Friday, October 26, 2012

Self-Defense Blunders #2- Kicking the Groin is BAD

I have written about this before on my blog but it fits nicely in the category of "Self-Defense Blunders" so I feel it's worth repeating...

I have come across numerous instructors over the years that discourage their students from focusing on the groin as a viable self-defense target. Some claim that the groin is difficult to hit, while others claim it offers little in the way of results.

Now before I get into this topic let me emphasize that the groin should be considered as a secondary target. In other words, it's not a fight-stopping target but does have some value which I am about to explain.

First of all I do agree that "kicking" the groin isn't a good idea. The reason is simple...kicking generally leaves the intended victim standing on only one foot, which in turn compromises balance. Given the explosive and chaotic nature of assaults, compromised balance isn't a good thing.

Claim #1- small target

In reality when targeting the groin, we not only target the testicles but the entire groin / bladder/ pelvis region. On most people, the groin / bladder / pelvis region is generally the size of a soccer ball. Personally, I consider something the size of a soccer ball to be pretty large. However, these same instructors will go on to recommend targeting the femoral nerve on the inner thigh or something similar. While nerve strikes can be great, if they are hit properly, the problem is that we can't always hit them properly under the chaotic and stressful nature of combat. Why is that? Simple, because they are SMALL! So, in short they recommend targets that are smaller then the groin. Personally, I would choose the groin. Everyone knows good and well where the groin is. It's generally pretty easy to hit, especially in close quarters and in many cases it can be hit without visual confirmation.

Claim #2- men are prepared for a strike to this area

This is actually a misconception, especially in martial arts training. I remember my sister once attended a "self-defense " class conducted by a female Tae Kwon Do instructor. During the class the instructor tells the girls something to the effect of -

"never kick an attacker in the groin because...he will most likely be wearing a cup!"

To be blunt, that's the most absurd thing I have ever heard. Out of all of the years I spent studying sexual assaults on women I have yet to hear of one rapist wearing a cup to protect his groin. Most men who have endured wearing a cup in training know how uncomfortable and inconvenient those things are, especially for sexual situations.

Now, many instructors promote similar ideas, but as in the example above they are not realistic ideas. First off, most men aren't prepared to protect their groins because in most cases they don't believe there is a need to do so. Remember, predators choose victims that they believe won't offer resistance. That being the case, they are primarily in predator mode when they move in for an attack. In other words, defense is the last thing on their minds. Also, take into consideration that most contact sports like boxing and wrestling teach that strikes to the groin are illegal. This simply means that practitioners are conditioned to avoid targeting the groin and they are also conditioned to not worry about protecting this vital area. Also, if most attackers were prepared to protect their groins they wouldn't be so fast to expose this vital target during the act of sexual assault. So, to make this simple...most attackers are not prepared to protect their groins.

Claim #3- generally causes a flinch protection response

This is actually one of the points of effectively targeting the groin! In many cases instructors attempt to focus on the "one shot, one kill" philosophy. However, real altercations rarely go as planned and while it's possible to end an altercation with only one good shot, it's usually an exception to the norm. In other words, we should never rely on only one shot and hope that it creates a devastating effect. Instead we should attempt to overwhelm an attacker with multiple counters in order to effect them both physically and mentally, while attempting to make each counter as effective as possible.

While the groin is not considered a fight-stopping target it can be effective as a way to interrupt the OODA Loop, which can buy a split second to follow-up with more vicious tactics or to target more vital areas. In other words, when the attacker unconsciously flinches to protect the groin, this can create openings for other tactics. This is essentially Combat Strategy 101.

Claim #4- position of the groin doesn't often allow targeting this area

This may be true if we are talking about targeting the groin with kicks. However, if we think of other more sensible ways to target the groin, we quickly realize that in most real assault situations the groin is almost always within range of one of our tools. This is especially true during sexual assault situations. I have yet to hear about a sexual assault where the groin wasn't exposed in some fashion.

