Dealing with a bully a PATH to effective self defence

When you consider self defence and martial arts, the first thought normally leads to developing physical skills to deal with potential attacks.  Indeed the reasons many people take up a martial art is to improve confidence in dealing with difficult situations whether that relate to bullying; walking home from work on a dark night; or feeling intimidated by people around you.

The bad news is that it will often take 4 years for an individual to reach a black belt level in a martial art, and the first dan or degree will often be described as the belt wearer progressing from a novice to a "beginner" in their chosen discipline.

The slightly better news is that there are some basic physical skills which can be learnt fairly quickly which will stand you in good stead for a wide variety of situations.

The great news is that the best way to build yourself defence skills is to understand how to deal with difficult situations without relying on physical skills.  Granted, all martial arts schools will help you to develop the necessary physical skills and this will undoubtedly give you more confidence to deal with tricky situations.  However, the best martial arts schools will help you to deal with the situation with physical skills being strictly a last resort.

Here at Canda-Taekwondo we've created the PATH approach to self defence.  PATH stands for:

P = Prepare
A = Avoid
T = Talk
H = Hey Ho, here we go

1. Prepare

As any good Scout will tell you, Being Prepared is the best strategy you can adopt for all of lifes' challenges and in the world of looking after your self it's no different.  There are a wide range of things you can do which will help you prepare for a self defence situation for example:
- If you have a walk too and from work/school, then travel with a friend
- Always carry a personal alarm
- Plan your route and time of journey
- Take a note of where there's good lighting

For kids, the most common time that bullying arises is when there's a major change e.g. change of school due to a house move; move of school from primary to secondary education; change of classes etc.  If these events are on the cards then try and get to know your prospective class mates by e.g. joining a club or use the holiday period to establish your peer group and make friends

Preparedness is also about things like the way you walk and how confident you look.  If you walk tall, keep your head high and look confident, you will be amazed at how much stronger you will appear to a would be attacker.  This is in contrast to looking vulnerable, keeping your head down and being hunched in body shape.  You can practice this yourself or with family and friends.

Obviously is you feel confident, perhaps because you have undertaken some type of self defence training or martial arts, you will in turn be more inclined to walk tall.

2. Avoid

There are a wide range of situations which place your personal safety at risk, many of these are entirely avoidable if you think ahead.  For example:
- Don't take short cuts or walk down dark alleys
- Park your car in a well lit area and preferably in a public area
- Try and socialise with friendly people and build up a small friendship circle.  A group of people, even if the most vulnerable or "geeky" who stick together are much less likely to be bullied than a single person on their own
- join clubs or activities which prevent bullies from seeing you alone
- Choose your timing

3. Talk

Most attacks have some form of motivation.  The sooner you engage to find out what the attacker wants the better.  The general rule of thumb is to give them what they want insurances; teachers; parents; counsellors etc will sort things out afterwards.  The safest way for your to stay in one piece is to let them have what they want.

Now clearly there are limits to this advice e.g. if it's a theft and some item that's at stick, there should be nothing to think about, just give them what is required.  It it's simply to inflict pain whether that is a school bully who wants to look big and powerful in front of their friends, or a sexual predator then your first option should be to try and talk them down.

There are many strategies which can be used to talk people down and much that can be read on the internet which will give you tips and strategies.  Here's a few you could think about:

- Use Humour - learn to laugh at yourself; try and turn their unkind observations into a joke

- Agree with the Bully e.g. if you argue with anyone they likely come back with a stronger argument and when they see they can't reason as well as you they may lash out.  Diffuse the situation by making them look clever with their arguments - this will often help avoid escalation to physical violence

- Refuse to Fight e.g. if the attacker just wants to look good perhaps in front of friends, point out how obvious it is that you can't fight and maybe there are better targets if they want to prove themselves.  Nobody praised the deer hunter for shooting bambi!

- Scream or yell - if there are people/authority figures near by

- Reason with them - what are the implications of their actions; what will the future look like for them with a criminal record; do they have alternatives

- Improve your posture - stand tall; take a martial arts stance

If after all of this the would be attacker is still hell bent on inflicting pain then I'm afraid it's a deep breath and onto stage Four - Hey Ho

4. Hey Ho Here we go

With appropriate martial arts training your instructor will help show you how to deal effectively and proportionately with any attacker.  In very broad terms at Canda-Taekwondo we'll help you understand:

- Releases - we'll show you how to free yourself from the most common grabs from day 1 by helping you understand how e.g. the bodies joints work and how they can be moved to cause attackers to release

- Vital spots - we'll help you understand how the body works and irrespective of size which parts of a persons body hurt just the same when they are hit.  There are some obvious ones here which you will already know and we'll help you to develop the presence of mind to think about this rather than panic when in a difficult situation

- Counter attacks - we'll give you some basic skills to help you create a bit of space and time to get away e.g. teaching you how to wind someone; striking them in a place that hurts which will cause them to need to recover before chasing.

You will be able to learn the basics very quickly and then refine them as your skills develop.  My experience after many years of training in Taekwon-do is that I have never progressed beyond the T in PATH but the confidence Taekwon-do has given me, has played a key role in this outcome.

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