Self Defense Series

The Coalition of Service Members Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD) has asked if I would teach a Self Defense Seminar at the end of January as part of their sexual assault prevention program.  The Mission of CSADD is to positively influence military members behavior through resources and tools that promote good decision-making processes, enabling leadership development, and influence among peers at the junior level which, in turn, fosters both an attitude and atmosphere conducive to good order and discipline. In my case I get to positively influence a few military members and spouses by providing them with some simple tools to protect themselves from predators of various stripes.   
Personally, I don’t like the term “Self Defense.” The word “defense” conjures up an image of someone covering their head to keep from getting punched in the face. Those of us who identify themselves with a more combative warrior mindset tend to feel you can’t eliminate a threat if you’re too busy “defending” yourself.
Note the “defensive” posture taken here.  Not sure which is the bigger clown in this picture.
“The purpose of fighting is to win. There is no possible victory in defense. The sword is more important than the shield, and skill is more important than either. The final weapon is the brain. All else is supplemental. ” – John Steinbeck
In this case I’m not being asked to teach combat techniques to warriors. Using the quote above as a guide I asked myself what the purpose of fighting is to a woman walking home alone or loading groceries in her car. I imagine her purpose is getting home in one piece. So she doesn’t need to dominate and eliminate her attacker to “win.” She merely needs to escape and evade predators. So I suppose a survival mindset is in order and an accurate term to use for my purpose here.
The subjects I intend to cover include:
Mindset, Intent, and General Awareness

Target Areas of the Body
Expedient Weapons (weapons of opportunity)
I’ve discussed some of the above with some former cop friends and others with some experience in the field. Any advice from like minded types is welcome. Also, ladies, what kind of thing would you like to see from a self defense seminar?
Semper Fidelis,
America’s 1stSgt
/ / / /


  1. I teach self defense classes as well, and I like your basics. When talking about mindset/situational awareness I usually recommend Gavin de Becker’s “A Gift of Fear”.
    I also, included in that section, remind ladies that *however* they react in the situation was the right thing for them at the time, and that they shouldn’t allow someone who wasn’t there to judge them after the fact. Anything you live through, you can recover from. And yes that’s experience talking.

    The other thing I like to include is a basic of the physics of why a technique works; this will allow the more interested ones to extrapolate and possibly apply that basic you teach them to a situation that doesn’t “match” exactly.

    That’s just off the top of my head. I will continue to think.

  2. I don’t let my gal out of the kitchen let alone to wear shoes. Speaking of weapons of opportunity, is a wooden spoon an effective deterrent to bad people bent on her destruction?

  3. Basinah, thanks. I’m also going with the idea that mobility is their friend. Once someone has them stopped they are done, so keep moving!

    Okie, perhaps breaking the spoon off in someone’s eye is the way to go there. Careful, another shoeless Christmas and it might be you.

  4. Top, In my 32 + years of cop work, I found that in most cases where a suspect attacked somebody, the suspect usually looked for somebody they thought would not fight back.

    In the cases where the victims gave up, they lost every time. In many cases where the victims got bad and counter attacked, the victim kicked butt! The suspect didn’t expect it and was really a coward.

    Awarness and avoiding things is the best prevention. Too often victims wonder into something without paying attention.
    (It also helps to have a good pistol of a large enough caliber to punch holes into the Brain Housing Group)

  5. Well, I’m a teenaged girl, and if I were ever to take a course on how to protect myself, I would want to learn:

    1. How to get home in one piece, like you said.

    2. How to keep someone from following me as I am running away. In other words, I would want to disable an attacker.

    3. How to protect myself against multiple assailants (I’m thinking gang raping).

  6. 1stSgt – I can’t think of anything to add to your list of what you already intend to cover. However, I do suggest wearing ninja slippers to this seminar. Your lessons would be unforgettable.


  7. I was kinda of a sensitive kid (almost a sissy, my mom says).

    Mom signed me up for a self defense course because, according to her, I was just a whipping boy in waiting.

    I do recall the instructors introduction speech, but not in exact words. It went, mostly, like this:

    You came here to learn to defend yourselves. If you want “self defense” (actually used the wiggly fingers to denote quote marks), go sign up for track and field. If they can’t catch you, they can’t hurt you.