The truth is, the groin can be an effective target when used in combination with other vital areas and during potentially violent altercations. It should not be thought of as a "fight stopper" but it also should not be thrown out because some instructor doesn't understand when, where, and how to effectively target the area.

Take care and stay safe,
Steve Zorn, ICPS
Thursday, October 25, 2012

Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is just around the corner and it can one of the most festive and entertaining holidays of the year for the entire family. Trick-or-treating, costume parties and haunted houses all add to the fun of the Halloween weekend. However, the fun can quickly turn to disaster if parents and children choose to ignore dangerous people, places, and situations. Before sending
your children out to enjoy the holiday activities take the time to talk with them about possible scenarios they may be forced to face and how to successfully resolve them. Below is a list of general safety tips to help keep children safe this Halloween.

Young children should always go trick-or-treating with a parent or trusted adult.

Older children / teens should never trick-or-treat alone. They should have at least 2 buddies go with them, if not a parent or trusted adult.

Plan your child's entire route and make sure they stick to it.

Make sure that children are wearing flame retardant costumes.

Make sure the costumes do not obstruct your child's vision.

Avoid costumes or bags that display your child's name on them.

Provide your children with snacks before they go out so they will be less tempted to eat candy before it's checked. Make sure to check out all candy before your children eat it.

Children should be very cautious of people they don’t know or people displaying strange behavior.

Children should be taught how to respond to potentially dangerous people or situations. They should run, shout, and get help when they can.

Teach children to yell "Fire!" rather than help if they find themselves in an unsafe situation and need to draw attention.

They should be taught to check first before going anywhere with anyone, especially with people they don’t know or don’t know very well.

Children should accept treats only in the doorway. Never go inside a house, an apartment, or car.

Teach your children to be polite, make sure they say thank you for their treats.

Children shouldn't play near lit jack-o-lanterns.

Children should visit only those houses where the lights are on and only in neighborhoods familiar to you.

They should walk, not run.

Children should walk only on sidewalks and driveways, and avoid short-cuts or secluded areas.

They should cross the street at the corner or in a crosswalk and obey traffic signals.

Older children / teens should take a cellular phone with them if possible.

They should carry a flashlight and other reflective items such as treat bags or glowing bracelets.
Stay Safe out there,
Steve Zorn, ICPS 
Saturday, October 20, 2012

Self-Defense Blunders #1- Keys Between Fingers

While perusing the internet I stumbled onto a law enforcement website from here in Indiana that was promoting a women's self-defense class that they offer on a regular basis. The picture that was posted on the site immediately caught my attention. You can view the original pic on my Facebook page here-

The picture shows a woman standing in a fighting stance with her hands up and and the fingers of her right hand gripping a set of keys with a key protruding from between each finger. The idea being that the intended victim will be able to fend off an attacker by driving the keys into vital targets while punching. It looks something like this...


Unfortunately this "keys between the fingers" technique has been taught for years by instructors that have little or no actual experience with the technique in question. They either read about it in some old self-defense book or magazine article or were taught the technique by some martial arts guru that also lacked any experience with the technique.

While this technique makes sense from a theoretical perspective it's never made much sense to me from a practical and tactical point-of-view. There are many issues with this such as safety, false confidence, etc. 

Let's talk safety- the reality is that if she punches with this technique she is more likely to suffer injury than her attacker. I heard a story years ago about this technique. A woman had taken a self-defense class and the instructor taught her to put her keys between her fingers as described and depicted in the photo I mentioned. She would do this as she approached her car in the dark parking lot after work, assuming it would keep her safe from harm. One winter night she put her keys in her fist and walked to her car. As she gripped her keys tightly in her fist and approached her car she suddenly found herself laying on the ground starring up at the night sky. She had slipped on a patch of ice and fell violently to the ground. As she fell, she reached out with her closed hands, as anyone would instinctively do to slow the fall. However, because she had her fist wrapped around her keys it caused severe injury to her hand and fingers. The point to remember is that this is no different than trying to use the same technique to strike out at the bowling-ball we call a head. The other thing this technique teaches is the bad habit of punching with a closed fist. Punching is great for boxers and MMA fighters but is not a recommended strategy for women (or men) wanting simple and effective self-defense. Sport fighters wear gloves for a reason and unfortunately without the gloves the hands are nowhere near as protected and don't fair well when impacting the human skull. Since the basic idea of self-defense is to develop the ability to protect ourselves while minimizing the injury potential, using techniques like punching or the "keys between the fingers" make absolutely no sense.

