In 1962 I began studying Ju Jutsu, spending many years letting training partners through my personal space; allowing them to grab my arms, body, hair, clothing - or to even choke me. In 1982 I began teaching short self defence courses for women and my method of teaching evolved - teaching first of all the evasion techniques that I had learnt for higher grades and from Pencak Silat. During training, a partner is not allowed to get a grip or hold on unless they are allowed through the first layer of defence. Escapes from grips and holds are taught as a backup in case the attacker penetrated the first layer of defence. This worked brilliantly and I take this opportunity to share what developed. The following does not specify what defences to teach, only the order in which they are taught.
Although I am now sifu of Tai Chi For All, my self defence style draws on Ju Jutsu, Shotokan Karate and Kung Fu, rather than Tai Chi.

First Stage - Evasion and avoidance of attacks.
Pair off the students and get them to make high level attacks. i.e. reach for throat (one hand or both hands), grab for the hair or a straight punch to head. SLOWLY at first. The defender has to keep their hands behind their back. They must evade by body movement, stepping, moving the head, or all three. Swap roles and then swap partners (this is important). As they get better at avoiding the attack they can speed up. After they understand that moving their head, torso and/or feet are the primary method of evasion then they are allowed to use their hands to deflect the incoming. THE HAND MOVEMENTS ARE A 'BACKUP', NOT A PRIMARY DEFENCE. They are to use as little force as possible and only slight deflection. i.e. no wild swings. They should use economy of motion (like swatting flies at a barbeque). See the photo.

Correct deflection.
Note position of hand.
Wrong deflection.
Pushing too far.

This is the first layer of defence. The attacker must use left hand and right hand and the defender must use right hand and left hand. The defender can use the front of the hand or the back of the hand. The hand used for deflecting is the one that's best located. i.e. The hand that is closest to the incoming fist/hand. No counterattacks at this stage - we want the attacker to be aggressive, not scared about a counterattack. Homework: At home, any time of night or day, their husband/wife/child/sibling/friend can make a high level attack. They must avoid the attack at all costs. No counterattacks yet. They are to become 'untouchable', a 'will of the wisp'. The only caveat is 'no attacks if they are carrying something breakable or spillable'.

Second Stage - Escape from grips and holds.
If for some reason the attacker has penetrated the first layer of defence and succeeded with a grip or hold to the clothing or body, the attack now becomes a static attack. For example: choke hold, from the front, arms straight, the grip is already on. Now, the important part. During training, the defender must not allow the attacker to put the grip on unless the attacker gives a pre-arranged signal. This can be something like both hands in front, palms facing out, one hand behind the other. It could be the two finger 'peace' symbol - whatever.

Let me near, I'm not a threat.
Correct signal.
Let me near, I'm not a threat.
Wrong signal.


The attacker must not use both hands in the 'I'm not a threat' signal. A real attacker may use that to lull you into a false sense of security. IF THE TRAINING PARTNER DOES NOT GIVE THE PRE-ARRANGED SIGNAL THEN THEY MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO SUCCEED IN PENETRATING THE FIRST LAYER OF DEFENCE.. This method of practicing may sound silly, but students need to develop an automatic reaction to someone invading their personal space. Allowing a training partner through their guard in order to practise static defences hinders the development of subconscious reactions. This is vital in the reaction training exercise (To be described later.) Developing this automatic reaction can prevent 'glassings' or 'coward punches'.

Teach the student two ways to get out of the choke hold. The reason is as follows: Once their friends/family find out they are learning self defence they could say "Show me what you have learnt." The student could demonstrate one escape from the choke hold. Having had their attack foiled, the 'friend' could say "Show me that again." - as if they are interested in seeing the technique. Often their intent is to foil the escape, to show that they are better. For the second demonstration the student is to use the second method, thereby showing the benefit of surprise. Warn the students - YOU MUST NEVER LET YOUR ATTACKER SUSPECT THAT YOU HAVE HAD SOME TRAINING. If threatened, do not adopt a fighting stance. Stay casual, like the top fighters do. Your defence must come as a complete surprise! Having two ways out of the grip is their introduction to switching techniques.

Get them to practise the following: Start escape method one. When their partner foils that; they immediately switch to escape method two. Now reverse the switch. Start escape method two. When their partner foils that; they immediately switch to escape method one. They must learn - If what you are doing isn't working then do something else, even if you have to make it up.

Third Stage - Mid level attacks.
Apply the same techniques of evasion (as described in the first stage) to a mid level attack i.e. punch to the abdomen or a grab for the clothing. As before, they are to become a 'will of the wisp' i.e. UNTOUCHABLE.

