by Robert G. Yetman, Jr.
Lately, I’ve been hearing from some who’ve read what I have to say about self-defense and keeping it simple, and are, to some degree, challenging me on my opinions. That’s fine, and I welcome the inquiry, especially when it turns to a debate. That’s how we all make progress with respect to ultimately arriving at the best courses of action.
The disagreements center on the idea that a highly-trained self-defense practitioner who has at his disposal multiple techniques to deploy in a real-life street assault situation, is, by definition, going to be far better prepared than the person who has learned only own or two techniques.
The problem with this line of thinking is that it prioritizes intellectual logic over practical reality. Intellectual logic informs us that the greater number of quality techniques we are capable of executing, the better prepared we are to defend ourselves. Practical reality, however, tells us that when we are attacked out of the blue, the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” reaction, becomes the dominant influence, and “crowds out” the brain. As much as we would like to say that constant practice makes the execution of multiple techniques easier, the fact is that when you’re attacked, and you have a whole repertoire from which to choose, you still have to manually select which technique(s) you’re going to apply. That is a bad idea for several reasons, but chief among them is a loss of time; the split-second nature of street assaults is such that for you to effectively defend yourself, you just do not have any valuable time to spare pondering what moves you’re going to pull out of your bag of tricks.
I much prefer people deciding on their favorite, most instinctively-used punch and kick, and simply practice those each day, ensuring that they will be deployed as quickly and as powerfully as possible when the time comes to get to business. My advice is that you don’t pick one or two techniques that you think are best, but, rather, choose the technique(s) that you instinctively go to when you feel like you’re about to be in a jam. If you don’t have much (any?) experience fighting as an adult, you can instead choose those you feel most comfortable training when you’re working the heavy bag, and make those “priority” techniques throughout your training. Speaking for myself, while I’m capable of executing a range of techniques with some proficiency, there are a few that simply feel the most natural. The inherent flexibility in my right leg is superior to that in my left leg, and, moreover, kicks with my left leg just don’t feel as comfortable. As a result, while I still train my left leg, I admit that I put a lot more work into training my right. The result is that I have a right leg that can execute a select number of kicks with pretty fair speed and power. Should I need to kick hard and fast, my right leg is the one I’ll use.
There is a quote, attributed to Bruce Lee, that goes like this: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” That idea perfectly sums up that about which I’m writing here. The nature of attacks on the street is such that the person who is “armed” with a variety of finely-tuned techniques isn’t armed with as much as likely thinks he is. The ability to punch and kick as hard, and as fast, as you can, is about the best arsenal of unarmed combat weaponry you can possess. With all due respect to the detractors of that notion, I’ve seen enough to know how this works, and if you focus on developing your single best punch or kick, you’ll be about as ready to defend yourself as you can ever be.