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The Disservice Of Bad Technique

By Christopher Caile

I have seen it taught for years -- self-defense technique that just won't work.

This is the second greatest sin -- next to not teaching self-defense against common attacks at all.

I vividly remember a self-defense seminar I once attended. And I knew the teacher. He was a well known karate Sensei (teacher) but he was teaching a jujitsu technique: how to defend against an attacker to grabs your lapel with one hand.

I want to scream at what was being demonstrated, "that won't work." I wanted to get out of my seat and show the participants how to really defend against this assault.

The instructor was teaching the students just to reach up and grab and then turn and bend the assailants wrist to create a "nikyo" -- a term used in aikido and jujutsu to signify potentially powerful and painful immobilization technique.

Everyone was being nice, so all the defendants were able to effect this technique. But did they believe it would work against a strong, determined attacker? (1)

The problem with this and so many other techniques often taught in self-defense and in various martial arts is that they only work when others go along with you. If the assailant resists -- fights back or counters -- suddenly there is a muscle tussle, an awkward strength against strength encounter.

To make this particular technique work the teacher of this seminar needed to teach the defender how to first distract or shock the attacker with a technique or strike and then add an off-balancing technique to weaken any resistance. Only then might the technique work.

But, if the newly trained self-defense students tried to use what they learned on the street the attacker would most likely just look at them and smile at the futile attempt to twist their wrist and move their arm into position for this technique. Thus what they were being taught was a real disservice to them. It could get them hurt, or even killed.

To be effective any self-defense technique should:

  • Be effective even if the attacker resists.

  • Allow a weaker defender to defeat a stronger aggressor.

  • Include a distraction, strike and/or unbalance if the technique is a throw or joint manipulation.

  • Be quick and effective -- taking seconds at most.

  • Not be overly complicated in execution-- simple to apply.

  • Minimize the danger of counter attacks and/or the reversal of the techniques.

  • Be able to render the assailant unconscious, incapacitated or in great pain (immobilization).

  • Be learned within a reasonable amount of practice.

In short, the self-defense techniques should be effective in real life, on street situations against aggressive attackers who intend you harm and will fight back.


(1) When properly done the attacker is first distracted (or hit) while also being unbalanced. This allows the back of the assailants hand (the "V" area of the back of the thumb and first finger) to be easily turned (since concentration and balance is lost) into the defenders chest and the arm is manipulated into an "S" position (starting with the hand, wrist bent with forearm going the opposite direction with a bend in the elbow) so the wrist and forearm can be rotated in opposite directions while the body leans in to compress the physical structure.

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About the Author:

Christopher Caile is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of FightingArts.com. He has been a student of the martial arts for over 40 years and holds a 6th degree black belt in Seido Karate and has experience in judo, aikido, diato-ryu, boxing and several Chinese fighting arts. He is also a long-term student of one branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qigong. He is a personal disciple of the qi gong master and teacher of acupuncture Dr. Zaiwan Shen (M.D., Ph.D.) and is Vice-President of the DS International Chi Medicine Association. In Buffalo, NY, he founded the Qi gong Healing Institute and The Qi Medicine Association at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has also written on Qi gong and other health topics in a national magazine, the Holistic Health Journal and had been filmed for a prospective PBS presentation on Alternative Medicine. Recently he contributed a chapter on the subject to an award winning book on alternative medicine, "Resources Guide To Alternative Health."

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