Fourth Stage - Kick from the front and roundhouse to the head.
Apply the same techniques (described in the first stage) to a kick to the groin, from the front. The attacker uses a simple mug's kick, with some signaling of intent, not a fast karate snap kick. (They have to learn to walk before they can run.) As before, EVASION, EVASION, EVASION. Do not teach a downward X block! To get them used to working with different height attackers and reading different people's body language, keep swapping partners.
Evasive capture.



Teach an evasive defence against a roundhouse punch to the head and a backhand to the head. i.e. Rock back or duck rather than blocking. Which method they use depends on whether the student has a back problem, or knee problem, or having a wall behind them.)

Fifth Stage - Counterattacks after foiling an attempt to penetrate the first layer.
Obviously a simple evasion and block is not going to prevent further attacks. What's needed is some way to put the attacker out of action while you head for the hills. (My Ju Jutsu teacher, Sensei Jan de Jong taught me "Speed is essential - Preferably 100 metres in 10 seconds.") Selection of the most appropriate counterattack depends on the situation: A drunken boyfriend or a vicious rapist, the number of attackers, size of the attacker, location, time of day/night, availability of assistance.... My advice is: Never punch the attacker's face. You can hurt your own fist on the skull or you can cut your knuckles on the teeth. More importantly, it's not a knock down blow.

The best target is not the groin! It's the solar plexus! Let me explain. From personal experience (during training), a good hit to the groin will not down an attacker. He will have at least ten seconds to knock you down before the shock and pain brings him to his knees. Also, if he is with his mates then he will just grit his teeth and deck you before turning to his mates, saying "I'm good.". A kick to the groin attacks his masculinity and ego and he would rather suffer in silence than be called a wuss. Also from personal experience (while conducting a grading), a good, hard hit to the solar plexus is immediately disabling. The person hit will drop instantly and stay curled up in the fetal position, desperately trying to breathe.

Another benefit of not punching the face is that there's no lasting damage, such as a detached retina, broken teeth or a broken nose, that could be used against you in a legal case of 'excessive retaliation'. However, it is not always easy to score a good hit to the solar plexus. What's needed is a good distractor. I recommend a backhand flick to the nose with the tips of the fingers. Using the fingertips adds another eight centimetres to your reach and that can make all the difference to an attacker who thinks he's out of range. Again from personal experience, a flick to the nose or eyes makes the eyes water and most people react by putting their hands over their face for a moment. That's when you either hit them hard in the solar plexus, or run. SPEED - Get your students to do the following practice: The attacker holds one hand in front of their face (an artificial nose) with the little finger edge outermost while attacking with the other hand. See the photo below.
Counterattack to the nose.
Dummy target.


The defender has to deflect the incoming punch and immediately deliver a flick to the artificial target, using the same hand that did the deflecting. NO PAUSE! The flick to the nose must start within milliseconds. This is why you musn't deflect an incoming attack with wild swings. The key to success is economy of movement and the shortest distance from the deflection to the target. As always, practise left and right hand blocking and counterattacking.

The big question - Should you 'stay and play' or should you run? My advice: If it's only one attacker and there is help to turn to, or an avenue of escape, run! If there's more than one attacker then running could be useless. (It depends on how fast and how far you can run.) If there's more than one, and you have trained hard, then continue attacking. Rain blow after blow - keep going! SPEED and ACCURACY. Feints to the head and groin. Look for that knock down blow or leg sweep. Try to put him on the floor! Don't stop until he's on the ground, curled up, calling for mum. If you pause then your attacker will have a shot at you. He needs to feel that he's mistakenly attacked a karate instructor, or that he's fallen into a cement mixer!

You probably don't have the hitting power, so SPEED and ACCURACY are your advantage. Practise the 'one inch punch' so you don't need big swings. After the first attacker is down you have two choices: (a) turn to the rest of them, strike a good fighting stance and say "Who's next? Anyone else feeling lucky?" If there are no takers then turn and walk away, never run. Then you can go home and change your undies. or (b) turn to the rest of them and give them a reason not to attack you. Say "I'm sorry, I overreacted. I think I've hurt him. Can you help him? Can you call an ambulance?" You may need a degree in psychology to pull this off!

Sixth Stage - Reaction training. Essential!
The students stand in pairs. The person facing the instructor plays the role of the attacker. The other person faces their attacker, keeping their back to the instructor so they have no idea of what the instructor is signaling. The instructor uses mime to signal what attack to use and the attackers immediately do it. If some of the attackers wait too long, some of the defenders will see what attack is coming and will start to think the defence instead of allowing their reactions to kick in. The defender's mind should be calm, not thinking of possible attacks and what to do.
Do five or six attacks, then the attacker and defender swap places. Repeat the attacks, but not in the same order. Do five or six attacks then shuffle the pairs so that they work with a different partner. This must be done in every class! Make sure that the defenders don't make just one counterattack. They have to do two or three follow ups to hard wire the 'cement mixer' response. Too many students do one counterattack then stand back and expect the attacker to fall. In the real world it doesn't work like that.

