By Dr. Leonard C. Holifield, CPS, CGSP
In the field of executive protection, unarmed self defense tactics are a must for the protection agent. During your entire career as an EP agent you may never have to fire a single shot from your firearm, however it is almost certain that you will at some point have to get up-close and personal with someone who decides he doesn’t like your client very much. In cases like this, you should be prepared to meet the attack with not only effective self defense counter-measures but a sound understanding of the human body and the knowledge to end the attack quickly and effectively.
Enter Defanging the Snake:
Question: What would you do if someone suddenly threw a poisonous snake at you or any snake for that matter? Most sane people would jump back in fear of being bitten, right? Now take that same snake and break off his fangs. Would you now jump at having this fangless snake thrown at you now? Most likely not. This is because the snakes bite is now useless. We know that a snake’s bite can be lethal and the fear of dying from a snake bite automatically puts us on the defensive as it raises blood pressure and adrenaline.
However, a poisonous snake that cannot deliver his venom is in fact useless and ineffective to say the least. This is because a snake’s primary weapon is his fangs.
In regards to close quarter combat, humans are the same. Man has 5 primary fighting weapons or fangs: His two arms, two legs and his head. Each arm is capable of delivering strikes, grabbing, and choking, the legs can deliver powerful kicks, stomps, and sweeps, and the head is capable of delivering incapacitating head butts and bites.
As with the snake, man can be defanged as well. Man’s primary weapons are his arms/hands, so the focus should be on destroying these weapons and rendering them useless. We can accomplish this through “limb destruction” by breaking the wrist and/or fingers of the hand. We can also break the arm at the elbow or dislocate the shoulder. If your opponent has a broken wrist or fingers, he simply cannot make a fist, and he certainly can’t strike you, for the pain would be too great and his strike ineffective.
The legs can be neutralized by dislocating the patella or knee cap, breaking the leg at the knee joint or hyper-extending the knee causing extensive ligament and tendon damage, breaking the ankle or small bones of the instep and foot or cutting the Achilles tendon. The head itself contains the control center of the body, the brain, which is protected by the cranium or skull. The target point is not the skull itself, but the side of the head or temple area, the weakest point of the skull.
The jaw which operates on a hinge joint can easily be broken, making a bite from your opponent impossible and very capable of causing a knockout. Each weapon or fang that you take away from your opponent decreases his ability to fight effectively, thus increasing your chances of survival. Defanging or Limb Destruction is an art in and of itself. It is quick and effective, no matter the size or skill level of your opponent; once the limbs are destroyed they become ineffective, through bone fracture, torn ligaments, bruised or torn muscle and nerve damage. How many pro football players have you seen go down on the field from a knee injury? Or a professional boxer get knocked out from a well placed strike to the jaw or side of the head?
These are professional athletes that are use to this type of punishment, yet they still go down. The goal of attacking the limbs or other vital points of the body is to make your opponent or attacker stop what he is doing.
There are three ways to accomplish this:
1. Make the attacker lose his concentration. If he stops thinking about striking you, he will stop trying to strike you.
2. Interfere with Neuro-muscular control over his body. If he has a bruised nerve or muscle in his forearm, he cannot effectively make a fist, thus he cannot strike you.
3. Destroy the integrity of his body. If his arm, wrist, fingers, hand or clavicle (collar bone) is broken, (because of the extreme pain associated with the injury) he won’t try to hit you whether he can form a fist or not.
The clavicle or collar bone is also a very effective target. If one clavicle is broken, both arms cannot function properly. The pain of a broken clavicle is so intense that trying to use the other arm is virtually impossible without increasing the pain ten-fold! I know this personal from experience, having broken my right clavicle playing football back in high school. Both arms become totally ineffective. A well placed hammer strike to the clavicle can fracture it, destroying the integrity of your opponent’s body.
The body is only as strong as its weakest link. Joints are generally weak. Held together by muscle, tendon and ligaments. The knee joint for example is considered one of the strongest joints in the body, yet one of the weakest. This is because the knee joints support most all of the body’s weight and therefore must be strong enough to support this weight, however the knee can be easily broken or dislocated by striking the knee from the inside, outside or the front, causing immediate incapacitation.
Before the confrontation begins, you should quickly assess your opponent, sizing him up for the tactics that you will employ. Notice the way he stands, his arm position, leg position, his size, his build, his confidence level, his focus (is he totally focused on you or is his mind and focus wandering), all of which can be assessed within a matter of seconds.
The Proper Mindset:
To be an effective fighter, you must posses a mindset that will allow you to break through intimidation, fear of injury, fear of being defeated and the psychological effect of actually breaking the bone of an arm, crushing a trachea or putting your finger through an eye-socket. Therefore you must first rid yourself of any deep seated sympathy or pity you may have for your opponent, your humanitarian side; and no longer look at your opponent as being human, but instead – a Target.
A target that must be destroyed. Mike Tyson displayed this same mindset in his fights. As Tyson approached the ring fear flooded his mind, fear of his opponent, fear of losing, fear of disappointing his friends and fans; this was Tyson’s way of giving respect to his opponent, however, as he got closer to the ring, his confidence surged, as he entered the ring, now sees his opponent as a “Target” invading his space, his ring, his world. He never loses eye contact with is opponent, his confidence superior to his opponents – the result – knockout! Most of Tyson’s fights were won before he ever stepped into the ring. Psychologically speaking, his opponents were scared to death due to Mike’s reputation, fight record, power, mindset and demeanor in the ring.
Assessing Your Target:
You should already have your opponent sized up before the first strike is thrown. Once the attack starts, you are already one to two steps ahead of him. Multiple follow-up strikes should be employed to ensure quick incapacitation, while keeping your opponent off balance (mentally and physically, and on the defense. As the confrontation starts to build, your mind is a high speed computer, quickly assessing vital targets, weak points and exit routes, if it becomes necessary for you to escape.
When facing your opponent, never focus in on any specific part of his body, this includes his eyes. When you focus on one single point, you miss all others. For example, while focusing on his eyes, he kicks you in the shin. The key here is to look at your opponent, and see everything. You must see the whole forest and not just the tree. You must see all of his weapons from head to toe, and be ready to answer any weapons being thrown at you.
Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered,
Those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid,
Thus the wise win before the fight, while the ignorant fight to win.
Dr. Holifield has over 40 years martial arts experience. He is the president and founder IAEPA and the Sikaron Karate Federation and holds black belts in Judo (3rd Dan), Hapkido (6th Dan) and Grandmaster rank of 10th Dan in Sikaron Karate. He is the former Chief Combatives Instructor to the United States Army and is featured in “Combative Masters of the 21st Century” Lulu Press.