30 years ago, my Aikido instructor told me what the best defense was.
“Don’t be there when the attack comes,” he said.
Makes sense, right?
But he wasn’t referring to avoiding strangers, dangerous places, and such. Although that is definitely good advice.
What my instructor was referring to was being able recognize threat cues (movement in the hips, shoulders, hands, etc.) from someone who may be getting ready to attack you.
And then moving out of the way so the attack misses you.
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Now fast forward to today.
Scientific research now shows that my Aikido instructor was spot on.
In a shooting situation, for example, research shows that if you recognize the threat cues, and then simply move out of the way, even by only a half step to the side, it can give you enough time to get the first shot off. Or at least ensure their first shot is a miss.
Police Officers with only a short training session were able to recognize the cues and move out of the way so the “shot” missed them. And they were able to get a shot off on their target.
One way to train threat cue recognition is to watch surveillance videos of actual assaults on the internet. Yes, they may be difficult to watch. But they are great learning tools.
If you watch closely, you will typically see that an attack starts with movement of the head, shoulders and hips. The head (lowering of the chin), shoulders (slight rise), and hips (rotating, lowering and slight bending) can give you advance notice that an assault is beginning.
All you have to do is be aware and be observant. After you learn to recognize those threat cues, use visualization techniques to practice moving out of the way.
Get a partner (or two) and practice recognizing threat cues and then moving out of the way of the “attacker.” It’s helpful to review your practice sessions, so take videos.
Unfortunately, moving out of the way is not always possible, even if you are paying attention.
Sitting in a car or restaurant, for example, can make your movement more difficult. So you should also practice moving from a sitting position.
If you are ambushed (assaulted by surprise), moving out of the way will probably not be an option until after the first strike/shot. But if at all possible, move as soon as you are able.
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It’s a good feeling to know that what an instructor taught me long ago can be validated through scientific research. Thanks to all those that have worked so hard to help us all be safer.