    Here, you’re going to learn to hurt, damage and physically degrade those who wish to harm you. Here, you’re going to learn that when you are attacked, you are not fighting another human being. You are fighting a monster. And that monster means to cause you harm, grief, humiliation and possibly even means to kill you. So, here, you will learn to be savage, brutal and destructive when confronted by monsters.

    That always stuck with me. Wish I had something of value to add to your program. Such things as you are putting together are valuable. I wish combative arts were part of the mandatory curriculum in our schools. We’ve have a lot less perpetual victims.


  8. I wish I could attend your class. I love self-defense classes (or, as I think of them, “pedestrian empowerment” classes).

    Even though I’m a petite woman, I’ve always felt as if I control the space I occupy. I feel big and other people are often surprised to learn that I’m only 5′ tall.

    Someone who is a pure predator won’t hesitate to attack me, but I do believe that opportunistic predators will assume that I’m not worth the effort. Certainly, despite my years in big cities and my travels hither and yon, I’ve been left alone.

    I also agree with Basinah about Gavin de Becker’s book. It’s a wonderful resource, especially the section describing the way in which predators look for women who have a tentative, downcast look about them as they walk along.

    Erika, this is often what I call lizard-brain stuff, meaning that predator and prey often function at the same level as animals on the African plains. You want to be the healthy, energetic, alert antelope, because lions are too lazy to go after that one. Lions are looking for the slow, dragging, pathetic antelope at the back of the pack.

  9. CI Roller, the victime mindset is something to get over for the average person.

    Erika, your first two points I’ll have pretty much covered. As for multiple assailants, even bad asses have a hard time with that. So hit first, hit hard, keep right on hitting and run like hell. Again, keeping mobile and not stopping is what I’m thinking here.

    Christina, there will be no ninja slippers at the seminar! Tomahawks on the other hand…

    Grimmy, that’s pretty much where my thought process is at too.

    Shay, as much as I’d love to be all about the firearms, that is just not applicable in Bahrain. And frankly, when it comes to that I’d prefer open carry so dirtbags know to go find another target.

    Book, my class will be epic! You are totally missing out. My dad was 5’11 and about 185. People hearing that would often remark: “Really? He seems a lot bigger.” It was all in the swagger.

  10. 1. Mobility and not giving in. The 1st Sgt and Roller Dude have it.
    2. Back in the day, wife was letting the toddler play in the sun -noticed a young man approaching, knife in hand.
    3. Grabbed up the kid and fled through the complex and out into the parking lot. Ignored assailants commands to stop.
    4. Pursuit stopped as she reached the more open area.
    5. Have tried to teach self defense skills and arm her. No go.
    6. Have to settle for her natural skittishness.
    7. Did pack up and move to better neighborhood after things continued to degrade in that location.
    V/R JWest

  11. If I were in your class I would want to learn how to do enough damage quickly, preferably enough damage to send them to the ER, that way when I report it to the cops I can tell them what to look for. On a more reasonable note, teach them how to carry themselves so they don’t look like a target, park under lights,approach the car from the rear passenger side and go around to the drivers side. Mom always said attitude and common sense is about 95-99 percent of keeping yourself safe.

  12. “…the victime mindset is something to get over for the average person.”

    I kinda, sorta disagree with that.

    Of course there are those who can be lifted up out of the Cult of the Victim but those are usually those who fell into the CotV out of simple ignorance.

    Too many CotV are born to it and have no other recourse. You can see them all through history. There are always those who simply can’t defend themselves. Heck, the ancient world was dotted with entire villages of the sort.

    Now days, you can even find them from time to time in ours or other military organizations. People who’ve gotten all the training, all the indoc, all the psychological and emotional toughening work, and still freeze up and die when the moment comes or hunker down and let everyone else do the fighting.


  13. I love all your ideas and the comments.

    I was never exposed to the practical use of anything as a weapon. (fignting back was never introduced as an option in my childhood, quite the opposite) My perfect self defense course would include a sizeable block of time on such info and if possible some hands on practise.
    A wise gun store owner advised me not to purchase a gun for defense unless 1) I was willing to kill someone and knew it and 2) was willing to practise weekly at a firing range and do all the regular maintance on said gun. He missed a sale but gained my lifelong recommendation. That said, I would love to understand the “mystery” of pepper spray, effective range, methods of use, and so forth.

    Bravo and I loved the “Gift of Fear.”