With that being said, using keys like this also requires 1) either placing the keys in the proper position BEFORE the attack or 2) taking those precious seconds to try to get the keys in place DURING the attack. In the first case it's just wasted time, in the second one it's a life-threatening mistake. The time that is being wasted on positioning the keys in between the fingers is time the intended-victim could be using to escape the situation. Also, we need to keep in mind that the bad guys are fully aware of simple tricks like this. They are even prepared for defensive use of pepper spray and firearms. While they will often choose their intended victim based on the likelihood of least resistance, they will still be on the lookout and ready for these things once they make the decision to attack. The obvious protrusion of the keys between the fingers will provide an early warning to the attacker. He will be prepared in advance to avoid that hand or to quickly overwhelm the intended-victim so that the keys are no longer an issue.

Let me be perfectly clear...I am not saying that using keys for self-defense is a bad thing. I am a huge proponent of the use of improvised items for personal protection, including keys. It's not the keys that are bad but the actual application as passed on by misinformed and misguided instructors. That said, allow me to describe a simpler, more effective and actually safer way to use keys for self-defense. Before I describe this let me emphasize that this may not be the ideal option, even if keys are in the hand and ready to go. However, if someone should choose to use their keys in self-defense they might as well have an appropriate tactic rather than the dangerous technique I have been discussing above.

The proper way to use keys in self-defense should you choose to do so...

1) Place a single key over the index finger while the remaining keys lay across the palm as shown below-

2) Curl the index finger around the Bow of the single key. This is the fat piece of the key that we hold onto. The rest of the fingers will curl around the remaining keys-

3) The thumb will lay across the Blade of the key with the thumb closer to the tip of the key than the index finger. This will form what is called a "pinch grip" that squeezes the key between the thumb and the index finger. A small portion of the tip of the key will extend out from the "pinch grip", around  1/4"-

While I broke this grip method down into several steps to give you the details, it's actually very simple and instinctive. In fact this is almost the same grip that we employ when trying to use the keys to unlock a door. The main difference is that we choke up a little more on the single key in order to improve the grip for striking. Also, keep in mind that this grip reduces the striking surface of the key but increases our ability to maintain our grip while making forceful contact of the intended target. It's not how much key surface we have that's important but how we actually use it that matters.

To strike with this grip, simply drive the tip of the key out into the preferred target in a piston-like fashion. Think of it as more of a jabbing movement then a punching movement. The targets would be the eyes and face. This technique should be thought as more of a quick distraction rather than a "fight-stopper". To get the best results, it should be used in combination with other empty-hand techniques and tactics. It should not be used alone except to create a quick opening to run away.

Remember, this has the potential to cause severe injury to eyes or face so please make sure the situation warrants such tactics before using. It's always a good idea to get hands-on training as well as learning about the legalities of using such tactics before you need them.

Take care and stay safe,
Steve Zorn, ICPS

Common Self-Defense Blunders

There are tons of foolish techniques and tactics that are often promoted for self-defense by instructors that either don't realize their errors or they know and just don't care. I am going to start a regular posting here as well as on my Facebook page called "Self-Defense Blunders: Common Advice from the Ignorant and Misguided".

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-27 years training in personal safety -Multiple martial arts black belts -Multiple instructor certifications -Certified law enforcement trainer -Crime Prevention Specialist -Previous self-defense trainer for one of the country's largest airlines -Child safety specialist -Certified Fitness Trainer -TACTIX Fitness Trainer -High Intensity Training Specialist -FAST Defense Instructor -Kid Escape Instructor
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