Friday, October 26, 2012

Self Defense Products: 4 Quick Thoughts on Pepper Spray

During our most recent women’s self-defense workshop some participants asked us about using self-defense products. Of particular interest - pepper spray.

We have many thoughts on the subject.  Here are 4 of them.

1.   Can you access it in time? Many attacks come from the side or behind.  Pockets, purses, bags, can be littered with various objects..  Can you find and utilize it in time?
2.   Are you trained to use it?  Pepper spray on a windy day?  Which end do you point at the attacker?  Where do you aim?  What is the effective range?
3.   Is it legal?  This varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.. Look into it.
4.   Do you have a backup plan?  If you can’t access it, drop it, forget it....can you still defend yourself?  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Be able to defend yourself unarmed. 
Because we train you to be adaptable we advocate the importance of learning how to use common objects – objects not designed particularly for self-defense…water bottles, coffee, umbrellas, coins…. 

Develop the habit of scanning your surroundings for objects that can help you to get home safe. 

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne

Lead Instructor and Owner
International Krav Maga Federation(IKMF), Toronto

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Can’t Touch This: Self Defense and Prevention

Can’t Touch This – MC Hammer

What is the connection between 90s pop sensation M.C. Hammer and self-defense?  Nothing unless you consider how easy it would be to kick and run in parachute pants.  Ah, those were the days. 

We do advise, however, that you adhere to the words of his most  (only?) beloved song: “Can’t Touch This.”

What do we mean?  Well, there are two meanings.  

The first involves your attitude or state of mind.  Nobody has the right to touch you without your consent.  Strive to be assertive and communicate this.  If someone is giving you unwanted attention tell him to “stay away”, don’t touch me….!

The second factor is around developing the skills to prevent someone from touching you – deflecting, blocking, running….  Learn to use your legs, arms, knees, elbows, etc… to maintain your safe space.  Remember, he can approach you from different directions and different distances so you need a versatile skill set. 

Defending yourself after someone grabs you (not always preventable) is very difficult. Adopt the mentality and physical skills to clearly communicate that you are not to be touched.  

P.S. My advanced apologies if this song is running in your head all day. 

P.S.S. We don’t play M.C. Hammer during classes.

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor and Owner
International Krav Maga Federation(IKMF), Toronto

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Effective Self Defense – The Direct Approach

Practical self-defense must employ techniques that are adaptable, efficient and based on natural reactions and movements.

One aspect of efficiency involves economy of motion – taking the direct approach.

Consider a straight punch aimed at your face.  The fist is coming in a straight line and probably fast!  If you don’t deflect this strike you are in trouble. 

There are teachings that involve elaborate movements where the defenders arm crosses under the incoming punch then circles back to deflect or even grab the hand. 

Does this techniques look good?  Yes.  Does it generate a lot of power? Yes.  Does it work?  Not likely, unless the attacker is compliant – e.g. a student who has been trained to strike in an unrealistic manner – elbows cocked back, no recoil. 

To succeed you must take the direct approach.  The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Your closest hand must travel in a straight line to the attacker’s wrist area.

Try this exercise. Have someone (you trust) try to touch the top of your head – with open hand – from all directions while you try to prevent her from doing so.  Gradually, and in a safe manner, she moves her faster.  Try elaborate motions (think wax on/wax off) then try the direct approach.

Which one works?   One results in a shinier car and a trip to the dentist, the other affords a better chance at preventing the strike from landing.  Which one do you prefer?

Me too. Take the direct approach.  

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor and Owner
International Krav Maga Federation(IKMF), Toronto

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Escaping an Attacker: 7 Points to Consider

Avoidance is the best self defense.  Unfortunately, trouble can find us.   Your next best option is to escape. The more time you engage with an attacker the more chance you have of getting hurt - or worse. 

Escaping, of course, is not always easy, especially from a determined assailant. Here are 7 tips to facilitate escaping.

  1. Know Your Exits/Escape Routes: Develop the habit of identifying escape routes.  Identify as many as possible as your assailant(s) might be blocking 1 or more exits.  P.S. This requires glancing up from your cellphone.  No, your portable GPS will not help here.
  2. Identify Safe/Accessible Routes:  There might be an escape route at the far end of the park but can you get there fast enough?  Some of us can perform a front roll out of an open window.  Most of us can't.  Be realistic. 
  3. Travel Light.  I have tried catching a streetcar carrying 5 shopping bags.  I didn't time myself but I am sure it was not a personal best.  My time might have slightly improved with someone chasing me but not significantly.  Travel light.
  4. Footwear.  We can't wear cross trainers everyday.  They just don't blend in with dress clothes(alas the 80s are gone but the music lives on). If possible, however, try to wear shoes/boots that allow you to run.  In the case of heels - kick them off. 
  5. Create a Distraction.  Common objects such as coins, coffee.. can be used to to distract.  If you have to engage, a quick kick, punch, elbow (depending on distance) can buy you some time. 
  6. Get/stay in Shape. You don't want to "run out of gas" or pull a muscle trying to escape.  Fitness helps.  Flexibility, agility, stamina, endurance....
  7. Be Prepared to Fight.  Against a determined assailant you might have to fight your way to escape.  Don't give up! 
Escaping, and escaping techniques are imbedded in our self defense training.  We teach you to fight if you have to (e.g. no escape, you are protecting another) but, if possible, escape and get home safe.

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor and Owner
International Krav Maga Federation(IKMF), Toronto

Monday, October 1, 2012

Learning to Fight: 8 Training Tips

Avoidance is the best self defense.  In general, we want as little contact with aggressors as possible.  There are times, unfortunately, when circumstances require you to fight.  Escape routes are cutoff.  You are protecting someone - your partner, a friend, your child...

To help our students develop and refine their fighting skills we offer fight training - sparring.  During these sessions we give our students the skills and knowledge to defend themselves when escape is not an immediate option. 

There are innumerable aspects  to fighting.  Here are 8 basic tips:

  1. Keep You Hands Up and Chin Down: Hands up allows you to better defend against strikes You can also strike faster as your hands are closer to your opponent. Chin down protects jaw and throat.
  2. A Good Stance.  Students don't get excited about learning stances but a good stance allows you to defend, attack, and move, efficiently and effectively.  
  3. Recoil Strikes: Unless you are posing for a Black Belt Magazine photo shoot you will need to recoil your strikes to protect and strike again.
  4. Focus on Your Opponent's Center Mass: Following their hands and feet will compromise your ability to see all of their weapons.  Don't be a snake to his/her snake charmer. 
  5. Move: It is more difficult to hit a moving target.  
  6. Don't Fight Their Fight:  Don't box a boxer, wrestle a wrestler, exchange power kicks with a Muay Thai fighter..... You get the point.
  7. Use Combinations:  There are very few people with the punching power of a George Foreman.  One strike will probably not end the fight.  Combinations of hand and leg strikes can confuse and overwhelm.  
  8. Well-rounded Fundamentals:  If you move like a butterfly but your punch can't knock a mosquito off course then you are in trouble.  If you hit like George Foreman but have the defensive skill set of Rocky Balboa (e.g. no defense just get hit) then you are in trouble.  Work on the basics. 

When we teach fighting we do so according to your skill and comfort level.   Beginners, for example will learn the basics of defending punches, punching, how to move...  When you have some of these fundamentals and you feel ready, you move to more dynamic scenarios.

Safety, of course, is paramount.  Fighting is controlled and students wear protective equipment.

None of us ever want to get into a real fight.  If you have to, however, it is essential to have the basic tools and knowledge that can prevent serious injury or even save your life.

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor and Owner
International Krav Maga Federation(IKMF), Toronto