damned business. What the hell do you do in this scenario if kung fu isn’t the solution?

Well, that’s where avoidance comes in, and that begins with paying attention. Violent street offenders, like most of us, prefer doing things the lazy manner. In their world, that means picking easy targets. They like sucker-punching (or traumatic) diverted people, using the element of surprise to finish a confrontation before it starts. With practice, though, you can adopt the posture of someone who can not be amazed.

Richard calls it the “Give it a Name Game” It is a means to make yourself track any unusual things you are hearing or seeing. If it is a sound, it is as straightforward as looking toward the source, while it’s honking or footsteps or even a dog barking. Then you give it a title, such as “shitty cab driver” or even “tiny yappy dog” Then you do the same with your peripheral vision. “At any given time when you are outside, there is tons of shit happening … anything coming toward you, only toward you, acknowledge it. Simply turn around, look at it, and acknowledge what it is.”

This of course lets you notice dangerous folks coming your way, but just as importantly, it lets them know you seen them. Now you are a threat to battle back, or run off, or shout for help, and so maybe are not worth the trouble. “This body language, right there, that is massive prevention … you are going to steer clear of situations only during that …”

Let’s be clear that nothing in this guide ought to come off as victim-blaming. Survivors of attacks tend to feel a lot of shame or even guilt, but hardcore badasses die daily. Invincible action heroes do not exist in fact. No technique will work each time — offenders may be dumb assholes, but they’re still better at this than you are. If you have been the victim of a crime, then it is not because you are weak or neglected to learn the right neck-gouging technique. In fact …


Martial Arts Likely won’t Help You

Don’t get him wrong, Richard loves martial arts. He has been practicing his entire adult life. They’ll let you get in shape, enhance coordination, blow off some steam … hell, showing off moves may even impress your friends and possible sex partners. But do not do it as you believe that it can help you take down a bad man.

Richard points out that in most violent armed encounters, one of two things happens: Either the sufferer doesn’t even have the time to observe the weapon before it is used (like in the “Don’t go watch the movie” example sooner), or even the bad man is using it to find something from you. “The weapon,” says Richard, “is being utilized as a tool of intimidation, oppression, and control to find the person’s valuables or to move them from place A to location B.”

In the former case, you won’t even have a chance to use your Iron Serpent Technique on your opponent’s balls. At the latter, you are confronting somebody who’s just using the knife to get your wallet — in which case you give it to him and get away as fast as you can. Richard does so for a living, and in all his years of bouncing and martial arts training, “I found myself not doing anything that I learned in some of those areas once the shit really hit the fan.”

So as a lot of armchair badasses may think “I want to train to battle so that I will pull the knife from a mugger’s hands and then shove it aaaalllll the way his ass,” Richard does not consider that self explanatory. Self-defense is saying, “Well shit, he can have my wallet. It is not worth a freaking blade in my lung.” Or better still, stating, “That man’s acting weird, I am getting out of here” five minutes earlier.

Whatever the case, the goal isn’t to win or to make an awesome fight story you can tell afterwards; the goal is not to die.


De-Escalation Can Be Normally Potential

Richard brings a distinction between “social” and “anti-social” violence. In the former cases, a perpetrator remains marginally rational, but at a temporary state of anger or moderate impairment (“A good man having a bad day,” as he puts it) At the latter, you’ve got the predators who do not even understand why society has rules in the first location. The initial scenario is significantly more common, and confrontations between these folks can often be defused.

“Two guys were playing pool,” he states. “I was watching them perform. I was having a shitty week, apparently they were having a shitty day. Our eyes crossed at a single point. 1 man gets in my head and he says, ‘have you got a fucking problem man?’ And I with absolute honesty and earnestness I say, ‘Brother I have a lot of problems man, I do not know why you ask. Does it show on my head? That’s why I am here. I am rather drinking away them'”

That confrontation, he states, ended with the guys commiserating over Richard’s recent failed relationship with his fiance. Yes, this even works if the competitive party is drunk. Especially if they’re drunk, in Richard’s experience. “Since the second you show respect and kindness, they’re going to become your very best friend, for the most part … when you approach the situation, be nice, be polite. You disarm the individual this way … be fine, [however] be prepared.”