Seventh Stage - Distraction and softeners.
Most instructors teach escape from arm grips, clothes grips, choke holds, body holds etc, with the defender moving straight to the escape technique. If the attacker is bigger and stronger than the usual training partner then the technique might not work. We need to fight with our brain, not the puny muscles we have. What's needed is a 'priority interrupt' to the attacker's train of thoughts. The attacker will be thinking of their aggression and the reason for it. This will be dominating their thought process.
For a frontal static attack: Before attempting the escape technique begin with an obvious feint to the attacker's groin (or a real kick to the shins or abdomen). The male brain is hard wired to protect the family jewels so a perceived attack to the groin will interrupt their thought process. The few milliseconds that the attacker is distracted is when the defender must begin the escape. If the attack is a body hold from behind: before beginning the escape, quickly execute a head butt (with the back of your head), then a foot stomp followed by a groin kick (with the heel, by bending the knee). Immediately execute the escape and follow up with counterattacks.

Eighth Stage - Follow-up attacks from the attacker.
Attackers seldom make one attack then stop. Set up training scenarios where the attacker keeps coming. As an example: The attacker gets through the first layer of defence and succeeds with a straight choke hold from the front. The defender uses the 'spear hand to the throat' escape and steps back. Before the defender can counterattack, the attacker delivers a round house punch to the head. The defender successfully ducks but, before being able to deliver a counter attack, then faces an attempted front kick. The defender has to defend, defend, defend, then counterattack when an opportunity is presented. Start slowly and then speed up. Make up different scenarios. Too many instructors allow their students to make an escape and then just stand there, thinking that they have won. It's not over until you are far out of range, or the attacker is on the ground.

Ninth Stage - Responding after being hit.
If the defender is actually hit, they must not 'collapse'.
After being hit, the defender must regain the initiative. A classic training process is: A lightly punches D to the body, from close in. D returns the punch to A's solar plexus, trying to hit A before he has even withdrawn his hand.

Tenth Stage - Defences while on the ground.
Defenders now have two layers of defence to avoid being knocked down, but mistakes can happen. Defending from the ground is the third layer. Escaping from someone being on top of you is the fourth layer.

Defence on the ground.



Eleventh Stage - Disinformation and deception.
Towards the end of the course I would wait until my students were in class then hobble in while using a walking stick. The students would gather around to find out what had happened - then I would 'hit' one of them with the cane while saying "I lied". Successful defenders fight with their brain, instead of with brawn - especially if they don't have much brawn. Read 'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu, and the Modesty Blaise books by Peter O'Donnell (Text, not the graphic books).
An example: The defender could pretend to have a sprained ankle or an injured wrist. If it works then the defender could take advantage of the attacker thinking that you are now an easier target.
Another example: You are being pursued some distance - pretend to be winded. put one hand on a wall or post or car, the other hand on your chest, gasping for air. When the attacker closes in on what he thinks is an easy target use the wall/car/post for balance and deliver a back kick.
If confronted by a knife-wielding attacker (and you decide that you have to fight instead of being raped): Pretend to vomit (gag, put your hand over your mouth.) Say "Please, not a knife. My fiance/mother/child died in a knife fight. There was blood everywhere. I can't stand knives. I'll do whatever you want." Then grab the nearest chair and hit him with it. Lie! Cheat! Deceive! Win!

Rage A problem with teaching women is that, in general, they are reluctant to really harm someone. I have had women tell me "Hands are for nurturing, not hitting people". In class, even though I sometimes wore body padding, they hit like pansies. I used to rile them up by saying things like "I've just raped your little daughter." or "I've just killed your pet dog." That got them going. Some of them became dangerous. I tell them "Decide NOW how far you would go if someone tried to rape you. Would you punch them hard in the throat? Would you gouge out their eyes? Would you pour boiling water in their face? Don't wait for the event before you decide. During a fight, if you hesitate you will lose!"

Keys I want to end this nonsense about keys held inside a fist to be used as a weapon. It's not a knock down! So he'll be the one with a scar on his face and the defender will be the one in hospital for a long time. However, keys can be used as follows: The defender (say a nurse or anyone who comes out to a car park late at night) has their car key (only that one key) in one hand. In the other hand they have a set of old junk keys that no longer have any use. As she approaches her car, a scary-looking individual comes out of hiding and threatens her. The 'nurse' says "f.... off" (or words to that effect) then throws the junk keys to just miss the attacker's face. She then pretends horror and says "Oh God, my keys!" Ninety nine percent of people will turn to pick up the keys, thinking that they will get the car key and the house key. The 'nurse' can call him a dumbo as she enters her car and locks it. Get your students to read 'The Art of War'.