    Oh and another thought. Most people assume self defense should be taught as if a stranger is attacking – – wonder if a course taught from the stance of defending/avoiding/preventing/etc a family member or spouse would be markedly different in content. (speaking as a survivor of domestic violence where yes, brainwashing, my low self esteem and other factors was fortunately not lethal)

  14. I should like to know a couple of things:

    1. No stranger has ever jumped out of the bushes at me intent on causing me harm, the only times i have been endangered have been at the hands of someone i knew & trusted. How could I have overcome the mental block of me not wanting to cause that person harm – i think perhaps some faceless attacker might be easier to smack/kick/stab/whatever than someone i knew?

    2. weapons. The UK has very strict laws about weapons; so no guns, knives, tomahawks, pepper spray, clubs, swords or pickaxes for your average (wo)man in the street. What’s a great way to disable someone using only myself and my wits – without maiming myself in the process?

  15. I would love the basic skills on how to evade (guys grabs me, how do I get free) and immobilize an attacker, but to be honest, I’d really like to know how to deescalate an encounter. I’ve never been attacked, but if some random guy came at me asking for my money (or worse), he’d have to kill me first. Period. I will not allow him to get what he wants. That mindset probably helps me not be targeted to begin with, but it would be good to have options other than ‘fight to the death’!

  16. The Son&Heir started MCMAP Green belt course this week. He’s digging it. Says it’s going way better than the last belt earned while underway. SSgt recently came from DI tour and is rocking the instruction. Prolly helps that this time it’s not tropical heat with everyone on the mats tending to their Reagan Runs. /heh/

    In other news this week, looks like he made the cut for Corporal and saved an ordnance loader from burning down.

    “His first real fire. He’s all grown up.” >;^)

  17. Might I third or fourth the suggestions about weapons-mindedness? I know someone who used a can of veggies to stop an assault – it was the closest throwable object and she managed to clock the intruder. He fell back and she had space to flee to a more defensible position and call for help. In the days when I was a slow, fat, nerdess I used a hardback book to fend off an aggressor until bigger, meaner help could arrive.


  18. Anything can be a weapon (Of course, some are better than others…)
    We work in a not so great neighborhood, my Boss won’t allow me to carry at work (guess he’d rather see us dead than defending ourselves) so I always try to look around and see what if available to use “just in case”. And at least I am able to run (first choice) and I do have a knife (I guess it’s not a weapon, in my Boss’s eyes, heh). I would love to take a class with you, 1st Sgt. It would totally ROCK!!

  19. I’ve taken such a course, and I wish I could have practiced against a male. Getting the moves down for breaking the hold of a man who is bent on harming you is vastly different than trying to break the hold of a girlfriend who is trying hard to learn the same technique and not hurt either of us in the process is nearly impossible.

  20. Practice, practice, practice, under duress. If not, when the moment comes you will do as I did and shoot a hole in your waterbed because you are scared to death and can’t remember if the safety was on. (It wasn’t). Practice until it is second nature and you will do what you need to do, scared or not.


  21. Grimmy, you never really know until you are tested.

    Ally, indeed, it is an unfortunate fact sexual assault is often committed by someone the victim knows. Not sure there is a course of instruction on how to process the violation of trust and defend yourself all at once.

    Magoo, all I can say to you and Ally is as soon as this person assaults you then you have to realize they are indeed a stranger capable of terrible things and not the friend you thought they were. As to your second point, that is what the subject of the expedient weapons portion is about. I might post some of my thoughts on that here too.

    Becky, I’m not sure there is any deescalation after someone commits to assaulting you. Deescalate with force seems to me the best option.

    be603, tell your son not to get too enamored with all the MMA BS the MCMAP instructors seem to be immersed in. Not too many arm bars and such going on in combat.

    LittleRed1, I know a gal who beat the snot out of her attacker with a can of Boost. She didn’t throw it but rather just kept smashing the person in the face with it.

    Leslie, you flatter me. Yes, a pocket knife is a good weapon usable tool. Pepper spray is a decent non-lethal option.

    Tankerswife, agreed. I intend to have a number of knuckle draggers “volunteer” to get beaten up by the ladies. I even have one wearing a Blauer suit so he can really take a whoopin’.

    momma, sounds like an interesting night at least! 🙂

  22. I agree. The intent of breaking free and getting out is the main purpose of the victim. But learning how to fight back is a big advantage too since it’ll give you a chance to disarm or maybe even take down your attacker and turn him in. That way, he won’t be able to terrorize anymore civilians.

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