OK, so what if this doesn’t work and the confrontation retains escalating? “He is going to shove you, insult you, provoke you … and most guys, when you push them [they push back].” A great deal of fights begin with this, a literal drive. Richard does not advise pushing back. Rather, he says, you should choose the space the shove grants you and keep backing off. “He has to keep walking toward you today … so you are going to see him coming, you are going to see if he’s got a knife because you took the space he gave you … instead of pushing back …”

In addition, he notes that these people today tend to want to seem to be the fantastic man. So by backing up, placing your hands in the air, and apologizing, “It becomes difficult for him to maintain instigating.”

Which brings up a crucial tip …


Maintain Your Hands Up

Another upside of the “Consistently de-escalate when possible” policy is that it creates the element of surprise if you arrive at the point where you do have to strike. Don’t construct toward it. “Don’t challenge the aggressor, do not endanger them, do not insinuate they’re wrong, do not tell them what to do. Don’t say things like back off, leave me alone, do not disturb me, calm down, relax — all that stuff is challenging. In case the individual deems themselves superior to you, you do not want to be telling them what to do.”

We are not getting into the details of how to strike somebody here. That’s something you need classes for, and clinic (an untrained person is very likely to break their hands). What we’re referring to here is your mindset.

Richard tells the story of a woman who found herself with a male co-worker inside her apartment who had abruptly switched to predator style. He followed her into the bathroom and caught her by wrists, pinning her to a glass shower door. He then made it absolutely clear what he planned to perform.

“… [S]o she looks at him and responds, ‘Well yeah, dumb, but you want to do it here on the restroom floor, or in the bedroom where it is more comfy?’ He leans back, not expecting this response at all … that’s when her knee moves right into his balls. He never saw it coming, right under his field of vision, and when he doubled over, she palm-struck him right under his chin so hard that she knocked him flat …” At which point she got the hell out of there and got a neighbor to call the cops. Be aware that we are not talking about some elaborate ruse here — the point is that when it is clear that force is necessary, do not telegraph it or warn them (if they initiated it, they already believe they can win the fight). Let it come from nowhere.

To facilitate this, always keep up your hands in front of you. Not at a badass fighting posture, but together with your palms forwards in the universal gesture of “Hey man, let us talk this out” It is non-threatening, and also gets your palms in a position where you can strike without warning. ” … [A]t that point, if I wish to hit him, there is nothing he can do to stop me, because he’s not expecting it”

Will this make you look cool? No it won’t. And that’s OK.


Do Not Expect A Fight To Be Pretty

When pressed to get a “Successfully utilized my skills to acquire a fight” narrative, Richard gave us this story of a rowdy, already-drunk man attempting to force his way into a club :

“He will not take no for an answer. I am insisting I can not let him. He is giving me the entire spiel — ‘Do you know who I am?’ And frankly, I really don’t know who he is. He got physical, he pushed me and then he tackled me … I caught his ear, his left ear, and I caught his chin and I started thumping his neck while I was catching his ear really, very hard. And then he freaked out at that point, so he glanced disengaged and took three steps from me, and his ear tore right off and remained in my hands.”

If that sounds sort of far-fetched, here’s a movie of a MMA fighter’s ear almost getting punched off:

And here’s another MMA fighter who had part of his ear pulled off. It ends up that the human ear is just barely attached.

“He did not feel it. He is ready to come back at me, and I go, ‘Whoa, wait a second!’ I give him a hand outside and show him his ear and go, ‘Look at this, man.’ So he pauses, he’s staring at the ear in my hands. And he looks at my head, he takes stock. He counts both my ears … and he begins to freak out because today he realizes it is his ear that’s in my hands. And I tell him, ‘Here, take this, place this in ice, man. Perhaps they can sew it back on.’ And he takes his ear and takes off into the night, just disappears, and I turned about and puked my fucking lungs out”

It is also not a bad idea to do what countless girls around the world have done, and get a can of mace.

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