Often there is discussion between the differences of combatives vs self defense. Both have their place in training, but both are not the same so thinking that only learning combatives is learning self defense is not accurate and vice versa. One of the definitions of combatives is, "hand to hand combat training and techniques" with no mention of avoiding violence. Self defense on the other hand in the dictionary is defined as, "the use of reasonable force to protect oneself or members of the family from bodily harm from the attack of an aggressor, if the defender has reason to believe he/she/they is/are in danger." As I am reading both of those, I must say that I wish the self defense definition also included the wording that self defense also included implementing steps before using reasonable physical force to avoid violence when possible although I know that is part of the legal side of self defense. Anyways, there are a number of strategies in self defense that are not really trained in combatives because again the definition of combatives does not really show any intention of avoiding violence which may be where your interest in training is, but these strategies are definitely smart to use in a self defense situation.
Let's just look at hand placement. In the picture I have included you will see on the left side, a person with open hands while the one on the right is making fists. Let's imagine for a moment that you are the one defending yourself so it is a self defense situation, not a fight. Most people do not understand the difference between a fight and self defense, but I might blog about that another time. There are many things going on from both sides of the picture that affect the scenario from the perspective of you as the potential target and the person who may be aggressing you.
Now one must remember that along with hand placement are many other things to consider such as foot stance, facial expressions, and words said, but I think the hand placement is what many people see first, but even the open hand strategy can be diminished if one has adopted other aggressive aspects. So assume for sake of argument I am suggesting if one is making fists that the whole body is reflecting that appearance as does the more passive open hands appearance.
First, let's analyze the decision to make fists in front of your attacker. What are some of the negatives in doing this?
- first, you have for the most part (unless part of your strategy, albeit rare. some are very smart) telegraphed your tool of intent in defending yourself. Whether they are aware of it or not, you have told them to likely expect a punch of some sort. How smart is that to give a warnning to them of your intention?
- in conjunction with that warning you have now most likely heightened their state of readiness showing your possible will to fight even if other parts of your body are screaming with fear obvious to them.
- not only have you shown them you are likely going to punch them, but if they have seen enough YouTube videos they are likely aware that punch will be coming at their head.
- not seen by many through ignorance or just through lack of awareness at the time due to adrenaline rush plus many other factors is that in this day and age of social media, there is an excellent chance that a camera is on you right now with video of you adopting a fighting stance/position. If those witnesses are at a distance out of hearing what was, or is being said, they may not have any idea you may have been threatened by the other party with only video to tell a story. What does that video show? Well it depends when the video was started because often a scenario has already started before someone begins video unless some loser is just going around with their camera on looking for something to video. But that being said, if one has any knowledge on violence they will recognize the signs of violence about to be begin which would give them time to get their video started before the fireworks begin. If it shows both parties with their fists up, it might not be so easy to see who started it, or who said what adding confusion to the impression you might get from the video. And what if you successfully defend yourself, but in the chaos and rush of the moment you go overboard and continue striking the person when you could easily have escaped?
- so can you defend yourself making a fist to begin with? Of course, but strategically it just does not make any sense in my opinion if you are interested in self defense and not getting into a fight. If you are engaging in a fight, that is up to you, but that is a different scenario which is not "self defense".
- now some may argue that showing your fists in an aggressive fighting manner is more likely to scare your opponent away. Sure, that may happen, but most do not choose to attack someone they feel may beat them, so one showing their supposed aggressive intimidating side is not so likely to fool them now once they have established you as their victim.
- if your "go to" defense would be to punch, you are still in my opinion better to do it from a passive stance for the reasons I will mention next.
Now let's look at keeping your hands open in a more passive manner.
- having your hands up in a more passive, negotiative position is not as likely to escalate the potential violence as quickly as making fists possibly giving you more time to attempt to verbally de-escalate.
- having your hands up in a passive manner gives zero telegraph of your intentions to defend yourself if all other avenues of avoidance have failed. You are better to go sniper mode and hide your intentions and tools in the event that it does have to go physical.
- you are offering no telegraph of how you might fight back. Having open hands does not show any intent of punching or any other strike, rather the opposite, but from a more passive stance you can still do anything and everything you can do from that more aggressive stance without showing your cards to your opponent.
- maybe most important is that if there is anyone taking video of you from a distance, what does your passive stance help show? It most likely shows you in a position of not looking like you want any conflict while also heightening the appearance of the other person as the aggressor due to the very completley different messages both parties are giving off through their body language.
- keeping hands open and maintaining a passive stance is more likely to lure them into the false sense of confidence they already feel thus causing them to drop their guard exposing their most vulnerable targets and they do not even realize they have done it.
Then you have the whole argument whether you should strike with open hands or fists, but we will save that for another day because you can do that from either stance.
As always please feel free to agree, disagree or offer additional thoughts.