There is a saying in the self defense community that most fights happen in the space of a phone booth. I suppose it depends on where you identify the beginning of a fight as. Often times, our first inkling that there something rotten in Denmark is well in advance of things going physical and it’s in our best interest to stop them there. That said, I would agree that once the fight is on that most of the significant blows happen in this very compressed space. This is especially true if we’re talking about takedown defense. Takedowns just don’t happen at long range. The opponent first needs to close the gap and grab onto something. In our last installment we talked about using our hands to try to keep a would be attacker at arms reach and off of our hips. This is ideal but not always doable. In this case, they’ve breached our outer perimeter, so to speak, and we will need to resort to our next level of defense in an effort to keep the fight standing.
“Why Would You Let Someone Get So Close?”
This is often the response of people who teach takedown defense without having a grappling background. The assumption here is that the only reason people get taken down is because they made a stupid mistake. So many people with striking backgrounds have spent time staring up at the ceiling asking themselves, “What went wrong?” So confident were they in their speed and power that when that big bang moment of the fight happened things rapidly spiraled out of control. The fact is there are several reasons you might have trouble stopping someone from taking you down if you rely solely on your hands. Here are just a few
You missed a punch as your opponent was moving forward
You actually landed the punch but the opponent saw it coming and put his head down…which is what you hit…and why your hand isn’t working right.
You landed a beautiful shot but your opponent walked right through it (adrenalin is a heck of a drug) The fight started inside arms length since you were in a crowded place, standing between parked cars, you were backed to a wall, etc.
The opponent threw the first punch and as you covered or slipped, the rushed.
I could go on but you get the picture.
Engage The Second Line Of Defense
Now that we’ve given some examples of how this could happen let’s look at what our best option is. Once the opponent is inside your reach the next, fortunately easiest thing to do is to engage the elbows. In essence, what we need to do is create a frame using one or both forearms. If our posture is good, our elbows are in, and we match levels properly it’s almost unavoidable that they will run into this barrier. Wrestlers use what is referred to a single collar tie. In may Thai they use but arms to establish what they call the “Plum”. Both of these arts use similar means to achieve the same end. The forearm creates a barrier to keep the opponent from moving in close enough to trap the hips. The hand(s) keep the opponents chin stuffed toward their chest to keep them leaning forward making both offense and defense difficult. This is a mobile control as nobody likes getting their head grabbed so you may have to switch from one to two hands and back depending on what you are trying to achieve.
Great, I’ve Stopped Them…Now What?
Since we’re talking about a self defense scenario, our first goal is always to leave this situation as soon as possible. Once we’ve made the frame we need to angle off while keeping pressure. If we try to stand in front it can be risky especially against a larger opponent as they may drive you back into or over something. Creating an angle dissipates that forward pressure and may give us one foot toward the door. If we aren’t able to leave the situation for whatever reason, we can ideally create enough space to go back to long range striking or, if nothing else, strike from this dominant position until a better option becomes available.