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Unarmed Self Defense Basics

Many of us are concerned about our safety when we are out on the street. Obtaining unarmed self-defense skills is necessary element of a street survival. Unlike various self-defense devices that might not be available at crucial moment, unarmed self-defense techniques always work and give you real confidence in your ability to succeed. Unarmed self-defense involves the use of "natural weapons" of your body, including the hands, elbows or knees - these are hard body surfaces that, when used correctly, can cause an attacker pain and damage. But the term "unarmed self-defense" isn't confined to only martial aspect - it involves various skills (mental and physical) used to survival - not only fighting techniques, but abilities to evade dangerous violent confrontations. In contrast to sport-oriented martial arts, the goal of self-defense is a survival, not winning. Knocking someone out of the way and escaping can achieve survival goal, however it will never allow you to win a competition. Your primary goal - not getting hurt/injured or to minimize your injuries. Even if you're facing single unarmed attacker who doesn't obviously surpass you in physique and fighting skills, there's no reason to prove anybody in the street that you're good fighter - staying around trying to "win", making higher chance of your injury, ain't a good decision. In a confrontation with multiple attackers, escape is victory. The only hope of escape from an overwhelming number of opponents is continual movement. By the use of blows, and by shoving one opponent against the other, it will often be possible to create more room in which to keep moving. It should be remembered that the object is to get away, not to stay and fight it out against hopeless odds. Now let's overview the basic physical aspects of unarmed self-defense.

I. Hand techniques. Punching. Hand strikes

There can be no doubt that punching is effective. In fact we can safely say that the No 1 technique used in fighting is punching! Punching is the weapon of natural choice. People seem to instinctively ball up their fist and let it fly. Punches based upon boxing can be delivered in rapid fire powerful combinations. The best blows using the hands are delivered with the fist or the heel of the hand or the edge of the hand. Blows struck with the fist (uppercut, haymaker, jab) are most effective when the user has had considerable experience in boxing. It will take up to six months to learn to deliver a positive knockout blow with either fist. The time-honored American punch on the jaw is hard to beat. Delivered by a skilled boxer it puts a man down for the count. The force of the blow on the point of the chin causes a form of concussion and we have the so-called "knockout". This same result can be obtained by a blow from the heel of the hand, which packs a terrific wallop. Further, it is much easier for those inexperienced at boxing, has more of an element of surprise, and can be used from shorter starting distance. The solar plexus, lower abdomen and testicles all make good targets for solid punching attacks. Punching an attacker in the forehead or the back of the skull is likely to do as much damage to your own hand as to your assailant's head, perhaps even more. The head (as opposed to the face) is a particularly dangerous place to punch anyone and indeed one of the main reasons that boxers wear gloves is to protect their hands.
Generally speaking, open hand strikes are preferred over the closed fist strikes or punches in unarmed self-defense. The problem with using punching is that the very act of making a fist can weaken your strike. When you make a fist you'll notice that the muscles in your arms also begin to tighten. Your forearm muscles tighten and your biceps and triceps muscles also tighten. Your biceps draw your forearm towards you, while your triceps extend your forearm away from you. They work in opposite ways, but if you tense both these muscle groups at the same time you are actually fighting yourself. When you strike at someone you want your energy to be flowing in that direction, if you engage your biceps muscles during this action you are "putting the brakes on", you are slowing down your strike. The use of the open hand tends to have the opposite result, the biceps muscle tends to remain in it's relaxed state and so does not interfere with your production of speed.
A strike that exists in many karate systems and in some styles of close combat is the "spear hand" strike. This is an easy strike to form - simply straighten the fingers on your hand and make sure they are pressed together. The targets normally attacked by this strike are the solar plexus, the throat and the eyes. The spear hand strikes can make an excellent weapon for ground-fighting situations. Such strikes cause a very sharp and distracting pain. The type of pain that makes people want to pull away, and that's what you are counting on. A quick jabbing action into the lower ribs or side of the neck can cause a person to quickly release his grip upon you. A quick spear hand to the throat can be easily followed by gouging the eyes.
Elbow strikes are widely used in Muay Thai kickboxing. The elbow is a every hard surface to use and it does a lot of damage. Plus the elbow won't get broken so easily like a fist. Elbow techniques might be very effective for breaking assailant's grips.

II. Leg techniques. Kicking. Knee strikes

The use of kicking techniques in self-defense is a debatable question. Undoubtedly, leg techniques enrich your self-defense arsenal. Most of the time they do a lot of damage and keep your opponent out of arms reach. But most of sophisticated kicking techniques cultivated in such martial arts systems as taekwondo, are unfit for real street self-defense conditions. You should learn simple kicking techniques that are street practical. Leave fancy spectacular high kicks for shows and martial arts tournaments. Never use a kicks higher than waist-high in a street fight; when you kick higher than a stomach level, you risk lose your balance - the higher the kick, the higher probability of failure. Legs and kneecaps are the primary targets of your kicks in self-defense situations. Front kicks/side kicks in kneecap or shin are quite painful and can give you an advantage in time over assailant, demoralize him in first few seconds of the battle. Stamping kicks are usually employed for attacking the knee from the front or the side; they can be used at long range before an assailant gets close enough to land a punch or grab hold of you. The knee can also be stamped on from behind. The front snap kick to the groin is an extremely effective tool, but it's also usually highly expected by opponent. Preliminarily using deceptive actions, you can succeed in a groin attack. The shoe of the user is one of the external factors that exert influence on the effectiveness of kicks - massive heavy boots are preferred for self-defense.
Another option of using legs in unarmed combat - knee strikes. Knee strikes are very powerful, easy to learn, and can be considered as important element of close-range unarmed self-defense.