Know how to defend yourself
Update: September 2000
I have seen the future of martial arts and it's called Systema.
Developed in Russia with roots going back at least 1,000 years, its intensive and covert cultivation during the 20th century was encouraged by the Soviet elite. The art was reserved for top government official bodyguards (Stalin's bodyguard was Systema) and for use by the hyper-elite Special Operations Units within Spetsnaz, arguably the most capable special operations military units ever created. With the fall of the Soviet Union, very high level Systema training is now available in the west, specifically in Toronto under Vladimir Vasiliev, student and colleague of the great Moscow based Systema master Mikhail Ryabko.
Toronto is a nice place to visit and stay a while. It's worth spending some time (a week to a few months) there. Many top martial artists and professional bodyguards from around the world have done so. The training is radically different from "normal" martial arts and beginners are welcome. Basically, everyone who steps into the school quickly realizes that no matter how many years (or decades) they've trained in martial arts, they need to start over from scratch once they see Systema's capabilities.
1. Everyone - and I mean everyone - should learn how to defend themselves. To think that you are immune to violent attack is absurd.
2. Most violent attacks begin as cowardly ambushes so the first martial art is awareness. The best fighters I know never let their guard down. Their antenna are always out. Simple being awake and aware of your surroundings when you are in public will go a long way to keeping you safe. Always err on the side of safety. If you don't like the looks of a situation, avoid it.
3. Wear shoes that make it easy for you to run. Running is a perfectly acceptable self defense technique. Most bad guys are not going to chase a victim down the street and attrack attraction to themselves.
4. If they can't touch you, they can't hurt you. All you have to do to be out of harms way from the most violent, dangerous character is to maintain more than an arms length distance. Keep that in mind and instead of panicking when confronted, cooly start looking for targets to attack.
5. If you are challenged, give your assailant one warning - and mean it. A simple command: "back off now" will do. Then, if the attacker proceeds to invade your space, you are absolved of any moral responsibility to him. He's forfeited his normal rights as a human being and you are free to injure him in any way you can.
6. Learn the vulnerable places on the human body and learn how to hit them hard. To think you can learn to defend yourself without knowing precisely how to inflict massive pain on an attacker is ridiculous.
7. The quickest and most practical training I've seen for learning to strike is a book and video tape called "Hikuta: The Art of Controlled Violence." It used to be available from a company called the Hanford Press in Canton, Ohio. (It's a subset of the Suarez Corporation. Sorry, that's all I know about it. If you write me for more details on how to get this material, I won't respond. )
Hikuta sounds like a made up name to me and its history, as presented, sounds a bit far fetched. Nonetheless, the people who put the book and tape together deliver the goods in a way no other book or training I've seen matches.
8. There are two problems in striking another person: 1) not striking them hard enough to be effective and 2) hurting your own hand. Hikuta overcomes both these problems very nicely. You do not have to be a big bruiser to stun and undermine the attack of a big bruiser. Also, if you can get your hands on just about any hard object, a hairbrush, a glass, even a tooth brush or a pocket calculator, you've got a deadly and covert weapon - if you know how to use it.
I also recommend two very fine books, both long out of print, that I discovered in the library of a very accomplished martial artist named Vince Black. The titles are "Boxing's Five Killer Punches" and "How to Create a Super Boxer" and the author is a guy named 'Champ' Thomas. This fellow, who learned his ring skills fighting in the unregulated SoCal, Arizona, northern Mexico circuit during the Depression, offers sound, practical advice, all of which can be used by women, that is simply not available anywhere else I know of.
9. A good finishing point for any martial arts training is to set up a safe, controlled situation where you can experience the impact of a hard blow. Many people fold after being struck hard once, not for physiological reasons, but for psychological reasons. It's also good to have the opportunity to pound away at a padded person and get over your natural reluctance to harm another person.
10. Practicing martial arts on a regular basis is a good workout and may save you or your loved ones from death or serious harm.
11. Here are three books that will improve you general health, flexibility, and physical poise enormously. Traditionally, in Asia the very best fighters combined street-tested down and dirty techniques with self development methods you'll find in these three books. The payoff can be great indeed. It is not uncommon to find "old school" Chinese - men and women - who in their 70s, 80s, and even 90s walk down the street with confidence because they are far more dangeous than 99.9% of the people who might be foolish enough to mess with them.
Get all three. It's the best money you'll every spend:
1. The Way of Energy by Lam Kam Chuen
2. Warriors of Stillness by Jan Dierperloot
3. Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body by Kumar Franztis
One last point. Don't study "chi gung" with anyone whose methods do not correspond to the material in these books. There's been a lot of "hot shot" chi gung appearing in North America in the last 20 years. Most of it is bulls*** or worse.
The best chi gung is calm, slow, natural, gradual, and simple. The teachers are older people, or their senior students, and there is a lack of hype surrounding what they are doing.
In contrast, the "overnight" methods are marketed with a great deal of fanfare and, for drama's sake, they employ guided meditations and forced breathing patterns that can permanently scramble your nervous system. In fact, I know two people who make a good living treating people who've damaged themselves this way.
Many of these "secret inner school" techniques taught in North America to the unwary for big bucks are readily available in comic book form from street vendors in Hong Kong and Taiwan for about $1 each.
There is good stuff available and it is worth seeking out. The three books I've recommended will help you separate the wheat from the chaff.
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